Lax Coach Mike: Drills with 'Add One' to Simulate Back Cuts

By Mike Muetzel,

OK, I love transition drills in practice. I love the tempo; I love the quick touches; I love the defense having to slide quickly and intuitively and then recover to the inside. Players also love the pace and nature of these transition drills. You have seen my thoughts before: If 80% or more of goals occur in some type of transition off a ground ball, somebody gets beat, etc. then we need to integrate or emulate these mini-scenarios into our drills. In most transition drills, everybody knows they have an extra man. Now, I apologize for not having a cool name for this drill. "Back Cut" or "Add One Off Ball" seem so boring, but it is what it is, and I will do better next time.

Players know the extra man is there from the beginning of the drill. If we start the drills outside the box, the player carrying the ball will often initially be the open man. Even if we change where the drill begins from, it becomes easy for both the offensive and defensive players to recognize.

But I have learned that there are many types of transition in the mini-snapshots of what can happen in games, and we need to integrate these into practice plans as well. On my teams, we are occasionally subject to a back cut or one of the defensive players relaxing while their off-ball offensive player streaks by them. Some refer to it as "your head on a swivel" or by some coaching their defenders as "big eye on the ball, little eye on the offensive player." Regardless, we know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men. And coaches, this needs a little work.

Clearly, as coaches we want off-ball players to stay focused and not be subject to off-ball back-door cuts. In this drill, we are going to learn how to cope with these situations after they happen. And the other great aspects of this drill are that they help the offensive as well as the defensive players, and they allow coaches a lot of flexibility in terms of the specifics of running the drill. A little imagination can produce a different look every practice. And this drill is great for players of all ages and skill levels.

Base Configurations

I offer the two base configurations in the drawings at the end of the article. In the first, we are going to begin with a 3v3 drill. So, for example, we have three attack player behind and three lines of defenders. I always try to have the defenders enter the drill from the outside so they need to adjust and communicate on the fly. And for explanatory purposes, we have all three offensive players (attackmen or middies) behind the cage (although once the players learn the drill, you can position them anywhere). Above the restraining line there is a fourth line of offensive players who will join the drill momentarily as the "back cut add one" players.

The drill begins with a ground ball or a pass, and we play 3v3 for 5 to 10 seconds. Then the coach might yell out, "add one," and the fourth offensive player enters the drill, usually from the back of the defenders. Now we need to find the open man and quickly move the ball, as we are in a 4v3 segment of the drill. Defenders and goalie need to communicate as they adjust in what's now a man-down or transition segment. Cool, eh? We play to a shot. On a shot or save, we immediately clear and then begin the drill again with new players.

In the second configuration drawing, just to get you thinking, we reverse the drill to three offensive players up top and three lines of defenders. We play 3v3 for 5 to 10 seconds, and then we "add one," simulating the back cut but this time from behind the cage. We find the open man and move the ball, while defenders adjust. We play to a score or save or take-away, then move into a very quick ride and clear.

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