Coaching: Spice Up Your Half-Field Drills!

By Mike Muetzel,

Most of you that have been reading our materials recognize that we are huge proponents of transition drills. These are not fast break drills, but drills that emulate four- to six-second snapshots of creating or even manufacturing transition by driving or capitalizing on a ground ball advantage or a missed slide. Even for younger players on offense, it is effective, as there is always a player open, and for defensive players it teaches intuitive slides, 'must have' communication, and a focus on paying attention off ball in a fun practice format.

In our interview with Mike Pressler, head coach of Team USA, he suggested that over 70% of lacrosse goals are scored in these short snapshots of action in games rather than in a straight even or 6v6 scenario. Thus, that is where he recommends we put the focus of our scrimmage situations in practices for both the offense and the defense. In this awesome drill, we do a little of both.

One of my favorite coaches, Ted Garber, shared this drill, and our players love it. He calls it the '86' Drill. Let me begin by suggesting that this drill is for upper intermediate or advanced teams. If you are coaching youth players, I might suggest running the drill with five offensive players and three defensive players, thus a '53' drill, where the field is more open, and it's easier for the players to recognize their options offensively and defensively. Or the first time out, you could possibly run it 7v6, but I recommend just letting the kids go for it off the top.

In the half-field format, the drill is a scrimmage with eight offensive players and six defensive players. Okay, so it does not directly emulate a game scenario, which is one of our filters for effective drills, but I can guarantee a dramatic improvement for your team's half-field defensive effort.

With younger, less experienced teams, we always try to open the field by using fewer players in drills. In this drill, we are going to do the opposite. We want to create less open space, more players in the half-field set, and force a higher degree of concentration and communication offensively and defensively. And since we traditionally run our transition drills with one extra offensive player, this offers a new twist and keeps practice interesting for players by having a two-man advantage. Although I am not sure exactly why, our kids really fire up for the challenge.

The first time you show the drill to your players, you may want to have the players get set up in front of the cage. We open the drill with the players entering the field on the move, and this offers a lot of options to keep it different every day you put this drill in your practice plan. This adds a true 'scramble' type beginning to the dill. The defense can enter from one side and the offense from the other alley, or front to back, or with all players sprinting down from the midfield line. You get the idea. The coach rolls out a ground ball to begin the drill.

Now we play 8v6 to a shot or a stop, take-away and then clear. However, there is a fundamental rule for the players. The offensive player with the ball MUST be covered tight man-to-man by a defensive player. There is always a player applying pressure on the ball. And coaches need to explain to the defense that there is a clear advantage for the offense and thus not to get discouraged if they get beat for a goal. The idea is to have six defensive players sliding and communicating as a unit.

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