Lax Coach Mike: The Cornell Cheetah Drill

By Mike Muetzel,

In a recent podcast, Coach Matt Kerwick from Cornell shared a great lacrosse drill that incorporates his transition style but, perhaps more importantly, forces players to think and react on the fly. I also want to add we are seeing more coaches spend time in practice in a 5v5 format. During the game we might have a slow substitution on either side, or, rather than simply stop the offense during substitutions, we want to press the action even if it is a 5v5 scenario rather than wait to play in a standard 6v6 offense. Often this is a situation that opponents may not have practiced and so may offer a unique opportunity if we are prepared.

Cornell usually runs a 5v4 full field transition drill and then moves into a 5v5 full field transition drill. For Kerwick, this is a great opportunity to work on the "pick" game. With smaller rosters, you might run this with a 70-yard field going only one way if that works better.

This application is really just a twist on a typical "add one" lacrosse drill but offers more versatility. In addition, although maybe like me you run add-one drills almost daily, I rarely run them out of a 5v5 base configuration.

In this case, we want to start in a 5v5 set up with three attack, three defense, two offensive middies, and two defensive middies beginning play running down into the box area. And we may not want to just have our "D" middies on defense but also having them taking reps as offensive players to better emulate a game scenario.

Stationed up by the substitution box, we have a coach and a line of offensive players as well as a line of defensive players. Once the whistle blows and play begins, we want to run aspects of our offense even though we are 5v5. For example, we may work the ball around the perimeter and then go right into a two-man game or a pass down-pick down from the wing.

Now the scenario changes. The coach at the substitution box sends in one additional player. It might be an additional offensive player, more often than not, an additional defensive player or LSM.

If the coach decides to add a defensive player, we need to have players recognize the numbers and communicate. Defensively we want to double the ball immediately (thus the term "cheetah," as he is hunting the double team) and have the slide to ensure we have the other four offensive players covered. Again we play to a quick shot or a clear.

If we add an offensive player, the players in the drill must immediately recognize that, albeit for a few seconds we have a man advantage and react accordingly. The defense must also recognize how the scenario has changed and that they are down a man, perhaps for just a few seconds, and slide accordingly, making sure they have the crease or "hub" area covered. We play to a quick shot or even a clear and then begin a new rep.

As a coaching tip, too often when we miss a shot or there is a ground ball or the ball goes out of bounds, we blow the whistle and start again. Kerwick recommends letting the drill play out a little bit longer. In other words, if there is a dropped pass or check and the ball goes to the ground in the box, we want to aggressively attack the ground ball. And in the case of a defender picking up the ground ball, I like to have all of the offensive players jump him immediately. Your teams will be far more effective manufacturing great transition or scoring opportunities off a ground ball or checking a defenseman and putting the ball on the ground and then moving the ball quickly to a goal if you have them actually practice this way even in a 5v5 or 6v5 drill. 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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