Coaching Drill: Even - Down - Even

By Mike Muetzel,

We are always on the watch for drills that emulate game scenarios, drills that are fast paced and keep players engaged. I have been a strong supporter of drills that involve transition, not your typical fast break drills, but drills that encourage (by definition) passing and ball movement and intuitive slides.

The first reason for this is that if the players, especially younger or developing players, always know up front that there is an offensive teammate open, they are less likely to stand and get beat on by a defender, and the drills encourage passing and ball movement. This results in better fundamentals in passing, looking up constantly to move the ball, more offensive shooting, and more fun.

The second key reason to focus on 'unsettled' or transition drills is that, according to our interview with Coach Pressler, over 80% of the goals in NCAA lacrosse games are scored as a result of some type of unsettled situation. We may only be unsettled or 3v2 or 4v3 for a few seconds, but this is where we need to capitalize and get a good look at the cage. Thus, even though many coaches spend a lot of time in 6v6 and other even situations in practice, they are then practicing to capitalize on just 20% of scoring opportunities (plus it is slow and boring), not the 80%. It just does not make sense to me.

With developing teams, we recommend that most of our drills begin 3v2 or 4v3, so all the players recognize that we have a man advantage (from the beginning of the drill) and thus are encouraged to maintain spacing, move the ball, and work quickly to a shot. In addition, keeping three or four offensive players opens up that zone much better than does 6v5, where it becomes crowded and hard to find the open player quickly.

As teams develop, we can expand the game-like scenario to one that emulates a player getting beat, creating an unsettled situation out of a settled situation. And the great thing is that we have so many options as coaches planning practice that we can keep it different every day.

In its base form, we might start with three offensive players and three defensive players. Rather than just beginning the drill with all three outside the box or in a line up top (when does that ever happen in a game?), we want to position players in places that they would normally be in the offensive set you like to run. This adds more of a real-life, game-like look to the drill. Thus, if you are a 3-2-1 coach from up top, for example, begin the drill with a player at X, a player on the wing, and a player outside the top corner of the box, with three corresponding defensive players. Or begin with the offensive players in any of the normal stations in the set. Also, remember to have each defender, as they take the field in the quick repetitions of the drill, assigned a number, one through three in this case.

Now we let the players play even for four to six seconds, then we want to 'lose' a defender momentarily. So the coach will yell out "NUMBER THREE," and the defender assigned that number needs to exit the drill, creating a man-advantage in transition or unsettled but only for a few seconds before he returns or is replaced. So we have now emulated a player getting beat on ball or off ball. You can have some fun with this. Maybe that defender with the called number needs to circle a bucket you have placed outside the box. Or maybe he needs to find you, the coach, and circle outside you before returning to the drill.

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