'The Best Single Drill' ... and Six Tips to Make It Better

Tip 2: Begin the Drill Unsettled

As another variation, begin the drill with four offensive players on one side of the box, with four defenders on the other side of the box. Begin the drill by rolling out a ground ball away from any players, up top, or possibly behind the cage. This emulates a broken clear and puts the players in a scramble drill. Again, we usually let each group run the drill twice and then roll out a ground ball or have the goalie pull out the ball and immediately go into a clearing situation after the second set.

Tip 3: Lock on High Pressure Before the Pass

In this scenario, the players might line up in a formation, but the defense has the task of 'locking on' with high pressure, attempting to deny the first pass from the coach. After this weekend, I really wished I had prepared our kids for the aggressive 'deny the ball' pressure defenses we saw during the tournament. Our kids were not prepared to 'V' in and out or pick off ball to make sure they were open against a stifling pressure defense. This drill will make them more comfortable and learn the importance of the fundamentals of getting open against pressure.

Tip 4: Pressure the Ball and Lock on Adjacent After the Pass

This variation of the drill is very similar to the tip described above, but rather than go with heavy pressure before the pass that simulates an inbound pass, it takes place after. Or it may take place when a specific player catches a pass even if it was not the first pass. There are times during a game when you or your coaches might identify a player, one who is not as strong with stick skills as his teammates, and we want him to have the ball. When the ball gets to the identified player, we pressure the ball aggressively and then 'lock off' the adjacent players so he has nowhere to make an easy pass.

This is fun to practice and forces the defensive players to not only communicate but also to really think and plan for the pressure.

Tip 5: After the First Pass, Immediate Double Team

In this variation of the drill, the players again begin in a formation or even stacked or in a straight line (offense, defense, offense, defense, etc.) The offensive players break out to get open, and the coach throws the first pass. When the first pass is completed, regardless of where it is in the offensive end, the closest defensive player immediately doubles on the outside shoulder of the offensive player with the ball. This will help the defensive players learn how to pressure, when you may need it at the end of a game, down by a goal, and at the same time starts to build familiarity with your offensive players in running out of a double-team or being quick to help an offensive player who is being doubled.

The other key teaching point of this drill is that we now are in a mini-transition situation, and we need to move the ball to the open side of the field. Do you remember, "pass, pass, and then shoot"?

Tip 6: Keep It in the Box

Although all successful coaches have learned the hard way that being successful keeping the ball in the box and retaining possession the last minute of a game is not something kids learn by a chalk talk, but by practice and recognition, it is a fun variation in this drill as well. So you might just let it go as it naturally progresses or take the opportunity to coach your preferences if we want to double with a pole or with a goalie.

Shortening the playing area just makes the drill a little different and interesting for the kids. If the ball goes out of the box, or we throw it away (as in any of the variations above), the offensive players must do a 15-yard bear crawl when they come off the field.

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