Tag Archives: basics

Observations From The First Day Of Practice

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practice-observations

Before I get into my observations I want to give a hearty congratulations to all of our players, parents, and coaches! We had a wonderful start Tuesday evening to the first of many practices for the spring season. The players shook off some rust from the offseason, and the coaches taught their players well. I am very pleased with how the first day of practice went for our U11 and U13 age divisions. As I told the coaches, I will be at each practice for the first two weeks to observe and help out any coaches that need an extra hand. So for the next two weeks get ready for a deluge of coaching posts!

The goal of the following notes is to provide our coaches with another resource to improve their coaching and teach their players more effectively. If anyone has any additional strategies that they’ve found useful over the years please comment in the comments section below!

Practice Observations (2/5/2013)

  • Warm ups
    • If you’re at a loss on what to do to warm up your players here is a short warm up that I’ve been using for years: http://ayllax.com/dynamic-warm-up. It is important to get your players moving their bodies in preparation for the work they are about to do. Take five minutes at the start of practice and get everyone warmed up.
  • I liked the ground ball work
    • Many coaches started right off with ground ball drills, which I’m a big fan of for youth players. Let’s face it, it takes players time before they are humming the ball in the air, and it makes sense to teach players how to effectively pick up a ground ball. There were many different drills that each coach preferred, but they all taught the same technique. Here’s a post on proper ground ball technique if anyone needs a refresher: http://ayllax.com/the-basics-ground-ball-pickup
  • Two minute explanations
    • I felt that there was a lot of explaining going on at both age levels. This is a common occurrence on the first few days of practice, but it can be a practice-killer if a coach takes too long explaining what the drill is. A good tip is to practice how your are going to explain a drill to your players, and try to keep that explanation under two minutes. Any longer and kids start going off into la-la land instead of paying close attention to you. Here is a post on keeping your explanations short and to the point: http://ayllax.com/three-steps
  • Have a practice plan!
    • I cannot emphasize this enough. Put your practice plan on your phone, on paper, or on and index card. Plan out drills that are eight to ten-minutes in length. Any longer and the kids get bored. Any shorter and the kids don’t have enough time to work on the skill.
  • The basics
    • You can’t go wrong if you focus on the basics for the first two weeks. There is no need for complicated drills that have a lot of moving parts. Before you graduate to transition work all your players need to be able to pass and catch. Focus on drills that give players lots of touches on the ball. Partner everyone up and pass and catch for ten minutes. In that amount of time they’ll get over a hundred touches on the ball.
    • Passing and catching, ground balls, running to space, shooting, and breaking down on defense. Those five things should be what a youth coach focuses on for at least the first two weeks. Let the experienced kids shake off the offseason rust, and let the beginners get a bunch of time with the ball in their stick.
  • Standing around
    • If you have a drill that involves half of your team standing around and watching the other half participate in the drill you are not using your time effectively. Use drills that get everyone working at the same time and keep standing time to a minimum. That means having four line drills instead of one. If you have more than three or four kids in a line you have a problem. The kids standing around will not be paying attention to anything. Remember, kids want to move so keep your explanations short and involve everyone in the drill.
  • If you are unsure – ask
    • If you are not 100% certain that what you are teaching your players is correct then wave down Coach Halperin or I. We are there to help you coach your players if you need some assistance. If you want to work on passing and catching but aren’t sure which drill would work best then get our attention and we will get your players into a new drill.

Too often we coaches can get wrapped up in getting our young players to execute a ridiculously complicated, but very cool, new drill. Remember to start with the basics and lay a strong foundation for your team by getting everyone to a level where they can perform those fundamentals consistently. Only then can you start coaching the more complex strategies of lacrosse.

If anyone has any questions you can put them in the comments section below or email me at rules@ayllax.com.

Cheers,
Gordon

The Basics: Cradling

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Cradling in lacrosse is a lot like dribbling in basketball. You can’t play effectively without knowing how to cradle, but you can’t focus solely on cradling or you miss out on contributing to the rest of the game. Players must become proficient enough at cradling to the point where they no longer think about the action of keeping the ball in their crosse. It must be so second-nature that it turns into a smooth and effortless action that requires almost no conscious thought. However, in order to cradle effectively as a beginner, you have to think about it because it is not an action that a new player is familiar with. The video below is the first in the series entitled, “The Basics.” This first video details how to cradle as a beginner, what to focus on when cradling, and a few drills to help the new player become more adept at cradling the ball.

Cheers,
Gordon

Build The Foundation

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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.

Featured Image Credit – www.interestingworldfacts.com

Cheers,
Gordon