Thursday, April 24, 2008

middle school clears

If I see one more 8th grader yell "gilman" and throw the ball as far as they can to nobody, I might take up coaching baseball.

Of course I am kidding. The dreaded middle school clearing game can be frustrating to a new coaching staff or a experienced bunch as well.

Here are some basics to help get it past the "midfield wall".

I will start with the dead ball clear.

Teach the players to relax. Middle school rules for the most part have no counts on how much time to get in the box. Teach your goalie to redirect and walk it up. Nervous goalies that rush passes lead to certain turnovers and uncontested goals. Practice long passes with defense everyday and include the goalies. The farther apart they throw in practice the better. Get them a ton of touches to cut down on drops and panics. Make sure everyones sticks are throwing perfectly, especially the keepers. I check how their sticks are throwing all the time. Middle school players tend to over tighten their shooting strings or frequently have bad pockets.

1/ Get the weakest long stick of the field. Very few inexperienced coaches use a clearing middie.
Having the 4th short stick out there makes a world of difference. The only challenge is making sure one stays back and does not get offside. Stress in practice to keep the furtherest man back onside.

2/ Use the horn. I call for a horn to set up my dead ball clears. This allows you to get your long stick off and the proper group on. In tight games or critical situations I use my three first line mids and the best stick handler from my second line. We call "RAZER" which wakes everyone up and signals we are in the clear.

3/ Get the 2 long sticks in the alley, and the Goalie backside to field a redirect pass. ( Middle School goalies in front of the cage make me nervous). Have your middies spread out 4 across outside the box or just inside the midfield line. Start the ball with the long stick who has the best stick skills. If you don't have one, start the ball with your best or fastest middie. Put the long stick at the midfield in this scenario. On the whistle you will be surprised that you normally have a middie wide open. If your opponent is covering a mid with attack look for a redirect pass or long pass to the open D. I rarely see a good ride against this clear, but if up against a team that "gets it", we use off ball screens, v-cuts, and hustle to get our mids in the clear.

4/Last resort clears. If you are chucking one up field because middies aren't working hard or you are up against a superior ride, do it with a purpose. We rarely "gilman" the ball, but if forced to make sure you teach "up and over". Have two of the attack drop back a bit to get their man away from the ground ball area. Designate a clearing attackman. Have him use v-cuts or off ball screens from other attack to get open. I teach our goalies to throw an "up and over pass", picking a spot past upfield middie and just in front of the designated clearing attack player. This normally creates a man-ball situation with your mid and attack vs. their long stick. Its good to know which one of their long sticks is the weakest on GB's. We communicate who that is and plan the pass to fall in his area.

I will talk about in bound clears soon...