Tag Archives: strategy

Breaking Down Average Playing Time

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For many new players, parents, and coaches lacrosse can be a difficult game to find the rhythm. Particularly regarding player substitutions. Football has very defined start and stop periods followed by substitutions, baseball has lineup cards, and basketball has a very loud horn for subbing. The closest sport to lacrosse in terms of substitutions is hockey, but hockey puts six players per team on the ice while lacrosse has ten players per team on the field. More players in a bigger playing area requires a greater amount of managing from the team’s coaches.

To illustrate how to give each player the most playing time possible I am going to create a hypothetical U11 team playing according to our AYL rules and game time regulations. Here are the specifics of our imaginary U11 team:

  • Head Coach: Gordon Corsetti
  • Assistant Coach: John Danowski
  • Substitution Coach: Ryan Boyle
  • Team Size: 20 players
  • Team Breakdown:
    • Two goalkeepers
    • Six defensemen
    • Six attackmen
    • Six midfielders

Now that our U11 team is set let’s dig into the particulars of AYL game time rules:

  • Game Length: two 20-minute running-time halves
  • Halftime: five minutes
  • Horns: substitution horns may be called for when the ball goes out on the sideline

If you want to coach youth lacrosse players properly you need to take the mystery out of substitutions. That starts with having a written list of players and the lines that they are in for your next game. For the above team a coach will have two lines of attack, two lines of defense, and two lines of midfielders.

I do not use the designations Line 1 and Line 2. I like to use Red Line and Blue Line.

  • Red Line – Good player, decent player, learning player
  • Blue Line – Good player, decent player, learning player

In recreational youth lacrosse I like to split all of my available players into Red Lines or Blue Lines and to make the lines as balanced as possible based off of each player’s ability. Having a good player who may be more experienced and understands the game on each line is important because you ensure that there is always a player who can perform lacrosse moves on the field. Having a decent player who can become better through more work on each line is needed because the decent player will get better playing with the good player on his line. Having a learning player on each line lessens any negative impact that the learning player may have on the game because he is covered by his other two teammates on the line who have a little more experience, but the learning player also gets better by playing with those better than him.

This Red/Blue Line set up turns every better player into a de facto mentor for a less skilled player:

Good Player > mentors the Decent Player who mentors > Learning Player

Now that you have your list you need a cheap wrist watch or stopwatch for your substitution coach to use. I hate worrying about substitutions as a head coach. I need to be focused on what the on field team is doing, and I need to know from my substitution coach when it is time to sub. I also need to know that a player is ready to sub if I need to give an on field player a rest before our regular substitution time comes up. All of this should be handled by the substitution coach to free the head and assistant coaches to deal with game strategy.

When To Sub:

  • In a game with twenty-minute running-time halves these are the approximate times to substitute per half using our made up team:
    • Midfielders – sub every four minutes (4 line changes total each half)
    • Attackmen – sub every six minutes (3 line changes total each half)
    • Defensemen – sub every six minutes (3 line changes total each half)
    • Goalkeepers – sub every half (One goalie starts first half, other goalie starts 2nd half)
  • Call for a horn if the ball goes out on the sideline to do a full substitution
  • You may substitute everyone after goals, after penalties, and after timeouts
  • All other substitutions must be done on-the-fly through the substitution box

When Not To Sub:

  • Here are the times when you should not substitute:
    • Do Not substitute while your team is on defense. If your players are tired they need to learn to stick it out until the next available sub opportunity
    • Do Not substitute everyone when the ball goes out of bounds on the endline. You may only substitute through the substitution box in this scenario

Admittedly, what I have laid out in this post is a substitution plan for an ideal youth recreation team with balanced numbers and an equal number of good, decent, and learning players. This ideal team appears rarely at any youth level, but the model that I’ve set forth can be adjusted based off the make up of your team. Try and get as close to this model as you can and you will be able to provide your youth players more equitable playing time in all of your games.

Cheers,
Gordon

Chess Club

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I’m not sure if it was my idea or my parent’s idea for me to join the Esther Jackson Elementary Chess Club, but I am  glad I was introduced to chess at a very early age. I started learning chess in the fourth grade and I’ve been playing ever since. I don’t remember my chess teacher’s name, but as far as I was concerned he was a chess master. I never beat him, but he always taught me something new about the game.

I started competing in chess tournaments around Roswell in fifth grade. I lost my fair share, but I also placed at a couple of them. If nothing else, I was a tough opponent because I learned something from every chess match that made me better. Win, lose or draw I got better at chess by being a student of the game. Which, as far as I am concerned, is the only way to approach any game. If I looked at chess as a game where I knew everything I would not have learned anything.

It is important to remain a student of the game throughout your playing days. For chess that meant playing against my computer ever chance I got, watching “Searching For Bobby Fischer,” and playing against my best friend often. For lacrosse that meant practicing my off-hand for a whole month until it was better than my strong hand. It meant watching the best defensemen in the NCAA championship games on Memorial Day weekend, and asking tons of questions whenever I went to a lacrosse camp. I wasn’t the fastest, the strongest, or the best stick checker but I could see the entire game.

I remember playing with a bird’s-eye view of the field. I played the game like I was playing chess, directing my teammates around on the field with different commands because I knew where the ball was going to be before it got there. My dad calls this game sense or Lacrosse IQ, but really it is just anticipation. Because I was a student of the game for so many years I could get into the flow of the game better than most. This helped me earn playing time despite my lack of size and speed.

My experiences with chess taught me patience, and my experiences with lacrosse taught me decisiveness. When combined those two qualities create a solid chess player and a capable lacrosse player. However, if you are not a student of your game then all you will learn is frustration. Even if you are the biggest, strongest, fastest player out there. You must combine patience and decisiveness in order to become a complete player. If you lean too heavily on patience you will never be in the right spot at the right time, and if you don’t learn decisiveness you will never get to the right spot fast enough.

If you are serious about becoming the best lacrosse player you can be I highly recommend learning and playing chess. You will learn strategy and increase your ability to see the big picture, which will serve you well on the lacrosse field.

Checkmate,
Gordon

Complete and Utter Domination

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The trouble with youth sports is every kid grows at a different rate in both size and skill. This creates a very wide disparity between teams on the lacrosse field. I officiated a middle school team where I swear every kid must have been fed Muscle Milk since birth. Compared to the other team, these kids were giants. Not only were they big, they were also very skilled overall, and by the end of the first quarter the score was 10-0. The opposing team could not keep up in any facet of the game. They were completely dominated from the first whistle to the final horn.

Some Kids are Born Really Strong

Some Kids are Born Really Strong

There are going to be youth teams with a first-year coach and zero game experience. There will also be feeder teams under a public/private school banner that have two quality coaches and players with a wealth of experience. Kids that weighed 120 pounds soaking wet in seventh grade hit a growth spurt, then look down on me from a six foot frame. This wide variation exists in every youth program I have seen, but disparity is one thing. Poor winners is another.

Few things make me angrier than a coach letting his team shell a hapless goalie for four quarters. When one team is flat out better than the other, every kid on the better team wants to score. These are games where the goalie comes out in the fourth quarter, runs pasts a stunned defense and takes a shot. The game turns from a competition to a glorified shooting practice that demoralizes the losing team. Is is fun to put up twenty goals on a team that cannot clear the ball past midfield? Yes. Does it show good sportsmanship? No.

While the losing team falls deeper into the abyss, the winning team actually gets worse. During the shooting gallery, the superior players spend their time running past three defenders who cannot check and shooting from three yards out. I guarantee the winning team will not be able to do that against a stronger opponent. For all four quarters, the more skillful team only works on pouring goals into the back of the net. Their defense gets almost no work at all, the goalkeeper could set up a rocking chair in the crease, and the offensive players could care less about passing the ball in favor of going to the cage. In this situation, the coach of the prevailing team must take a firm hand and impose a new game strategy.

Game Strategies When Your Team is Crushing their Opponent:

  1. Sub in your second or third string. This lets your less experienced players get reps on the field.
  2. Every player switches to their off-hand, and cannot use their strong hand.
  3. Switch out your goalie with a player who would like to try the position.
  4. Make your offense pass the ball until the officials put a stalling call on. Now you are forced to keep it in the box.
  5. No one may shoot the ball until there are three complete passes. If they do that move to five, then ten.
  6. Your defenseman may only use poke checks.

Feel free to use any of these strategies if you are up by ten or more goals, and the other team has no chance of being much of a threat. I certainly do not want you to lose the game. So if the score starts to creep back up for your opponent, go back to your first string and gain a comfortable lead again.

The goal of these strategies is to level the playing field while providing the greater team with opportunities to improve. Taking multiple passes before shots creates players who look for the extra pass instead of getting tunnel vision towards the goal. Switching everyone to their off-hand develops critical muscle memory, and gets all of your players more comfortable using their non-dominate hand. Finally, requiring your defenseman to only throw poke checks forces them to play better body position, which will serve them well against stronger attackmen.

We cannot eliminate the size, speed, and skill imbalances at the youth level. Yet, as stewards of the game we can ensure those advantages do not negatively impact the game. Do not allow the lure of twenty-five goals make your team forget about sportsmanship. If your team is dominating, find ways for your players to improve and not just run up the score.

If anyone has any other strategies please use the comment section below.

Focus on Getting Better. Not Destroying the Other Team

Focus on Getting Better. Not Destroying the Other Team

Featured Image Credit – www.examiner.com

Cheers,
Gordon