PRACTICE 1 (Stick Skills and Ground Balls)

Welcome to your first practice. We'll focus on getting everybody comfortable with each other and learning names. Then we'll work on lacrosse fundamentals to set a tone for the season.

First 10 Minutes (Introductions)

Begin by bringing all the players and coaches together (parents also can be included on the outside of the huddle). Introduce yourself and the assistant coaches. Explain your background in the sport and the experience you have as a coach and/or player. Let the assistant coaches do the same. Then give each player the opportunity to introduce himself. The introductions should include their names and how long they have been playing lacrosse (perhaps where they go to school). It is very important to learn each player's name as soon as possible. Also, being able to gauge their experience and skill level will be an important factor of the first practice.

After the players have completed their introductions, it is time to lay out the goals for the season. For youth players, the most important factors to stress are the following: 1) have fun; 2) improve each practice; and 3) work hard. Take time to expand on these goals and make sure the players recognize what the goals are (they will be a common theme of every practice). Also, make sure every player is wearing proper lacrosse equipment.

Next, provide the players with an overview of the plan for this first practice, which will include a lot of demonstration and explanation. At this age level, practices typically last 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Lastly, address any questions the players may have. Then it is time for the warm-up.

Next 10 Minutes (Warm-up)

The warm-up will be a consistent beginning to each practice session. Divide the players into several lines on the midfield line, facing one of the restraining lines. Go through repetitions of the following between the mid line and the restraining line: 50 percent run with high knees, butt kicks (lifting the legs up high in the back), side shuffle, running backwards; then 75 percent run; and 100 percent run.

Then lead the players through a quick stationary stretch. Here's an example:
  • Sit, with legs extended out flat on the ground in a V position. Lean forward, reach for the toes and pull back on the toes. Hold for a 10 count (have the players count up from 10). Repeat. This works the hamstrings, calves and lower back.
  • During the warm-up, pull the goalies aside and have them work with one or two of the coaches. It is important for the goalies to be properly warmed up and comfortable taking shots before the real action of practice begins. Also, it is a great opportunity for the goalies to get some one-on-one instruction to help them develop as players.

Next 30 Minutes (Stick Skills)

Bring all of the players into a huddle again. It is time to take a few minutes to demonstrate the most important skill in lacrosse: throwing and catching. Have two of the coaches demonstrate throwing and catching with one another as you talk the players through the keys. Keep the talk brief as the players will learn best by doing it themselves and being guided as they are trying.

The important factors to focus on when it comes to throwing and catching are:
  • Holding the stick: When catching, one hand should be at the bottom of the stick and one hand should be about three-quarters of the way up the shaft. When throwing, one hand should be at the bottom of the shaft and the other hand should be about a foot apart higher on the shaft (note: if the hands are too far apart, the player will lack power in throwing; if the hands are too close together, the player will lack control).
  • Catching: The key to catching is to RECEIVE the ball. Demonstrate how you need to softly catch the ball instead of snapping at it. Demonstrate the importance of setting a target with the stick so other players acknowledge you want to receive a pass. Also, explain the communication that is necessary (i.e. 'Here's your help').
  • Throwing: The main point to demonstrate is to step with the opposite foot. Explain how it is similar to throwing a baseball or a football.

Let the assistant coaches get in some reps so that the players can watch. Address any questions the players may have. Now it is the players' turn.

Standing-Still Passing Drill: Assign each player a partner and give each a number, 1 or 2. Line up all of the 1s on the midfield line. Line up all of the 2s about 10 feet away, parallel to the midfield line, and make sure the partners are lined up across from one another. Spread the pairings out as much as possible across the width of the field and let them start passing to one another. Have the coaches walk up and down the line working with the players and critiquing their form. Have extra balls available for the players. The key to this drill is to have the players get a lot of repetitions.

Line Drills: Break the players up into an even number of lines (it would be ideal to have about six players in each line). One line should be on the midfield line and the other line should be on one of the restraining lines (repeat this across the width of the field for each grouping of two lines). Line drills provide the opportunity for players to practice stick skills while in motion. After the lines are set up, demonstrate with the coaches how the drill will work. Begin with right-handed passing on the move. Have players call for the ball and present a target.

One player will begin the drill by running toward the other line with the ball. The first player in the other line will begin running toward the player with the ball and receive a pass from that player. Then the player at the front of the opposite line will run toward the player with the ball and receive a pass. This continues to repeat as players get repetitions passing and catching.

After the players get a lot of reps throwing right-handed, have them switch to left-handed. Then have the players catch with their right hand, switch hands and throw left-handed. Lastly, have the players catch with their left hands, switch hands and throw with their right hand. Continue to have the coaches demonstrate each time you introduce a new wrinkle.

Coaching Point
  • As you are talking to players individually, get down on one knee to be face-to-face with him.

Next 5 Minutes (Water Break)

Bring in the players and congratulate them on a job well done. Remember to note that catching and passing takes practice and lots of repetition. Then get your players hydrated with a water break. But have them hustle back to the field.

Note: You can consider having this break during Stick Skills.

Next 20 Minutes (Ground Balls)

After the break, it is time to demonstrate the fundamentals of picking up ground balls. Again with the group together as a whole, work with the coaches to explain the following: scooping through the ball (not raking); getting your body over the ball; 'ball–release' communication; boxing out another player; what to do with the ball once you pick it up (pass it as soon as possible); and infractions such as pushing from behind and interference. Also explain to the players the importance of ground balls to the game as a whole, including extra possessions, face-offs, etc.

Separate the players into two groups and take each group to one end of the field. Then take time to go through the following drills:

Single Line: Line up all players in one line and roll the ball out to the first player in the line. Have the player scoop the ground ball and then make a pass back to you. Repeat this for all the players and get it going at a fast pace.

One v. One (trailer): Keep the players in the same line; however, this time the first and second players in line will be competing for the ball. The player who comes up with the ball makes a pass to the coach to complete the drill.

One v. One (side-by-side): Have two equal lines and the players compete for the ball. The player who comes up with the ball makes a pass to the coach to complete the drill.

Two v. One: Go to three equal lines. The two players on the outside are on the same team against the player in the middle. Explain how the two players should work together as one player should take the man and the other player should go after the ball - the communication is referred to as 'man' and 'ball'. Then, as the player picks up the ball, be sure to explain that the other teammate cannot interfere with the player without the ball. If one of the players from the outside line picks up the ball, he has to make a pass to the other player from the outside line before the ball is passed back to the coach. If the player in the middle line wins the ball, all he needs to do is pass the ball back to the coach to end the drill.

Ending Practice

After the players get some water, end practice with a team huddle. Review what was learned and congratulate the players for their hard work. Reinforce the goals identified at the beginning of practice. Also, establish the next practice time with the players and parents, and follow up with an email.

Congratulations, you are now 'Coach' to these eager youngsters.

Coaching Point
  • It is always fun to have the players huddle and place their hands together and yell, '1, 2, 3 (with the team name)!' Do this at the end of practices and before game action.