Lax Coach Mike: Hopkins Open Practice with Keep-a-Way

By Mike Muetzel,

I think all lacrosse coaches struggle occasionally with pace. Practice plans that always start slowly often result in teams starting slowly at the beginning of games or even coming out of half-time. I have learned from many college coaches that setting the tone early can make the entire practice faster with much more passion and enthusiasm ... and more fun as well.

A while back, Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala shared a concept of sending players into the locker room for 10 minutes at some point in the middle of practice, then immediately coming out into a very competitive full-field scrimmage. It was a way of emulating a half-time experience and being ready to play at full pace.

In my most recent podcast with Coach Pietramala, he shared another quick drill they use to open practices following a stretch to set the tone for an energetic fast-paced practice before a lot of the typical station or skill set work. It sounds pretty basic, but we tried it with summer teams, and they loved it. I think it is especially critical for summer teams, as often we play three games a day, including three half-time breaks, and with running time, coming out lethargic can cost valuable time.

Following a quick stretch, we broke the team into two groups. Both included attack, middies, poles, and goalies. The defined area is between the top of the box to the midfield line, and we put cones out to define the sideline parameters. I put the cones about five yards inside the normal sideline. We ran the drill on both sides of the restraining lines at the same time, which obviously depends on the size of your roster. So in essence we have one or two rectangles as defined areas.

We begin with seven players on defense and six players on offense in the area. The goal is keep-a-way, remembering we have a mixture of players on offense and defense. With the additional man, defensive players always attempt to double-team the ball. Thus, the pace is fast.

We played the drill such that when a team lost possession it was out. In the first rep, if a team lost possession, either we added and deleted a player, and the opposite team was now on offense, still with seven on defense and six on offense. After 30-45 seconds, we brought in two different teams.

The players loved the pace and competitive aspect of this unique drill to open practice (after a stretch) so much they insisted we start the next practice the same way. In this case, we played if you kept the ball 30 seconds without giving up possession, you got to rest and the defenders had to stay on defense. Or if you lost possession or went outside the defined area, you stayed on offense and seven new defenders came in. It was kind of a reversed "make it, take it" rewarding the team that performed the best in each rep. We had a blast with it!

From a coaching perspective, even with all the fun, focus on the fundamentals:

Always work with your defensive partner for a strong double team.
Anticipate open space and get there.
Provide adjacent offensive outlets.
Move to the ball on every catch.
Move your feet when you throw.
Keep your head up at all times.
Communication offensively and defensively.

What I did not anticipate was the great work it gave our goalies in two critical areas. First, if we were playing a tight 10-man ride, it reinforced looking up and moving the ball. Second, if you are a coach who likes to double with your goalie if you are behind at the end of a game, it is a fun way to reinforce working with a teammate on a double-team. The following practice we used the drill to end practice taking the time to 45 seconds, and it was a great way to condition as well!

Enjoy! I would love to hear your comments and feedback. 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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