Three New Practice Trends to Improve Game Performance

We have interviewed coaches who might even begin with a 2v1 drill to gets hands and feet moving or a fast 3v2 drill including everybody at all positions or a 3v2 drill over 70 yards to get the players moving or even competitive 1v1's or 2v2's. We have also interviewed coaches who go directly into a fast-paced competitive ground ball drill to get the blood pumping and to set the tone for a great practice. Regardless of the specific drill, which doesn't have to be long, the common goal is to keep it fast-paced and high energy with quick reps and everybody active.

Please do not misunderstand the trends. The fundamentals portion of each practice is still critical, but you will see even more energy in these types of more structured, sometimes methodical fundamental drills following a fast-paced, "get them going" drill and then come back to the fundamentals portion. Set the pace early.

2. Your Scrimmage Time, and Where Does It Go in Your Practice Schedule?

We first saw this trend a few years back in our first interview with Mike Daly from Tufts as well as in an interview years ago with Coach Ted Garber. And it's a trend we continue to see in interviews in 2014. Traditionally, teams place full-field scrimmages as the final portion of practice. It seems logical, as we build up through 90 minutes of practice to the full-field 10v10 portion. In the case of HS teams with smaller rosters, the final portion might be 6v6 for 45 minutes, often seen by players as an eternity of monotony.

We are now seeing two trends. Remember that the goal is to better prepare players for the fast, fluid nature of games and help them be successful in ever-changing game scenarios. The first trend: Try alternating a full-field lacrosse drill with a half-field or a drill where we shorten or "crunch" the field, and then a full field, half field, and so on. This is a huge element for coaches like Mike Hannon and many others.

Coaches are also changing where the scrimmage is inserted in the practice plan. You can add real life to any practice (as well as perhaps better prepare players for games) by splitting your team and playing 10v10 to a single score or a game to three immediately after stretching. Or running full-field 10v10 and consistently throwing out ground balls in a "scramble" format. Then the next day, insert the full-field portion after 30-40 minutes of practice, then the next day an hour into practice and so on. For many coaches, this change is awkward, as it is non-traditional, but I can assure you the players love it!

3. Man-Up and Specialty Situations

I want to begin by writing about man-up and man-down time in practice, although it is really a metaphor for many other micro game scenarios. They include end-line play, freezing the ball with a two-goal lead, or trying to trap the ball, emulating a scenario when we are down a goal with one minute to play, and coaches tend not to prioritize them in practices. But these details are critical in winning games and championships.

Getting back to man-up ... perhaps like you, I have traditionally kept our man-up and man-down teams for 15 minutes after practice to focus on penalty situations. Players are tired, we run the same plays, and I often find myself checking my watch. If the man-up unit throws it away, they still get the ball back and so on.

This year we have seen a trend in practice planning that I think is brilliant. Now many NCAA lacrosse coaches are inserting just four to six minutes of man-up at two or three different places in the practice schedule. This can be run at any point in practice, and other players can take a water break or even watch if we limit it to no more than five minutes of standing around. And then maybe one or two days, keep these segments separate from the full practice plan.

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