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Former Johns Hopkins head coach and current UMBC coach Don Zimmerman has long been considered a mastermind of the extra man offense. With Zimmerman as your guide, learn how to prepare your team for special situations within a man up offense. First, Coach Zimmerman explains each situation via whiteboard diagrams before taking his team to the field for a live run-through.
According to Coach Zimmerman, it often feels like there’s more pressure on a unit when they are two men up versus just one man up. Players feel that they have to score and that there is no way that they will be denied with the huge advantage. However, Zimmerman doesn’t take that approach. He will force his teams to stay within their sets and move the ball like they normally do in man-up.
If a player is shut off, it’s key to take him out of the equation altogether. You should be satisfied going 5-on-4 versus getting him involved in that play.
Key: Stay consistent in your approach. This is far more effective than trying to make all kinds of adjustments if the defense does different things to try and throw you off.
This happens when there’s a one-minute penalty on the other team and you have an opportunity to get the ball right back and face it off. Because the other team is a man down, they will have to bring one of their attackers up on a wing. Now, we have an extra man. If the other team gets the ball, we designate our open man as the Double Man.
Here’s what happens: On a release call, all of our other players will shut off and we will funnel the ball into an area where our double man and the ball man can go ahead and double the ball. Coach Zimmerman has seen a lot of instances where the double is split and suddenly the other team scores a goal because the team wasn’t proficient at doubling the ball. It should be organized and practiced. That goal can be a huge momentum changer in a game.
Key: Take the time during practice to work on doubling the ball. Both players must be patient and work together to squeeze the man simultaneously. Remember, practice what you are going to use in the game.
This occurs when you have a turnover and the other team gets the ball. They will try to clear out a certain area in which to run it out. However, we will try to prevent that by putting two attack players on the ball in an effort to give it up. We must have two middies up field, one in front of the cage, and one attackman on the opposite wing of the ball. Now, we have options, like a three-way bump.
The goal here is to get the ball out of the opposing midfielder’s hands. We don’t want this player to run the ball up the field. Instead, we want to force them into a cross-field pass. While the ball is in flight, we can then make the proper adjustments.
Don’t forget there could be a long pass by the defense all the way up the field to take time off the clock. Therefore, our defenders must be topside of their attackmen. If there’s a ground ball, they can beat the attackmen to the ball. However, if the ball is thrown into the air, we teach our defenders not to play the ball, but to play the man. If the ball gets to within five yards, our goalie will yell CHECK and now our defenders will play the attackman’s arms. You don’t want a shifty attacker to check the defenseman. Then they will have the advantage going the other way.
It remains true across every level of lacrosse that for a team to have lasting success, it must be proficient in the area of man-up offense. During these occasions when a team has a clear upper hand, it’s vital that they take advantage of the opportunity — and doing so often makes the difference between a win and a loss.
UMBC head coach Don Zimmerman is a firm believer in set-oriented man-up offenses over play-oriented ones. In a set-oriented offense, teams are running more of a freelance system. They will simply rely on playing the game, reacting and reading the defense. This philosophy — certainly suited for more experienced teams — gives the game to the players as they can then read the opposition and change sets as needed.
Meanwhile, in a play-oriented system, teams are essentially memorizing plays and having to execute them on the field. Certainly, this often gives a unit a better chance of being on the same page, and after practicing enough, the plays become second nature. However, teams that rely on plays are very scoutable by the opposition, and they may not have the flexibility to change those plays in a game.
With Zimmerman as your guide, take a look at the following extra-man offense drills and see how you can incorporate them at your next practice. With a set-oriented philosophy in mind, these drills are very effective at developing man-up units at every level, plus they also focus on repetition, situational lacrosse and building team chemistry.
Skip It Drill
In this man-up drill, we’re going to take the middle man out of equation and have players skip the ball to a non-adjacent player (in a 1-2-2 formation). We’ll also time the drill to see how many passes the players can make over the course of one minute.
The “Skip It Drill” is helpful because it really gets the players throwing the ball and making good decisions, but make sure that all passes are leading players to an advantageous spot. Throw the ball where you want a player to get it. Remember, a good feed is thrown to the area where you know the recipient of the pass will be the most successful.
Also, be sure that players are always communicating throughout these drills. Players should always be calling the person’s name that the ball is going to be thrown to. This gets the players talking and builds unity and trust amongst one another.
Tip: Be mindful that you should consider giving your top unit a little bit more leeway than perhaps over offensive players. Let the players know that you have confidence in them and that you will let them do certain things you wouldn’t let others normally do. This adds confidence to your unit.
Touch It Drill
Now, our inside player is live in this drill. Players should work the ball around and look to find the middle man inside. The key here is for the inside man to always be moving their feet and always be available. In other words, let the player with the ball know that you are ready for the pass. This is done through body language.
Meanwhile, one’s stick and head should be up and eyes wide open. The inside man needs to be sneaky, but at the same time, he must read the defense and find the open spots. This player must be a presence on the field and needs to be able to finish his/her shots.
Here, we’re going to have one player or coach shoot the ball from the outside. Additionally, we will have a goalie in net with his stick turned backwards. With the backwards stick, the ball will pop out for some rebounds and garbage opportunities.
This drill works with inside players to always stay alert, know where the ball is at all times, and when there’s a shot, they should be turning and getting ready for any kind of rebound. This is a terrific way to condition players to get low, pick up the ball and get rid of it with a wrist shot despite tight quarters.