Lax Coach Mike: Practice to Win in the Last Minute of Games

By Mike Muetzel,

This is a fun drill emulating a scenario where we need to freeze the ball for the last minute in a tight game, or defensively we need to get the ball back when down a goal at the end of a game. You might try this drill with a lock on double team and adjacent tight or work on a scenario where your goalie might cover a man or double behind. Each segment is for one minute.

This is a great way to wrap up practice for 10 minutes a few times a week. Have six offensive players keep it in the box while six defenders attempt to take it away. I recommend that you think about running all your players through the drill, just 30-second games and then 12 new players take the field. First, make sure they understand they have 10 seconds to get it in the box; now there are only 20 seconds left. Make sure players understand exactly how you want to control the ball in the box. Some coaches want to pick away, some want to spread it out and run a player, just keep your players spread out.

You will also want to have a specific in-bounds play or even a long bomb' for the last few seconds of a half or quarter. It is so difficult to draw these up on a board during a time-out and have them work. Pick out two or three plays and practice them three or four times a week.

Scenario #1: There are less than two minutes in the game. Your team has a lead. You need to maintain possession for two minutes, but you must keep the ball in the box. It sounds easier than it really is. Practice on this specialty situation is critical.

Freeze the Ball

Each coach has his or her own philosophy regarding this situation, but my key point here is that you need to have a philosophy! And practice!

Remember, you have 10 seconds to get the ball in the box from out of bounds. Running it in immediately can cost you seven or eight seconds that might make a difference. One of the key things players need to understand is that the wider the spacing the better chance they have to be successful. Reducing any opportunity to be double-teamed is paramount.

I like to encourage the offensive team to run behind at X. This is not a time for a pick play on the ball, but picks away from the ball can be effective. There is more room for running behind the cage by a single player. And the player with the ball MUST move. If he is pressured, the best pass is often a skip pass, but returning to the area behind the cage as soon as possible I feel is best.

We often place the remaining five offensive players at the restraining line to help protect against any type of fast break transition the other way. When the player at X is gassed or perhaps gets double-teamed, the player on the restraining line farthest from the ball slides down behind the cage while staying in the box to be an easy release valve option. If we get him the ball, the original offensive player, who was at X, returns up to the restraining line.

If you happen to lose the ball behind the cage, it reduces the chance of a fast break and lengthens the field for the other team. Remember, often the defensive team will either double-team with the goalie or put the goalie in the crease area as a defender. Please practice this at least twice a week. By practicing, players will recognize where the opening might be and feel less pressure.

Scenario #2: There are only a few minutes left in the game, and you are behind a goal or two and immediately need to pressure to gain possession.

Press Defense

Time-outs are not a good time to explain how you want players to press or double. Practice is critical. Every season a game or two can be won or lost in this situation.

Most coaches want to double the ball from outside the box or a whistle starting play. But who should double? If it is behind, you may want to use your goalie. Again, which philosophy you utilize is not as important as having a clear philosophy.

I like to double the ball with two long sticks and cover the two adjacent offensive players really tight man-to-man and try to force an errant long or looping pass right from the beginning. Remember to practice your double-teams, with each player closing off the outside forcing the player to roll into the team defender.

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.


Create a free lacrosse website