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Looking to make your practices more efficient and effective? Wondering what it takes to get the most out of your players? Salisbury men’s head lacrosse coach Jim Berkman reveals seven practice tips and two essential drills that should pay major dividends for your program. Coach Berkman and his coaching staff have implemented these drills and tips with great success for more than 20 years. Last year, Salisbury captured its ninth NCAA Division III national championship.
1) Have Fun – Salisbury’s style of practices reflect this. Aim to go out and enjoy yourselves each day so that you’ll want to come back the next.
2) Get Your Guys Excited to Come Back – Leave practice thinking you can’t wait to be back on the field tomorrow. To do that, players need to enjoy being out there, the developing relationships, the drills you run, and the style of play you implement to keep it fun.
3) Development and Improvement – Each day, Salisbury looks to set up numerous individual drills at the beginning of practice to help develop players into complete players. Whether it’s shooting, footwork, or stick skills, we want to see them improving their skills so they can become better players and a better team overall.
4) Intensity – Try to play hard all the time. Simulate game-like intensity in every practice. The only way for this to happen is if you are fit, playing a high-paced style, and moving quickly from one drill to the next with no down time.
5) Play Fast – The Seagulls look to play fast in every drill they do. A major goal is trying to move the ball and create a pace that opponents aren’t used to playing and to take teams out of their comfort zone. To do this in a game, you must do it every day and for 120 minutes in that two-hour practice segment.
6) Repetition – Practices should be game-like where players get numerous touches to repeat situations within the offensive or defensive game. This allows the players to improve and develop over the course of a season.
7) Develop a Core of Drills – For Salisbury, this has been in the works for more than 20 years. While this may be constantly modified and changed over the years, this core of drills should be known by every player to eliminate down time. When you go from one drill to the next, you don’t want to go more than 15 seconds by the time the next drill starts. To do that, players must know the drills and get to them quickly.
This team drill reinforces ground balls, rolling away from pressure, redirecting the ball, and keeping the stick to the outside. One at a time, players quickly scoop up the ground ball after it’s been rolled out from a coach. After picking it up, players sprint one direction before turning around and moving the opposite direction and passing to a teammate nearby or behind. Players need to be always looking up the field during a ground ball situation and find that outlet pass.
The Breakout Drill reinforces breaking out wide, redirecting passes, making accurate up and over passes, and cutting. It’s key to get to your spots on a save or any unsettled situation. We want the two bottom defenders to get wide, arc out looking for the ball (slightly behind the goal line), look up the field, redirect across the field, and then look to a third man up the field for the third pass. It’s key to get your players to the right spots on the field during unsettled situations or saves. If the redirect is done correctly, usually you have an easy clear up the opposite side of the field.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “30 Essential Practice Drills for Lacrosse” with Jim Berkman. To check out more practice drills, simply head over to our lacrosse library.
In this week’s edition of All Access, we take you to Haverford, Pennsylvania for a behind-the-scenes look at a Haverford School boys’ lacrosse practice. Watch as head coach John Nostrant leads his squad through a number of team drills on the heels of a big victory over archrival Malvern Prep.
This All Access session presents a great opportunity for coaches and players to see exactly how one of the nation’s top high school lacrosse teams prepares for opponents during the week. In this example, Coach Nostrant has his team run through the England Drill and the Mineola Drill, two highly effective half-field drills that get the players going at game speed.
At the time of filming, the Fords were 17-0 and coming off a huge win over the Friars. The coaches have told the players that they are looking for an up-tempo practice, which is a typical practice following a game. Meanwhile, the next day’s practice will be a little bit more specific and geared toward their opponent on Saturday.
The drill starts out 2 vs. 1 with the offensive players sprinting down the field from the midfield line with possession. Note: The coaches eventually tell the players to pass the ball forward to their teammate from the start and play it from there.
The players are looking to finish on goal in a 2 on 1 transition situation (with goalie in net). As soon as the play is over (whether it be via goal, missed shot, save, turnover, etc.), one additional defender and one additional offensive player enter and the drill turns into a 3 on 2 situation. The new offensive player comes down with the ball and passes it ahead to a teammate and the unit looks to score quickly. Players must be on their feet at all times and ready to attack.
Next, the drill moves to 4 on 3, then 5 on 4, and finishes with a 6 on 5 situation. Entering players must always communicate with teammates and get into position as soon as possible. As soon as one play is over, the next one should commence immediately.
The team is looking to run a number of different sets here. When you hear “31” called out, that means the unit is set up in a 2-3-1. The squad also likes to put a middie down on the crease at times with this look. Each set might be different depending on the kind of personnel playing at the time. The first group that you see is the team’s first group of offensive middies.
Next it’s to “20X”, which is the team’s double team. Notice there’s no need for a horn as the team just gets right into things. Meanwhile, it’s key that the players are always reading and reacting.
The coaching staff prefers to progress as practice goes along, and eventually the squad moves into a 6 on 6 out of a scramble set, which forces sliding and decision making, rather than just going straight 6 on 6. It also allows the guys to play with different groups and ensures that no one gets complacent.
Meanwhile, Nostrant and his staff try to make the teams even in every practice. Haverford has 38 players, so the coaches prefer to keep them active. Also, you can do a lot with this drill. For instance, the squad is currently working on clearing and this really gets everyone involved in the flow.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “All Access Haverford Lacrosse Practice with John Nostrant.” To check out more videos in our All Access series, simply head over to our lacrosse video library.
Through marker board demonstration and on-field simulations, Florida State men’s head lacrosse coach Bill Harkins leads you through two fundamental practice drills that will help prepare your players for game situations. Meanwhile, in addition to being practical and efficient, executing these drills at full speed will add a conditioning element to practices and should contribute towards an improvement in overall team endurance.
Start with three lines of players, spaced evenly apart at the GLE. The ball can start in any of the three lines. The weave drill starts with passing. Simply throw the ball across to a player and lead your man. The man receiving the ball should give a good target. Remember: Always go behind the ball. So, we’re simply passing and catching all the way down the field (full length).
On the way back, players should follow the exact same format, except now implement ground balls. On the third time back down the field, players should stay in their own lanes while goosing (or “deflecting”) the ball all the way down the field. This is the only time that players won’t run behind the ball.
Start with a goalie to the right of the cage with plenty of balls and three lines to his/her left. Look to run this drill from both ends of the field. A coach should stand in the middle of the field and then blow the whistle three separate times, bringing players from both sides into action.
On the first whistle, the outside player sprints up field. Two seconds later, the middle player goes. Two seconds later, the third player breaks. As the third player breaks, the goalie passes to the inside and to this third player streaking up field. As soon as this player gets it, he throws a pass to the middle guy in stride up the field. As soon as he receives it, he throws a pass to the outside player in stride and up the field. When finished, they join the line on the opposite side.
As soon as a save happens, we want to simulate the goalie firing the ball up field as fast as he can and moving the ball up field, sparking a transition break and hopefully a scoring opportunity.
On the Field: At Florida State, the squad is constantly looking to get the ball up the field as fast as they can and attack. This drill simulates those situations when we just made a save and first player has broken for a fast break, the second player has broken, and third player has broken and is free. Then it’s a matter of progressing the ball up the field and to the front man who can attack the cage.
Don’t forget, you can also use long poles in this drill, too. Be sure to vary the drill by picking up the pace and using opposite sides of the cage.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Winning Practice Drills for Lacrosse” with Bill Harkins. To check out more drill-specific lacrosse videos, head over to our lacrosse library.
Towson University men’s lacrosse coach Tony Seaman considers many of the drills based on the 4 v 4 set to be very effective for game planning. This formation allows coaches to be flexible with their personnel and gives them the chance to move players around to create a variety of game-like situations. Plus, only one or two coaches have to oversee the drill, which is efficient for getting things done both offensively and defensively. Be sure to check out our feature from last year detailing three pick plays using the 4 v 4 set.
Offensively, the 4 v 4 set typically features a midfielder up top (1), a midfielder or attacker (2) on the left wing, a midfielder or attacker (3) on the right wing and an attackman behind the goal (4) — forming a 1-2-1 set.
The offensive players are guarded by the typical defense they’d see in a game situation. The 1 player is defended by a short-stick defender (5), the 2 player is defended by a short-stick defender (6), the 3 player has a long-stick defender (7) on him, and the 4 player has a long-stick defender (8) on him behind the net.
Keep in mind, if you usually put a long-stick defender on the 1 man, just replace him with the 7 defender (or you can use 3 or 4 long-stick defenders in the drill so that your personnel gets used to this style of play).
First, we will give 1 the ball and have him drive down the alley (right side in this case). From this position, he can look for a shot on goal. However, if he gets doubled, he will look for 3 on the inside, who gets open from a C-Cut. Also, 1 can look for 4 as an outlet behind the GLE.
Now, let’s look at the 4 v 4 and some things you can work on defensively out of this formation.
First, it’s the job of 5 to take away the middle of the field. He will force 1 to go down the alley. Next, we will have 7 slide out and into a double team situation — and this will drive 1 towards the sideline. Now, 1′s first look will be to 3 in the middle of the field. The responsibility for 6 is to come across the middle and take on 3.
Now let’s look at the 4 v 4 starting behind the goal. We will start the ball with the 4 attackman behind the goal. He can drive whichever direction he wants. Let’s start with the right-hand side. He will try to come around the side and shoot the ball, or look for a pass out in front.
Meanwhile, the 8 defender will likely recognize which hand is his strong hand. If 8 knows that 4 is a righty, he will then try to take away that side by playing his right side and force him to the left and use his left hand. Next, 7 and 6 will make sure they are between their man and the ball. 5 will move down a bit to the side that 4 drives for help defense and a possible slide.
Slide Scheme: Let’s take away 4’s right hand and force him left. 7 will slide early. We want 6 to come across and play 3. 5 will then drop down to 6’s spot and pick up 2.
Note: When you do get shots, you get more much realistic shots and great shooting practice on the goalie.
The previous clips can be seen in Championship Productions’ DVD “The Best Drill in Lacrosse: 4 v 4” featuring Towson head coach Tony Seaman. For more videos featuring effective practice drills, click here.
The latest “game scenarios and strategies” segment deals with how to substitute during odd situations and react quickly on transition breaks. It also highlights the Toomey Drill, a high-impact conditioning drill that works on quick transitions on offense and defense. Florida State coaches Bill Harkins and Matt Waesche both lead you through the segments, first with whiteboard diagrams and then via live on-field simulations.
This drill focuses on how to handle substitutions during odd situations. Let’s say we’re bringing off the field a guy who is not right for a scenario, but then the scenario quickly changes. For instance, we may have the ball on offense and we’ve got a LSM way up the field, but we don’t want them up there. That player will come straight to the sideline as we’ve got an offensive player waiting to come onto the field.
But all of sudden, we lose possession of the ball. Well, now we don’t want that offensive guy to come onto the field. We want the LSM on ball as soon as possible. In this case, we call a simple “Veto” and that cancels the sub. The guy in the box stays in the box and then the LSM circles out and sprints to the middle of the field, looks down field, and then quickly assesses the action.
We’re now ready to react quickly, and hopefully quicker than the other team – especially in transition situations. Remember, things don’t always go as planned. By teaching the players these concepts, we are still able to play lacrosse with the right personnel and in the right situation. It’s also a way to eliminate confusion and gain an extra advantage through substitutions.
This drill works with three defenders and three offensive players. There’s also a goalie and a lot of balls in the cage. First, the offense goes against the defense for 10 seconds. The offense only has 10 seconds to shoot the ball. No matter where the offensive players are positioned, at 10 seconds the coach yells, “Shoot.” Next, no matter how the shot ends, the goalie takes the ball (or one from inside the cage) and starts a transition break down field. The goalie can’t carry past the restraining line. The defense now must break out immediately and the offense must ride immediately.
Once the defender gets out between the midfield line and the restraining line (about 40 yards), he will turn and throw the ball back to the offensive player. That offensive player will now streak back and press the cage on the transition break. That defenseman will be trailing him, too.
We now have a 3-on-2 situation with just two defenders back. First, the mission is to stop the ball first, then force a pass and give enough time for the trailer to come in and play defense. The drill will continue back and forth every 10 seconds. It’s also serves as a high-energy conditioning drill.
The goal here is that we want our players to understand that you often go from defense to offense and then back to defense again (and vice versa). There are a lot of quick transitions in the game of lacrosse and players must be prepared for these.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “How to Run the Box: Substitution Schemes to Create Mismatches.” Click here to check out more videos in our extensive lacrosse library.