Lacrosse Coaching: Do You Practice What You Play?

Now, not all of us practice on sports turf fields with elaborate scoreboards. Not all of us have two or three assistant coaches, let alone somebody to reset the scoreboard clock for each drill while reading a detailed practice plan. But we can carry a small clock. For me, I am old. I can't see the numbers on a watch without glasses. So I use a small travel alarm clock with two-inch digital numbers, easy to see, even for an old guy, and hang it around my neck. We announce the time to the players, and then we call out the two minutes left mark, the one minute, and then count down for each and every drill. The kids love it; urgency is created naturally and adds an awesome element to practice.

Plays Versus Philosophy

Coaches often ask me how we teach our kids so many plays. It is funny for me, because in my mind we really do not run many plays. Actually, outside of a basic ‘Mumbo' we do not run any set plays. Yet we work hard in all of our drills on a basic offensive philosophy.

I guess it is a basic motion philosophy, although the lacrosse definition of a motion offense varies from coach to coach. We drive, a player in the area where we are driving clears out (we run the vacating player in a C cut through the crease), and the other adjacent player fills the area where the first player initially began his drive to the cage.

This basic philosophy has served us well. It is simple. It is about just three aspects that are applicable anywhere on the offensive end and almost in any scenario. So, every passing or shooting drill we run incorporates a drive or a C cut from a player. And many drills incorporate some kind of pass back, or two passes back, to a shot. In practice drills and scrimmages, we focus on spacing, different formations, and then just the simple philosophy.

My point here is not that you should use our offensive philosophy but that a basic philosophy on offense or defense is so much easier to coach, so much easier for the players to learn, and much easier to adapt to changing game situations. Practicing specific plays over and over does not include or engage a lot of players, dramatically slows down practices, and often does not emulate real game situations.

Having specific sideline plays, or 15-second left plays, or set plays from X or for out-of-bounds situations are critical and essential, but here we are discussing the other 95% of the game.

Lacrosse is such a fluid game that specific plays are difficult, and the scenarios in a match are different from game to game and even minute to minute. And at least for us, we have had a hard time communicating to our opposition they need to play in a certain way in order for our ‘play' to be most effective.

So plays in games and practice need to be reflections of each other and consistent. Having a philosophy is much easier to teach and facilitate in games. In actuality, we do not run plays in games, we run our drills. The success comes from repetition and touches within the framework of the philosophy established and reinforced in practice.

Incorporating these three tips into your practices will help your players improve, reduce the yelling, and reduce your frustrations as well. So again, please focus on practicing the way you want your kids to play. is a unique site for lacrosse coaches, offering drills and ideas from the greatest coaches in the country. E-mail your comments to

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