PRACTICE 4 (Dodging)

Stick skills will be a common theme throughout this season and today will be no exception. In addition, we'll take the lessons learned about stick protection in the previous practice and not introduce some dodges.

First 5 Minutes (Review)

Bring all of the players and coaches together. Begin the practice by reiterating what was conveyed at the end of the last practice as well as the three integral parts of your team: HAVE FUN, WORK HARD, GET BETTER.

You can continue to explain the fundamentals to the game, including the number of players on the field, different positions, offsides, etc. Explain the plan for this practice. Address any questions the players may have.

Next 10 Minutes (Warm-up)

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.

Here's another quick stationary stretch:

Stand straight, bend a leg behind the body, grab the ankle and pull the heel toward the backside. Hold for a 10 count. Mimic with the other leg. This stretches the quad muscles.

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. Also, it is a great opportunity for the goalies to get some one-on-one instruction to help them develop as players.

Next 25 Minutes (Stick Skills)

Bring all of the players into a huddle again. Have the players explain the keys to passing and throwing. Reinforce whatever points the players miss. Then perform the following drills:

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.

Three-Man, Two-Balls Drill: Divide the players into groups of three and provide each group with two balls. One player stands on the mid line, one player stands on the restraining line and the third player stands in the middle of the other two players. The balls are with the players on the outside lines. The player in the middle will receive a pass from the player at the mid line and then throw a pass back to that player. Then the player in the middle will receive a pass from the player on the restraining line. This will repeat, back and forth, for a number of reps. The player in the middle should be on the move continuously. Feel free to shorten or lengthen the distance between the players if necessary. At one-minute intervals, switch the players and get a different player from each group to be the middle man.

Box Drill: Have the players line up in four equal lines in the shape of a box – two lines on the top corners of the restraining box and two lines parallel to those lines on the midfield line. One player begins with a ball at the front of Line 1 and runs down the restraining line towards Line 2 on the restraining line. Unlike line drills, the first player at the beginning of Line 2 runs toward the midfield line and Line 3. The player with the ball from Line 1 passes the ball to the player breaking out of Line 2. After the pass is made, the player who began the drill goes to the back of Line 2. The player at the front of Line 3 breaks out running down the midfield line toward Line 4 and receives a pass from the player with the ball. This repeats as the passing drill continues around the perimeter of the box that was created.

This is a great drill that simulates players breaking across the field and receiving passes. Monitor the way it is going and expand or shorten the box as appropriate. Eventually change the direction of the drill after and incorporate ground balls into the drill.

Next 2 Minutes (Water Break)

Keep your players hydrated with a water break. But have them hustle back to the field. You can consider having this break during Stick Skills.

Next 10 Minutes (Shooting Drills)

Review the fundamentals of shooting that were learned previously. Have the players explain the keys to shooting. Then expand the discussion to include shooting on the run. The obvious difference is now the player is moving his feet while shooting as opposed to planting his feet and shooting. Separate the players into two groups and take each group to one end of the field. Then take time to demonstrate the keys to shooting on the run so that the players can visualize it. Then have the players go through the following drill:

Dodge and Shoot: Players are in two equal lines – one on the right of the net and one on the left about 10 yards above the goal line. One player starts with the ball, makes a move on the coach, and shoots the ball into the net. Then that player goes to the back of the line. The drill is repeated with the other players in line.

Next 10 Minutes (Dodging/Stick Protection)

Take some time to review with the players the keys to protecting the ball on offense and how to play individual defense. Also, introduce the different types of dodges an offensive player can make, including the following: roll dodge (rolling around an overcommitted defender), split dodge (quick change of direction while bringing the stick across the body) and face dodge (bringing the stick across the face).

After the review and explanation of the types of dodges, get the players in single file lines. There should be one line for each coach. Have the players run one at a time with the ball and practice a specific dodge on the coach. The coach should work with each player on critiquing the way he is handling his stick and if he executes the dodge correctly. After the player gets by the coach, he circles back and passes the ball to the next player in line and the drill is repeated. Smaller groups and lots of repetitions are keys for this drill and developing stick protection.

Next 2 Minutes (Water Break)

Keep your players hydrated with a water break. But have them hustle back to the field.

Next 10 Minutes (Even-Man Drills)

Take the skills that were just learned in the dodging and stick protection drills and now have the players compete one-on-one. Start with all the players in two lines at the restraining line facing the net – one line is an offense line and one line is defense. The defensive player steps out five yards in front of the offensive player. The first player from the offensive line receives a pass from a coach and has to get by the defensive player to score a goal. Monitor this drill closely and make sure to point out things that were done well and identify infractions that occur. Have the players play both offense and defense. Then have the players go through the same drill from behind the net.

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.