Build The Foundation

This one is for all of the coaches crafting practice plans.

While working at Windsor this past week I watched a few teams practice and I could immediately tell which team will have more early-season success this spring. I am confident in my predictions because I witnessed two types of practice. One that builds a foundation of lacrosse skills, and another that is more focused on complex formations and plays.

William of Ockham

William of Ockham

William Ockham, creator of the scientific principle Ockham’s Razor, said, “plurality ought never be posited without necessity.” The actual Ockham’s Razor is the “law of succinctness,” which can be applied to lacrosse with the following statement: A practice can only move onto more complex actions until the basic, simple skills are mastered. If a practice plan consists of learning two man-up plays, then every player on that man-up team better catch and throw properly or the entire practice is spent with the ball on the ground and players standing around.

While I do like Ockham I think that John Gall has a better theory for crafting practice plans. “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.” Of the teams I watched, almost half spent the majority of practice on passing, catching, and ground balls before moving onto more challenging lessons. The other half spent maybe ten minutes working the basics and jumped immediately into 6 on 6.

Believe me coaches, I get it. Toiling on the foundation is boring. Especially if a majority of your players are new. At this point I would tell you that Rome was not built in a day, but that saying has been worn into the dirt from overuse. Instead, remember that the Great Wall of China was build in four inch increments of clay, dirt and brick until it rose to an average height of 33 feet. Without back-breaking work in the trenches the wall could never rise.

Create your practice plans in the same manner as the Great Wall Foreman. Honestly asses the overall skill of your team in passing, catching, dodging, ground balls, shooting, and defense. Then focus deeper on the basic skills that each require and spend a week working on those basics. Sound boring? Then mix it up! Make it a game to see how many passes each player can make without dropping. Make ground balls a competition between the Red team and the Blue team. Reward players with a starting position for the next game if they consistently show improvement in one area. Use your imagination to make the basics exciting instead of taking the shortcut by doing 6 on 6 scrimmages where the ball spends more time on the ground than in the player’s sticks.

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About Lou Corsetti

Gordon is a born lacrosse official who played for ten years before realizing he'd much rather ref the game than play it. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia and officiates youth, high school, and collegiate men's lacrosse games all over the southeast. His passion is educating and training officials, coaches, players, parents and all other fans on the rules of lacrosse, it's history, and how best to develop lacrosse in new areas.

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