Monday, November 2, 2009

5 GOALS for the Middle school Offense

The problem with most middle school kids is they have never seen great lacrosse being played.

Unless you live in a lacrosse hot bed like Baltimore, Long Island, or Upstate New York, your exposure may be limited. Colorado, California, Texas and many other states are blowing up as far as the game is considered. EPSN U, FOX, and other networks are showing more and more LAX games each year.

Although we see growth, trying to get a seventh grader to "break down" game film is a challenge. You can lead a horse to water....

I was inspired to post this blog while watching a recent fall ball game featuring Johns Hopkins and Ohio State University in Columbus, OH at Upper Arlington HS.

AS I watched, in awe, I noticed 30 or 40 kids running around the bleachers, doing what kids do, paying no attention to the game or absolutely incredible skill level of a NCAA DI lacrosse game.

They had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see near perfection on a field, but were more impressed by a free lanyard at the STX booth.

I watched the first line Hopkins offence swinging that ball around the horn and was in heaven. Great ball movement can be accomplished by many teams, at all levels, but watching JHU live is like a visit to the Ferrari dealer.

That brings me top the point of today's post.

As a coach at all levels, I get to see youth, JV, Varsity, and Collegiate lacrosse players in action. I am amazed by the bad habits which are formed and carried thru the ranks.

Kids who never see the top level or dont ever receive the proper training get better and better at doing it wrong.

As coaches, we need to "stop the insanity" and get these boys doing the right thing.

Here are 5 youth lax coaching goals in no particular order for the upcoming season.


Hanging it, crossing it in front of the body, starting a dodge too close to a defender, and going blindly in to a double team are a sure way to lose the ball. Stress stick protection. Teach palyers to catch they ball on the outside of their body away from pressure. Frequently drill vertical, one handed cradling. Teach defender-body-stick. A great drill is a stationary drill where the ball carrier must keep one foot "nailed to the floor". The another circles around him trying to get a clean check. Run it for 30 seceonds then switch the ball to the opposite player. It teaches them to get their stick in close and keep their bodies between the defender and the stick.


Holding on to a ball and attempting to "beat" every defender on the field is flat out a BAD HABIT. Kids get used to playing a certain way against poor defenders and new players in rec leagues at the lower levels. They dont see the field, dont go to open space, and dont listen to wide open players calling for the ball. If you want to do something to truly help a youth player, teach them to get the ball up and moving ASAP. I run a drill that features 4 lines called Harvard. 2 players fight for a lose ball, who ever wins in curls to open space. The 2 other lines are help 1 and help 2. When the GB is won, the winner imediately moves to space, and finds help 1 who imediately finds help 2.
Work on proper spacing with the help lines and stress moving the ball quickly up the field.

One note - do not "reward" a kid who bull dodges through numerous players. The fans and bench will frequently cheer on players who make these plays. Let them know there is a better way.

3/ GET IT HOT 101

I had a youth coach tell me last year, "these guys have trouble getting it around the horn one time". After observing the team, I knew why. They where in too close to the defenders, they were throwing lazy passes on the inside, and they were all flat footed.

Here is a quick drill. Run a skeleton offense as a wheel to add an extra perimeter player. It shortens the passes. USE THE WHOLE FIELD . Youth players need to be taught to GET WIDE. KEY POINT -make kids move to EVERY pass and move to throw EVERY pass. I use 2 cones in each spot to show them where to move to receive a ball and where to go to throw one. As a progression, throw in defenders without sticks or 2 man down to help the offense gain confidence. It will keep players open and give D a great workout too.

TEACH - Catch the ball on the OUTSIDE when pressured. Use Left handed attack players on the left side of the field righty attack players on the right. ALWAYS use your best two handed player at X.

Use a stop watch to have 2 teams compete against each other to see how many touches they can get in 30 seconds. Another way to make it fun is to see who can get the most consecutive catches in a row.


Youth middies love to shoot, no matter who is open on the crease. They will "pull up" from MLL range and toss a "beach ball" stick side high when allowed to. Of course pounding the stick on the ground 6 times afterwards is always a nice touch, especially while the opponent is fast breaking the other way.

Who's fault is it? The players? I think its the coaches. When we teach players "dodge to feed". They will learn to see the field. Im not saying dump it when you have a great look and a canon, what I am saying is at least teach them to LOOK. A pump fake shot and a feed, finished up with "one more" is the sweetest play in lacrosse. Drill it, run it, and teach it.

Teach players the advantage of feeding on a break or after you beat a man. Make sure they learn to see where the slide is coming from. Youth teams rarely cold slide well. The first slide usually leaves someone wide open closer to the promissed land.

I do a simple 4 v 3 topside with static D to hone this craft. Line up topside, poles and D mids in black, Offense in white . Start the drill by dropping in defenders to the hole and follow with 4 white, all coming from the topside or wing a few seconds after. Move the ball quickly and have coaches bark "one more" on offense. Finish with a draw and dunk.


Easier said than done. Youth middies tend to ball watch and move too late or too slowly. I have a simple set of rules that makes it east to understand at this level.

If a DODGE is coming towards you MOVE AWAY. If a dodge is going away from you FOLLOW IT.

These two simple rules will create wide open looks and goals. If you have a dodge coming from topside, practice the fade cut from the crease, and a goal cut from the topside adjacent midfielder. Cornell's Jeff Tabroni's tapes are excellent as a resource to teach proper 2 man game and motion offense. Make sure they are deceptive when cutting and finish cuts completely. Youth players tend to cut and then stop bringing a defender with them. Teach them to finish their cuts and pull the defender away from the ball carrier. Stress full speed when cutting.

TIP : Search basketball coaching books for fresh ideas on cutting and off ball play.

email me if you need more detail at

CU soon....