Lax Coach Mike: Do Your 1v1 Drills Match Your Offense?
Like you, I see my key coaching responsibility as a mission to constantly look for ways to put players in a better position to be successful. Thus, I am always trying to match key lacrosse drills that emphasize or coach fundamentals to the offense and defense or positioning that we actually want to see in games. Before printing any practice plan for the day, the last filter as I review the daily plan is to analyze whether the lacrosse drills emulate real game scenarios. With a little creativity, this challenge is not as difficult as it sounds, with the possible exception of being willing to change and grow as a lacrosse coach.
Clearly, even with the new offensive schemes, running motion and plays most often in a 6v6 scenario ... I am reminded of a great quote delivered by Lars Tiffany (Brown) on one of our podcasts, "Nothing happens until somebody beats somebody." And, although as most of you know I am a true transition style coach, the success of 1v1's is critical to creating or manufacturing transition out of an "even" scenario.
Another key element that I think differentiates many high school lacrosse coaches from their college counterparts is that college lacrosse coaches modify nuances of their offenses to the specific talent that they have that season. For example, if we have an offensive threat who can carry and shoot on the run, we want to create an offense that clears out an area and maximizes the closest possible slide to allow them to play to their strengths. If we have offensive players who can move well off ball or, as rare as it is in today's lacrosse, a player who can free his hands to feed effectively, we want to create offensive looks that focus on off-ball movement.
This season I am fortunate to have big two attackmen (one right and one left) who are strong post-up shooters, but they are not great at carrying to create. They are a real benefit to our man-up, but what about our even offense? So we are now trying to create space by re-directing the ball to the backside from up top to give them time and space. This has not been my traditional offensive scheme, but we are trying to tailor what we do to the players we have and their individual skill sets.
Interesting as well, I have middies who can shoot but are not really great at creating space for their shots. It is what it is. But as a coach, how could we modify drills as well as our offenses to help put them in a position to be more successful?
Two or three years ago we changed from simply running our 1v1 drills from the four corners to 1v1 drills that initiate immediately off a pass. We also did not allow our defenders in the drill to simply stand in a ready position but to approach the 1v1 with a five or six yard running approach to play defense. The whole idea was to directly emulate true game scenarios.
After a day or two of practice this season, I realized I was not doing the best job of coaching or detailed practice planning considering the unique aspects of the kids we have playing this year.
The first step was to talk to our top attackmen and offensive middies about where they really wanted the ball, to either shoot off the pass or in some cases where they wanted to be to initiate a face dodge to a shot, or a catch and hitch to a shot etc.
Of course the key stipulation being they had to be 8-10 yards (time and space, or time and room if you prefer) from the cage. And we would try and implement offensive motion resulting in them being in the area off two to three quick, hard passes, which allowed them to be more successful.
The second step was to modify an effective lacrosse drill that allowed us to coach the nuances of positioning, dodging, and shooting to presumably improve their shot percentage.
So we modified our 1v1's to match our offense and the strengths of the specific players in a more realistic way. In a simple form, we will pass down to a post-up attack man from up top on the top wing with a middie and a pass, thus creating more touches for more players in every drill.
The post-up shooter is catching the pass approaching from just behind GLE and within three steps is in a comfortable dodging/shooting position. As soon as the pass is thrown from topside, a defender comes from five yards away, and we play 1v1 to a shot.
Simultaneously, we then immediately toggle to the other side, where we have a middie prepared to shoot from a "pass back" or "redirect one more pass" look in our motion offense. This is a little higher inside the box, perhaps 12 yards from the cage. And we have a D middie or LSM approaching them quickly from five yards away, and we again go 1v1. Then a whistle, and we go quickly back to the attack side and so on. This really keeps the pace of the drill where we want it to be, and we can get 30-35 touches and shots in an eight-minute time frame.
After that, reverse the sides on the field so that the attack is shooting left and the middies are shooting right-handed. It is a ton of touches and shots, and it is fun if we keep the pace very fast on the whistles.
The players loved the changes, and there has definitely been improvement. The drill directly emulates a 1v1 to a shot from where they want to be and where our offensive scheme wants them to be.
Last week I even added it to our pre-game shooting in a skeleton look, and I think really helped get them game ready. Love to hear your ideas and thoughts.