Lax Coach Mike: Strategic 6v6 to Improve Practice

By Mike Muetzel,

Being a lacrosse coach who is compulsive to a fault about the pace of our practices, I have never spent a ton of time focusing on 6v6 work. Perhaps it is my own internal personal struggle. Or maybe as a totally offensive-minded coach who loves fast transition play, I rationalize that I can hit the buttons of slide and recovery in 4v3 or 5v4 transition drills and have more touches and more fun. I do recognize the importance of 6v6 in practice, but the slow pace frustrates me, and I struggle with it and for that reason do not spend a lot of time here.

In addition, I see many high school and rec coaches traditionally running 6v6 in their practices for 20 minutes or more. I see players standing around for 10 minutes at a time, players who are not having fun, and a coaching staff popping energy drinks just to stay awake. Do the comments upset you?

For the record, we need to work on 6v6, especially when running a scout team, or perhaps even seeing our team struggle in games in settled situations. Running transition drills or even a number of 4v4 lacrosse drills can offer more space, more touches, faster reps, and usually far more excitement for players and coaches. However, they do not address six-man total team defense, a third slide, or total team off-ball defense.

Even if you are a coach who runs a lot of plays, generally there are not six offensive players who have truly essential roles in every play, and most offensive philosophies we can drill without having 12 players involved and another 15 or more standing around. However, I do see an increasing benefit to a renewed focus, at least for me, on six-man team defense.

In a recent podcast with Brandon Childs, a great young coach at York, he shared an interesting way in which they can put a strategic focus on the total team defense and increase the pace of the drill, increase competition, and make it more fun.

At York, they often run 6v6 drills with a unique twist or variation that Childs credits to coach John Reynolds from Marymount. It is a quick rep 6v6, but it follows a brief meeting, almost a simulated time-out. In the last year, we have talked to more and more top NCAA coaches who are occasionally practicing' time-outs and even half-time to help better prepare their teams. So the team is divided into offense and defense at each side of the field, even though it is a half-field drill.

The offensive coach meets with the offensive players on one side, and the defensive coach meets with the defensive players on the other side. If you do not have designated coaches for each, try captains running the time-outs. Again, this is almost like simulating a time-out. The offense decides which six players are in this segment of the 6v6, the formation to be used, or even a play. But here is the part I love the most. The defensive coach is calling a specific defense that will be their focus and the six players to participate in the drill for this rep. This is an awesome technique to work on specific defensive team concepts and keep it fun. For example, the defense is going to come out for the 6v6 this time in a:

1. Zone defense
2. Player shut-off defense
3. Man-to-man defense

Each rep might be different. It is also a great technique to help offensive players recognize what the specific defense might be and react accordingly or as you have coached them to react to the zone or the shut-off. It is an interesting twist. The defense almost becomes the boxer, and the offense now is in counterpunch mode.

The coaches decide and generally communicate the length of each rep to the team, usually a minute to two minutes total. When the rep is finished, it's back to the sidelines for a 15-20 second time-out, and then six new players on offense and defense hustle on the field. If the offense scores in 15 seconds, the rep is over. If the defense gets a stop and a clear in 10 seconds, the rep ends, and they get a point. If there is no goal or stop/clear in two minutes, the coach decides who gets the point. In the words of a coach, "It is a great way to do 6v6 in a non-methodical way."

At York, they will also throw a man-up or a man-down into the mix then return to 6v6 work. The entire 6v6 portion of practice is held to 10 to 12 minutes ... not forever!

Anxious to hear your thoughts. is a unique site for lacrosse coaches, offering drills and ideas from the greatest coaches in the country. E-mail your comments to

All of the previous articles on coaching and drills from Lax Coach Mike can be found on the Lacrosse Drills, Instruction, and Training page. His eBook is also available.


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