Lax Coach Mike: Three New Advanced Practice Techniques

By Mike Muetzel,

After five years of interviewing NCAA lacrosse coaches on their evolving practice plans, I continue to be amazed at their ability to fine-tune practices to meet or emulate minor details in true game conditions and scenarios. Honestly, after most podcasts, I feel melancholy that many of these new practice twists make so much sense, and I wonder after 35 years of coaching why it never occurred to me to use them myself.

Each year we hear from coaches about new techniques, which continue to evolve. Here are three ideas you may want to consider, all in the spirit of putting players in a better position to be successful. Please remember, these new concepts are from the college level (bigger rosters, perhaps advanced lacrosse acumen from the players and coaches, etc.); however, with a little creativity, they might work for all of us.


OK, we all struggle with getting players' attention during a time-out in a heated contest. And we have talked before about trying to implement only plays or schemes that we have already introduced in practice. So, why not integrate the critical time-out into practice occasionally?

A growing number of NCAA lacrosse coaches are using this technique. For example, during the 6v6 or full-field portion of practice, the coach will call a time-out. The offensive coach will quickly call in the six offensive players and/or the defensive coach will spend the time with the defensive players. You might set up an overload, an invert scenario, or a pass and pick into a play, or designate a preferred match-up to try to exploit.

The offensive coach might also alert the team as to the possibility of seeing a zone out of the time-out and how to set up and react accordingly.

The defensive coach might say to "pack it in" or perhaps go to a zone focusing on one or two key elements.

College coaches have suggested to us that through repetition for the players their focus improves. Coaches have also suggested that they too learn a lot by practicing time-outs. The message needs to be short and concise, concentrating on one or two elements at a maximum. Players learn to take water then focus directly on the coach's words. And then we evaluate how effective the brief communication actually was judging by the results back on the field.

Half Time

All coaches have seen their teams come out flat after half-time and often wondered why. I remember my interview with Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. This season once or twice a week he would break for a simulated half-time. Players would leave the field for five to seven minutes, get water, take off their helmets, and catch their breath. As a high school coach, you might send your team to the end of the field with water to take a seat without coaches.

Following the break, go immediately into a competitive full-field short game. The scrimmage is complete with a face-off and a game to one or two goals. The focus is on an immediate high level of effort.

It makes so much sense to me. Preparing players to turn the switch off and then immediately back on can only help in game situations and improve consistency in the first moments of the second half. Following the quick game, the team resumes by going back to the practice plan and the sequence of drills for the day. Once or twice a week can make a huge difference!

15-Second Play

Coaches recognize the need for a "quick-hitter" play to be run at the end of a quarter or the game when the team really needs to score. Most of us have a play we like to run from a designated location on the field, often with designated personnel. Like most coaches, I have traditionally practiced these specialty scenarios at the end of practice with a competitive element.

One of the most powerful momentum boosts in lacrosse is a goal at the end of a quarter or half. Conversely, a goal by the opponent at those times can break a team's spirit.

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