Lacrosse Drill: Transition Tips for Coaches

By Mike Muetzel,

Many of the NCAA coaches we interview regarding practice are in love with transition drills. In fact, most great lacrosse coaches spend significantly more critical practice time in transition drills than even scenarios such as 6V6. Please understand, we still recognize that 10V10 and 4V4 drills are still critical aspects to every practice. But, we love transition drills too!

Why Transition Drills?

  1. This phase of the game is where most of the goals are scored, period.

  2. Offensive players or even offensive sets always have an extra player to pass to, and this encourages ball movement, touches, and each player stickwork improving for younger and more experienced teams alike.

  3. Makes practice more fun!

  4. Teaches defensive players to slide and drop back intuitively, and they learn by doing and repetition rather than by lectures.

  5. Drills move very quickly.

  6. Drills are designed to emulate game situations.

According to Bryant and Team USA head coach Mike Pressler, over 70% of the goals scored in games occur in some type of transition. You might be thinking fast break goals when we discuss transition. However, in actuality the better the teams are in skill and experience, the less full-field fast breaks you will see.

Where you might have three or four legitimate fast breaks during the course of a competitive game, you may have 15-20 or more mini-snapshots of transition that will occur for a team. Yet coaches often remain focused on fast break drills and 6V6.

Perhaps the wiser course for a lacrosse coach to take in planning practice is to spend time on these mini-snapshots of transition. We have discussed a lot of different transition drills in our LaxPower articles as well as on the site. These drills can be run in either full-field, three-quarter field, or half-field scenarios, thus keeping things fast-paced and interesting for the players.

In our recent interview with Coach Shay of Yale, he referenced conversations with Coach Sheehan at Le Moyne, where they developed a list of Transition Rules (and key coaching tips) for their offensive players to enhance the drills. They may have originally started with five or more but have boiled it down to three key coaching tips and player guidelines for any transition. Thanks, guys!

Rule #1 - Stay Ahead of the Ball

The first rule is for the players adjacent to or flanking the ball carrier. This is a huge key: Players need to learn to never let the ball beat them to the cage or get ahead of them (especially on clears). In any type of transition, we want to always go forward, not pass back, so players need to stay in front of the ball to truly be a threat.

Rule #2 Get Covered

This second rule is for the player with the ball. This may sound a little strange to you, and I know it did for me at first. But it makes so much sense. In any transition scenario, we have an extra man for one of these mini-snapshots of a game. So if the ball carrier is not covered, (he is the open man) his number one responsibility is to drive to the cage until he is covered or, if not coverage comes, to get to the cage, shoot accurately, and score.

Rule #3 If You Are Covered, Move the Ball!

This third rule also applies the ball carrier. When he drives and becomes covered, he needs to move the ball. Rule #3 is not as simplistic as it initially might sound. Coach Shay was pretty funny and animated when giving a further explanation of the rule. It means "Move the ball, not twirl the stick; do not try to dodge; no hitch and fake; no running through two or three defenders; no shake and bake ... MOVE THE BALL!" If you do not immediately and quickly move the ball, the transition moment is lost. Can't you just hear yourself saying that?

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