Lax Coach Mike: Offensive Ground Balls Lead to Transition Goals

By Mike Muetzel,

Ok, I am a transition-first coach, in the way we practice as well as in the way we play during games. I could go back into the NCAA lacrosse stats and confirm that over 80% of goals scored are scored not in an "even" scenario but rather in a short (4-7 second) snapshot of transition. Thus, we spend most of our time in practice on transition lacrosse drills, and I hope you are moving your practices in this direction as well.

More often than not, transition opportunities in our offensive end result from a player potentially getting beat either on ball' or off ball' and in a loose ball or ground ball scenario. If you break down your games or film, I am sure you will agree that it is critical that we not only capitalize on these mini-snapshots of transition but that we learn to manufacture these transition moments out of even scenarios in our offensive end as well.

I frequently have this dialog with our teams on a daily basis. However, in addition to the observations above, I would also add that any ground ball we capture in our offensive end is a huge opportunity to score in transition if we can quickly move the ball in two or three passes, presumably getting a good look from the backside pipe.

Coaching at Auburn, I am blessed to have a number of strong attackmen, and playing time for five or six skilled attackmen is always a challenge. I am open and honest with attackmen and offensive middies. In addition to the obvious skills of carrying the ball, dodging, moving the ball, and shooting, there is another criterion or metric that is a key to getting more playing time: ground balls in the offensive end.

If each attackman can pick up three or four ground balls in the offensive end, we now have an incremental 10 to 12 opportunities to score in these min-snapshots of transition, and during this short period we have an extra offensive player. Think of it this way, if we get a ground ball in the offensive box, it is like adding 10 mini-man-ups to our game.

And of course the same holds true with offensive middies. It might be off a tipped pass; it might be off an effective ride or a defensive check resulting in a ground ball opportunity. So we practice and emulate these game-like scenarios every day.

This is a basic lacrosse drill that can be modified to keep it interesting for the players. We like to use this unique transition drill with offensive ground balls in mind.

Let me describe it in a basic form, and then let your imagination modify the formats to keep it a little different every day for your teams. It is simply a 1v1 ground ball into transition lacrosse. Like many NCAA coaches, we see most ground balls in games as a 1v1 competition, even if there are more players around the ground ball. We have actually increased the emphasis on ground ball work, but not in the traditional three line man-ball" configuration, but in1v1 ground ball work. It just is more game realistic.

In a 3v2 configuration, we start with two players aggressively competing for a ground ball. Then we have two separate lines of offensive players who will join the drill and a line of two defensive players. The additional two offensive and two defensive players stay in their lines until one of the 1v1 players competing for the ground ball gains possession. And of course there is a goalie in the cage.

Now here is the twist. The lines of players who will compete for the ground ball in this drill are limited to just attackmen and middies or offensive middies. All defensive players are just in two lines waiting to go. The coach rolls out a ground ball (gently, just 10 yards, not to the parking lot).

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