Coaching Drill: Full Field to 5v4 Face-Off

By Mike Muetzel,

High school coaches often struggle with smaller or limited coaching staffs and can't find time to dedicate to face-offs. This drill, which we we heard from coach Dave Cottle from Maryland on our recent podcast, is a great way to experiment with different face-off players as well as move immediately into a 5v4 transition.

Most coaches will admit that finding another effective face-off player can come from the strangest places. It might be a less skilled player, younger player, a long stick ... you never know. This drill allows you to try a number of different players at face-offs, and it's great for conditioning and introduces an element of competition.

Even if we as coaches make time to work with our face-off specialists, we don't often find ways to practice our other middies or LSMs on critical wing play, driving wing players off at the hip, stepping in front of the opposing wing player, or communicating specific locations to be in a position to get possession of the critical face-offs.

We can also find ourselves in games losing face-offs to a great FOGO, and we may want to change the rhythm by facing off with a pole or an even bigger player to drive the FOGO off the ball and fight for the ground ball. But finding the time to practice these game-like scenarios or on-field adjustments can be difficult.

The drill begins with players set up to face off just as they would in a game. On one offensive end, we have three attackers and two defensemen. And on the opposite offensive end, we have the same.

The coach initiates the face-off with the players competing for possession focusing on face-off techniques and coaching techniques for wing play. As soon as one of the teams gets possession, they immediately break to their offensive end of the field, where there is a man advantage for the attack players versus the defenders.

Now we are in a 5v4 scenario. The offensive team has but 10 or 15 seconds to move the ball, find the open man, and get off a quality shot.

If the offensive groups scores, we replace the previous defensive middies with three new middies. In other words, if your group (the offensive middies) wins the face-off and scores, you get to stay on the field. It's similar to make it-take it. If the offensive team fails to score, then they are replaced with three new middies (LSM) for the next face-off, the previous defensive middies stay, and the drill continues with another face-off.

The keys to this drill are, first, that it involves many players and a lot of up and down the field running. Secondly, the drill involves all players in transition, whether it be spacing, finding the open man and scoring on offense, or critical practice on slides on defense. Finally, it helps to teach players to feel comfortable with a pressure face-off situation to a much needed quick score.

If you as a coach do not have a big staff, it is a drill a coach can run quickly and still involve a lot of players by himself or with another coach doing the face-off while you coach techniques.

As for variations on the drill, you might have one offensive side of the field with just two attack and two defense to make that side an even situation, or if you do not have 25 players or more, run the drill with two attackmen and a single defenseman to start each face-off repetition. Be creative and change the scenarios, thereby forcing players to think, recognize, and react to different configurations, all while spending 10 minutes on face-offs and getting in a good up and down run.

The big key is to keep the repetition under 15 seconds after possession is gained. Keep it moving; one minute or more possessions will bore and disengage the rest of the players at practice. is a unique site for lacrosse coaches, offering drills and ideas from the greatest coaches in the country. E-mail your comments to


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