In this week’s chalk talk segment, we’ll break down key offensive principles for high scoring attacks. Follow along as Virginia associate head coach and offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale runs through essential team principles, individual responsibilities, and off-ball responsibilities for an overall effective offense. By incorporating these tips and techniques, you’ll be able to put your players in the best position possible to be successful on the offensive end.
When we talk about team offense, we start with team principles. It doesn’t matter what set your team runs. These principles can be applied from the youth level and all the way up to the college game.
You want the entire field to be covered by the defense. For this example, we’ll attack out of a 2-3-1 set from the top. We’ve got two midfielders up top, a midfielder on the crease, and attackman on both wings, and one attackman behind the cage. This set up is balanced, spreads out the field, and allows you to maintain proper spacing on the field.
Note: With younger players, they have the tendency to crowd the ball. But we don’t want too many guys in one area. This makes it too easy for the defense to double team or prevent you from throwing passes to teammates.
We want to get the ball across the middle of the field and essentially use all four quadrants of the field. Every time the ball crosses a quadrant line, it changes which side is ballside and which side is weakside for defense, so it makes everything more complicated for defenses in terms of sliding. When it does cross that line, it’s a great time for re-dodges, cuts, seals, and feeds to the inside.
For instance, if the ball starts in the top left quadrant, the shot may generate somewhere on the bottom left side. We like the ball moving from the front to back and back to front. This makes defenders turn their heads. In lacrosse, there’s a fair amount of area behind the net to attack, so we want to occupy that space by moving the ball front to back and across the middle of the field. There are many ways to do that and hopefully find the weakside for a high-percentage scoring chance.
The key is that we want to be able to get the ball through to the backside.
This puts the short sticks into a sliding position and it reduces one of the long sticks that may be in one of the passing lanes. This means you are also putting the ball into the hands of your best players.
Within all of these concepts, there are many responsibilities for the individual.
The ball carrier has two options. First, they can make a hard penetrating move to the goal. Or second, they can move their feet to make a pass. With younger players, it’s important to remember to run while you are looking and look while you are running. Don’t stand still. Also, don’t catch the ball and then put your head down and charge. If you do this, you aren’t seeing the field. Remember, you are a dodger and passer at the same time.
First, you can prepare to clear space. Don’t crowd the ball carrier. Move your feet and create some space for the new ball carrier. Second, make a simple cut or prepare to make one, like a give and go. Third, pick away. If you are a midfielder up top, you can pick away for another midfielder. It creates space for teammates to move into. You can also pick for the crease man and create a chance for him.
Fourth, although it’s not recommended for younger players, you can pass the ball and be in a position to go pick for the ball. This way, you can work more of a two-man game (and this is becoming far more prevalent today as well). However, to do this, players need to have very good stick skills, otherwise it’s a bit dangerous to run at a younger level due to high turnover rates.
The first responsibility of an off-ball player is to make space for the ball carrier (like a backdoor cut). Don’t just stand there and call for the ball. Create some space so your teammate has the chance to attack the cage. It also forces the defense to make decisions as well.
Second, you can V-cut to receive the ball. Read the body language of the ball carrier. This will determine where to go from there.
For the crease player, his job is to maintain a relationship where he is away from the ball. This creates lanes for cutters and makes slides a bit longer. You can lengthen those slides as much as possible. Each time the ball moves, the crease player moves. It gives him the opportunity to read a slide. Look to find an open area and move away from where the slide is. Then back away into the open space to receive a pass and finish on the inside.