Tag Archives: run

Three Steps

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A few years ago I was paired up with two excellent youth coaches for a series of lacrosse clinics at an Atlanta middle school. The job was simple, but I had one problem. The kids were not responding to me very much. My coaching friend laid it out to me during the second clinic. “Gordon – with kids it’s best to explain things as simply as possible. That means take all the explaining you are doing and shorten it into three steps.”

He was right. As soon as I shortened my explanation of a new skill, the kids zeroed in on what I was talking about and executed the technique well. They were paying attention better too. Earlier in the clinics, when I was explaining a drill they would zone out and get that “dude, get on with it” look on their faces. Kids want action, and lets face it, they have shorter attention spans than an adult. So we as coaches must tailor our explanation of skills, drills, and game strategy to a few easy-to-repeat steps.

Here is my extremely detailed method of picking up a ground ball:

  1. See the ball on the ground
  2. Yell “I got ball” or ball
  3. Run towards the ball
  4. Place your front foot as close to the ball as possible
  5. Bend down as low as possible
  6. Keeping your stick close to the ground, run through the ball until it is in your stick
  7. Give the stick a slight cradle as soon as the ball is in your stick
  8. Bring the head of your stick close to, but not touching, your helmet
  9. As you continue to run yell “Release!”
  10. Run in a wide arc to separate yourself from pursuers
  11. Once you are safely away from other players, look for the open pass or shot

Did anyone else get bored and wonder when the heck is this list over with? If you did you know exactly how a youth player feels when a coach talks, and talks and talks. The player is thinking, “when is coach going to get this over with and let us do a drill?” As I said earlier, kids crave action. So spend some time and review your talking points with a willing adult. If they get bored listening to you explain a drill, chances are your players will do the same.

Now lets take a look at my truncated, but still perfectly valid ground ball explanation:

  1. Bend down as low as possible
  2. Run through the ball until it is in your stick
  3. Keep running

Simple. Direct. Repeatable. When I explain how to pick up a ground ball to new players I start with #1, then restate #1 and state #2. Then I wrap up by stating #1, 2, and 3 together. That gets the technique drilled into the player’s mind effectively through repetition. By the time I am finished, all of the players are thinking “bend down, run through, and run.” That accomplishes the core skills required to pick up a ground ball.

Everything else that I listed above can be added to future ground ball drills. For instance, I don’t require players to shout out “I got ball” during the first ground ball drill they ever do. What does it accomplish to the actual task of picking up a GB? Nothing! Let the kids worry about steps 1-3, and then after a few repetitions, add in the ball shout.

So avoid bogging down your young player’s minds with extraneous detail. Save that for small group or one on one work. Instead, focus on shortening your explanations so you and your players can get to the action.


As always new post ideas may be emailed to rules@ayllax.com.


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I’m not going to lie. One of the main reasons I took to defense was because I did not have to run very much. Every time I cleared the ball across the midfield line I prayed that the offense would hold onto it so I could catch my breath. I was fairly quick and athletic for my age, and I was not a fat-body, for lack of a better term. Quite honestly, I was a perfectly average young player but I neglected working on my endurance to the detriment of my game.

One of the definitions of endurance is: “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.” Endurance is also known as stamina, but I think endurance sounds cooler so I’m sticking with it.

While midfielders are known for needing endurance the most on the lacrosse field, the truth is every player requires better endurance. Attackmen need to be quick and agile, but they need to be able to repeatedly make quick move after quick move. Defenseman must be able to react to fast players while moving backwards. The longer the ball stays in the defensive end, the sooner a good team will target a fatigued defender. Yes, even goalies require endurance, but they require more mental endurance than physical endurance. As the general of the defense, good goalies must beat back the mental fatigue of constantly knowing where the ball is, who is hot, and when to demand a slide.

So how do you build endurance? Simple answer – go for a run. Longer answer – integrate varying agility speed work drills with progressively longer runs. This will both improve your speed on the field, and beat back the beast of fatigue. The question becomes what should players in each age group be doing to build their endurance? Let’s break that down below.

U9 – These kids are perfectly fine doing whatever they are doing. Make sure they get to practice and games and they will do just fine. I do not believe there is much of a need to start a nine year old in any structured workout.

U11 – Awesome time to start jump roping and some short agility cone drills! These help build critical coordination skills necessary for lacrosse. Still not the time for distance running though.

U13 – Continue with jump roping and add in new, more challenging agility drills. Perhaps an agility ladder? Here is a great time to start one mile runs. A one mile run is exactly what it sounds like. Go out, run a mile, then walk back. Eventually the mile will become easier and easier and you’ll start wanting to run back.

U15 – Time to start an actual running program if you are serious about improving your overall cardiovascular strength and endurance.

U17 and beyond – You should definitely be running regularly by now, but if you haven’t started check out Runner’s World for some quality running plans and advice for new runners. I highly recommend their personal trainer running plans, they have gotten me race ready and ready for officiating each spring!

As a runner myself I find it strange that I used to hate running. The truth was, I never gave running a chance until about tenth grade, which coincided with taking my lacrosse game more seriously as well. If you are serious about being a lacrosse player you must also be serious about running. The old maxim, the legs feed the wolf is perfectly apt for just about every sport, but especially true for the fastest game on two feet.

Now, if you need a little bit of inspiration to start running, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Below is a trailer for the 1999 documentary “Running on the Sun.” I’ll let the trailer speak for itself:

Punishment Running

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I’m torn on this particular topic. Oddly, some of my fondest memories are the endless sprints that I ran with my teammates while our coach yelled at us. It created a great “us” versus “him” mentality, bringing the team together. That being said, I am personally against punishment running at the youth level.

For me the youth level ends at the Junior Varisty or U15 travel teams. I think the players at these levels can respond to punishment running for two reasons. One, they are old enough to understand that their mistakes impact their team negatively. Two, these players are beginning to understand that they play for something bigger than themselves – their team. Without a sense of togetherness and personal responsibility, punishment running will never work.

But Gordon, what am I supposed to do when my youth team or youth player screws up? If a youth player screws up, mouths offs, or otherwise misbehaves there are a few options available. One of the most effective is having the young player sit on the bench for five minutes while the other kids practice. If the infraction is particularly severe, have the entire team sit on the bench for however long you feel is necessary. This reinforces to the young players that lacrosse is a privilege that can be taken away. Second option – pushups! The great thing about pushups is they are scalable and quick. If a player cannot do full pushups then they can do them on their knees (scalable). Plus, it takes very little time for a kid to bang out five or ten pushups before they are right back into the practice (quick). Third option – squats! Just like pushups they are scalable and quick to do.

The reason I like calisthenics for youth players as opposed to punishment running is the player is not out of sight and out of mind. Back in the day, I sent a kid to go run a lap around the entire field. It took him five minutes to accomplish this task because he was going as slowly as possible. By introducing simple calisthenics you give the kid a goal that he can accomplish right in front of you and the entire team.

Back to my running a lap example. When I said, “Go run a lap!” The kid went “awwwghrhhh” and trotted along the outside of the field. Far away from his teammates who forgot that he was running since they were having fun playing lacrosse. Things go a bit differently when trying out pushups. “Bang out ten pushups!” The kid goes “awwwghrhhh,” drops down where he is and does the pushups. It takes maybe thirteen seconds while his teammates look at him and go “I’m never going to do what he did.” The pushups have now accomplished two things: One, the kid is suitably punished for his transgression, two the entire team has to stop and watch the short punishment unfold. Again showing the entire team that lacrosse is a privilege, and not a right.