Coaching Tips from the NCAA Tournament

By Mike Muetzel,

Like you, I watched with intense interest the final games of the NCAA Tournament. And hopefully, like you, watched and learned as a student lacrosse coach looking to be even better this summer and next season. Although there are still consistencies in the game, so many things have changed in the game we love. Coaches as a whole seem to be reluctant to change, but change is good, inevitable, and the kids love it.

As we prepare players to be in a position to be successful or to potentially be better groomed for playing at the next level, please keep these thoughts in mind in your preparation. I am sure you could add to the ideas I have listed, but here are a few for your review. And please remember, excelling in these areas cannot be taught off a whiteboard or lecture; they need to be integrated into our drills.

Still the Same

Clearly the games of the weekend indicated the critical priority of face-offs, goalie play, and clearing. And it remains interesting that many of us as coaches, when we prepare our practice plans, spend relatively little time in these three areas.

  1. As demonstrated by Coach Danowski, and Duke, having options at the face-off position may have been the key to their dramatic overtime win. There are so many ways to integrate face-off play into practices, talking about wing play (driving players off or away from a player charging on a fast break), and we need to develop options as coaches. Having a pole as an option as well as different styles of face-off players can truly make a difference at a key point in the game.

  2. Many of us are not goalie experts, but there are resources available to us. Warming up goalies is not the end-all of goalie development. There are so many videos and camps (e.g., Pilat Camp) we need to get in the hands of our goalies and sit down and discuss with them.

  3. In the Division I finals the last two years, impatience and inability to clear at key times may have been one of the turning points in the game. You may have noticed that almost every 'static' clear starts with a long re-direct pass. We have to make sure, even at the HS and rec level, that these drills are in our practice plans.

    And let us not forget that championship teams are relentless riding teams well past the restraining line all the way to the midfield line. I think back to our podcast with Coach Pressler in which he spoke about ending each and every practice drill by rolling out a ball to a ride-and-clear scenario. Even a basic 4V3 drill followed by a ball rolled out to a clear, with the same players before starting a new group, can be used to re-emphasize this critical point.

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