'The Best Single Drill' ... and Six Tips to Make It Better

By Mike Muetzel, LaxCoachMike.com

I heard it, but back then I am not sure I believed it. I interviewed popular head coach Tony Seaman from Towson a few months back. As he discussed practice plans and schedules, he said, "4V4 is the best single drill in lacrosse." We have been interviewing NCAA coaches over the last year, looking for new ideas and tips to help coaches in practices, and I have learned a lot about 4V4 drills.

The beautiful thing about 4V4 drills for players of all ages is that they open up the field and allow players to have more room to maneuver as well as less congestion, which lets players see the offensive end of the field more easily. The 4V4 drills also allow for players to drive, double team, set picks on and off ball, and generally are more fun for than 6V6.

In our discussions with NCAA coaches, when they do spend time practicing players in an even (versus a transition) drill or man-up situation, they spend more time in 10V10 full field and in 4V4 situations than they do in 6V6. Yet many many coaches spend countless relatively boring hours practicing six against six in practice.

Most of us simply do not have enough players at practice to allow a lot of time in 10 against 10 full-field (with any substitutions), or the ball stays in one end while players at the other end become bored or distracted. Younger players may even start throwing dirt at each other. We have all been there!

With all this being said, as a coach I spent most of my time in 3V2, 4V3, and 5V4 situations, moving the ball, creating transition, forcing an up-tempo pace, working on intuitive slides, and we were pretty successful. The kids loved it, we won some tournaments and championships, and I thought I was pretty smart.

I recently returned from coaching the Copperheads in the Crab City Lacrosse Tournament, playing against many of the top U19 teams on the East Coast. We went expecting to play in the championship game but never caught our stride. Although we were respectable and won more than we lost, we missed the semifinals by a goal on a tiebreaker, and I learned a valuable lesson as a coach.

The fact is that when you play against top skilled teams in this case many, many D-I prospects the opportunities to be in snapshots of transition are greatly reduced. And I learned that even though we are a skilled team, we are not nearly as dynamic in a settled situation, and in a game that is played in settled 6V6 situations, we are good but not great. Coach Seaman was absolutely correct. As a coach, I thought I was progressive and cutting edge with drills, but I had not prepared our kids for success in settled situations. I had lost sight of the forest for the trees. So, how do we as coaches get the kids prepared for these types of tough match-ups and still keep practice fun, always moving and interesting? Try these options.

Tip 1: Start 4V4 from Set Formations

I used to run my 4V4 from the four corners of the box, thus violating my first rule for all drills: they must emulate game scenarios. I learned from coaches to begin the drill with the four offensive players placed as they would be in one of our offensive sets. Have the four players take four of the positions out of your favorite six man set. So we recommend starting the 4V4 with four players placed in one of your sets. Begin the drill with four players in a 1-4-1 set, a 2-2-2 set, or 2-3-1 etc. And the coach begins the drill with a pass to one of the offensive players. This brings the drill back to reality, emulating a game situation. In our practices, we run each group through two different sets and run two 30-second sessions/runs with each group of offensive and defensive players.

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