Perhaps like me, you find another week of practice has gone by when you've failed to get in the work the team needs on face-offs. I have the best intentions, but aside from individual face-off drills with the FOGOs, we did not work on this critical aspect of the game as a team or worked on wing play or transitions off draws. It happens more than I care to admit.
We got busy or had only half a field to use for practice, or all the players were not there, or I just did not want a lot of players standing around watching, or I wanted to focus on transition drills. I've have a million excuses.
As I was listening to one of my previous podcasts with Coach Joe Amplo from Marquette, I realized he had a fun way to bring face-offs back into a fast-paced practice scheme. At Marquette they usually do full field work towards the end of practice and use the time to focus on rides and clears, substitution play, and face-offs.
Coach will bring the team together for full field work and integrate face-offs in four fun ways in quick repetition. I love the idea of making it different and keeping it fast paced, and players do as well. If you do not have a large roster, you might try these concepts with just two attack and two defenders at each end. Or if with a younger team you might try these concepts with the cages moved closer together, say 10 or 15 yards or even to the restraining lines.
First Rep: Play to a Possession
As soon as we face off and one team establishes clear possession, immediately blow the whistle and reset for another quick face-off.
Second Rep: Play to the First Solid Shot
Let the players play until someone gets a good look at the cage, or even set out cones on each end defining the optimum area where you might like your players to shoot. This area is usually GLE to about eight yards out, thus "time and space" or "time and room."
Third Rep: Substitution
Once a team gains possession, have them settle in the half field and immediately get into your substitution package from the box or midfield line or both. During the "substitution" period, both teams are now playing live. If we can create a transition scenario off the substitution, take advantage of the opportunity just as we would in a game.
Fourth Rep: Play a Mini-Game to One Goal
Players love the competition element and sense of urgency. Encourage them to play fast to a look at the cage. Then immediately reset players for a face-off and another game to one goal or move on to another variation. If play goes on for two minutes without a good look, then just reset and remember that the focus is on face-offs.
Once players adjust to practicing each of these reps fast, the fun starts. I love to mix and match these repetitions off quick whistles and repetitions. I might run three mini-games then two reps to a shot, next to a full sub package, and so on. By mixing it up, you can have a lot of reps and face-off work in just 10 to 12 minutes if we have players keep it fast paced.