Tag Archives: scrimmage

Stop Scrimmaging

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stop-scrimmaging

Every coach hears the question, “Can we scrimmage today?” Here is your answer: “No, we have a practice plan to follow.” Helpful hint: actually have a practice plan on paper or on your phone that you can refer to during practice.

If I’ve learned one thing coaching lacrosse it is that kids do not like being told no. They also forget that you said no very quickly if you get them moving into some sort of drill. Then they’re more focused on the drill than the fact that they aren’t scrimmaging. You have to be strong as a coach to resist the urge to scrimmage instead of completing drills because scrimmaging should be used sparingly.

Look at high school teams in Georgia. They usually scrimmage another team once prior to the regular season starting up. In practice they rarely do full-field scrimmages unless they are working on a particular transition from defense to offense. What I find strange is the number of youth coaches that just scrimmage their kids on almost every practice. Just scrimmaging is the mark of a poor coach and an even poorer teacher.

Our job as coaches is to teach the game, not officiate a scrimmage each and every day. If all or most of what you are doing at practice is scrimmaging you are doing your players a disservice because you have no control over what happens. Drills allow coaches to put players in unique situations that they are likely to face in a game but in a concentrated way that get the players focused on what to do when something happens. Drills, especially when conducted in a confined area, teach players that space is valuable, which translates to kids finding space when they play a game. Practices where the bulk of time is spent scrimmaging is a very passive way to coach a team. You cannot focus on teaching the kids any one thing because as soon as something happens, something else happens that demands their attention.

Drills are a scalpel, while scrimmages are a broad paintbrush. You can accomplish so much more in a practice that has ten drills designed to simulate in-game situations than scrimmaging ever will. Even more, you will be able to focus on individual players more often because you will see their mistakes more clearly. For instance, in a scrimmage a couple of kids will shoot the ball, but in a shooting drill every kid will shoot the ball over two dozen times. That allows you to see the problems in their shooting mechanics and correct it immediately and then the player can apply your teaching for the next two dozen shots.

My other beef with scrimmage-happy coaches is that scrimmages tend to highlight the better players at the expense of the less-skilled ones. The better players tend to get the ball more often and the less-skilled players are often left standing around wondering what they are supposed to do. Drills include every single player regardless of ability. So what if your least-skilled player misses every pass to him in a line drill? He at least got to see passes. If he were in a scrimmage he would likely never be passed the ball because the more-skilled players don’t want to chance him dropping the ball. These scrimmages reinforce to the better players that they are better than they think they are, and tell the less-skilled players that they aren’t worth much.

Finally, my biggest problem with scrimmages is that it is a telltale sign that the coach didn’t put in any work for the practice. Forget to put together your practice plan? Scrimmage! Don’t know what to do? Scrimmage! It gets the kids moving and the coach barely has to invest any energy for the entire practice. As I said earlier, doing this is a disservice to your players. They deserve more. Coaches need to plan out their practices. Spend an hour on Sunday night planning out the three, four, or five practices you have that week. Your players may be bummed that they don’t get to scrimmage, but they will appreciate a well-run practice that keeps them moving and learning something new.

Cheers,
Gordon

Winter League Saturday Recap

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Winter League started this past Saturday December 4th at Riverwood High School. We started at 11:00am with thirteen or so third and fourth graders. Coach Kevin Lux and I ran them through ground ball competitions to see who had the best ground ball skills. Then we ran the always fun Popcorn drill which got all of the players moving the ball, defending, and making good stick checks. After Popcorn we played 6v6 defense versus offense. If the offense scored they received one point but if the defense cleared they got one point. The boys played the 6v6 well, and while their stick skills were a little shaky at the beginning of the hour by the end of practice they were humming the ball nicely. Well done guys.

At 12:00pm the fifth and sixth graders showed up next and Coach Lux and I put them through a similar practice. We did do one on ones from midfield and from behind the goal. Finally we wrapped up with another 6v6 competition and the boys sticks got much better as the drill went on. Still it was clear who kept their stick in their hands over the Thanksgiving break. Remember guys 10-15 minutes a day pays off big time when the Spring Season rolls around.

1:00pm rolled around and with it the seventh and eight graders came out with twenty players. Since there were enough players for a 7v7 scrimmage with some extra subs Coach Lux ran the players through a decent scrimmage. It started raining briefly for the last few minutes but the boys stuck it out and finished the hour out well. I want to remind all of the players coming out that while the coaches do our best to ensure that everyone plays during Winter League scrimmages it is still the responsibility of the players to get out onto the field. We call for subs every few minutes so we give you the opportunity to get onto the field. Take advantage out of it and get onto the field. It is the only way you will get better.

Finally, Coach Lux and I went to work with a solid group of U11, U13, and U15 Coyotes. About twenty five Coyote players in total showed up. These twenty five spent the hour working on stick skills, fast breaks, one on ones, and the Popcorn drill. Coach Lux and I kept things light but we did demand that players make the extra effort to catch the ball, make a solid shot, and play quality defense. At the end of the practice all the boys were in high spirits because they knew they each got a little bit better and shook off some Thanksgiving break rust. Those twenty five Coyotes got better yesterday and all of the other Coyotes who decided to sit in their toasty warm homes did not. I will continue to repeat this statement: Those that show up and get better will increase their game time. It is a simple fact that those that put in the work will reap the rewards. I congratulate the Coyotes that showed up yesterday in working hard and having fun.

Despite the overcast skies I would rate the first day of Winter League a solid success. I am hoping that all of the players that signed up show up over the weekend so the coaches can run scrimmages each hour. So to all of the players who know a buddy that stayed home and is signed up. Tell him to show up!

Cheers,
Gordon