Running Players in Practice - What Are You Really Thinking?

By Mike Muetzel,

Let me begin with an apology, as these thoughts may upset the old school purist coaches. Do you consider each minute in practice time to be valuable? Do you take the time to plan your practices down to the minute or analyze the number of touches per player, per drill, regardless of the age group you are coaching? Are we truly developing better lacrosse fundamentals and skills by running laps?

We often refer to our Four Keys to a Successful Lacrosse Practice theme we have been preaching for over a year. Remember, these are not my keys, but the result of over 35 hours of interviews with top NCAA coaches, who understand how to get the most productivity out of each practice.

Drills must emulate game situations

Drills/practice should be fun

Drills/practice need to be fast paced

Drills/practice should focus on touches

Running laps before practice clearly does not meet any of the four filters above, and using running as a punishment or deterrent for poor play does not improve it. There I wrote it, and now we can discuss alternatives.

Running Laps Before Practice

There is an age-old custom in coaching that suggests we need to start each practice with the kids running two laps around the field. It is a traditional way of starting your valuable practice time in a sluggish and boring way. The kids hate it and lose focus early, but it does offer coaches an opportunity to waste five to ten minutes of practice time discussing what they had for lunch or watched on ESPN. The concept of a warm-up, getting the blood pumping, breaking a sweat, and getting loose before stretching are all noble concepts, but maybe there are better ways.

Three-Man Adjacent Passing

One alternative is to have players line up three across at the end of the field. The ball starts with the middle player. The middle player passes to the outside, the outside player passes back to the middle player, who then passes the ball to the player on the other far side, then back to the middle player as the players jog 100 yards down the field at about 60-70%. The coach starts each group with a quick blast of the whistle, with the next line beginning three to four seconds after the first and so on.

This is not a three-man weave. This is not basketball practice. In lacrosse, we never pass the ball to a player and then run behind him. Thus, we need to be consistent with emulating a game scenario. But, in full-field transition, we often look laterally to a breaking player and pass across our bodies while on the run. Before practice, set a number of extra balls up and down the sideline. If a pass goes awry, the closest player in that group simply picks up a ball from the sideline and continues. We never want to stop a drill to chase balls.

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