Make Riding/Clearing Drills Fun with Counterattack

By Mike Muetzel,

Riding and clearing drills are no fun. There, I said it; the elephant in the room is finally out. As coaches we all recognize the critical importance of being able to clear the ball, yet if you are like me, you may have come to dread working exclusively on rides and clears, especially if you are coaching by yourself or with younger or less experienced teams. Help is on the way.

Typically, if we spend 10-15 minutes on a full-field riding/clearing drill, we quickly learn the frustrations:

1. It is hard to yell to both ends of the field.

2. It's harder yet to keep the attention of three 16-year-old olds who are 70 yards away from you.

3. The drill is often slow, monotonous, and boring.

4. If it wasn't raining at the beginning of the drill, it is now.

Over the years, the great NCAA lacrosse coaches we interview have developed a number of awesome techniques to ease the pain. Many of these we have shared in the articles on as well as at our site. Standard lessons from these coaches include:

1. Keep the drill under seven or eight minutes or so and run a little every day rather than 30 minutes on one day.

2. Use a skeleton clearing pass drill to lead into transition to the other end.

3. Integrate rides and clears into existing drills. Even your transition drills can end with a ride and clear, then back to the next transition rep.

4. Scramble clears. At any point in a 4v4 or 6v6 drill, roll a ball out to a defenseman and yell "clear." At almost any time, we can turn a drill into a clear.

So, with all that, here is another of my favorite tools to reduce the pain coaches feel in working on rides and clears.

Counterattack Drills

When you hear a college coach mention a counterattack aspect to a lacrosse drill, in its simplest form it means that when the team clears the ball past midfield or across the midfield line, a coach rolls the ball to a nearby player who has previously riding, and he begins a sprint transition (the player who cleared with the ball is now a trailer) back into the original offensive end, and we play in transition.

Not only is this an extremely realistic way to integrate rides and clears into our 'even' lacrosse drills, but also the players love it. No worries if you have a smaller roster. With this being a half-field configuration, it can work with any roster. We just need to adapt a bit.

I must also offer a general warning regarding practicing rides and clears in the half field. It might be that you are sharing the field at practice and can only use a half field. This is fine most of the time. However, your teams will then be conditioned to clear just to midfield.

This has happened to me more than once, where we were great at clearing to midfield but not so great getting the ball into an offensive opportunity or even simply getting the ball to our attack. Thus, perhaps before or after practice, we need to clear all the way down occasionally as well; it is really important.


We can integrate this into a 4v4 drill. Perhaps we just play 4v4 for 30 seconds and then, off a shot, go into a clear and, following the clear, then into the counterattack. Or possibly after 20-30 seconds of playing, we go into a static clear to get the ball across the midfield line. If you like "4 across," line up three poles and the goalie, or two poles, a middie (middie 'down'), and a goalie and run the clear with three or four players riding hard.

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