Here are the 10 commandments of youth lacrosse coaching. Adopt them and heed them and you’ll do fine. Ignore them at your peril.
1. Co-opt and engage the parents:
a. There can never be too many practice coaches: Dads, moms, injured older players, that nice older gentleman stops by practice on his walks because his son played at Hotchkiss back in the 70’s……All can help run drills or man a hydration station or help you with substitutions in your principal lessons.
b. Get a team Mom: These creatures make all of your best ideas come to fruition. Does everyone know that the game was rescheduled? Can we get a quorum to go play the Chargers on Sunday? Holy cow the league is selling raffle tix! Your best middie wants to play lax but his travel team soccer coach wants him to quit. What about a team banquet? Gosh, we now need a new practice field!! Team moms solve these problems with aplomb.
2. ORGANIZE PRACTICES!! Schedule to the minute:
a. Idle kids kill practices: Kids have the attention span of a gnat and hustle only when time for something is running out.
i. Run the fun stuff that kids love at the beginning of practice so late arrivals will miss it while they loosen up.
ii. Print a practice schedule for the team for every practice with assignments for each assistant and goals for each drill station.
iii. Nothing comes off but helmets and gloves when watering. Water breaks are no more than a minute.
iv. Everything is done at full speed. The most important lesson in youth lacrosse is that anything less than full speed is inadequate.
b. If you’re bored, they’re REALLY bored: ‘nuff said.
3. Stress Fundamentals:
a. Teach defense first: All young lacrosse players want to do is score goals and hit people, probably in that order. The most direct way to instill the basics of teamwork and discipline is by creating an impenetrable D. Curiously, the best way to teach the importance of passing and off ball movement is to start kids thinking about how to stop it.
b. Keep your offense simple and relevant to the next level: There is a huge risk to bogging kids down in formations and chalk talks and eye charts. Teach them a basic slide and fill and adjust defense and they’ll figure out the tools needed to beat it when a defense is run badly. If you DO end up installing an offense, make it something that the HS coaches will recognize and install it for the man-up team. Everyone wants to play man-up, so everyone will learn that offense.
4. Remember that youth lacrosse is all about teaching – not winning:
a. Discipline your renegades: One or two kids who refuse to pass in games or who are disruptive in practice diminish the experience for all kids on your team. Solve these problems. Talk to the kids, get the captains to talk to the kids, get the team mom to talk to the parents, or refund their money and suggest baseball.
b. Play your whole squad: That is the objective of youth lacrosse. Development. If you are obsessed with winning try a higher level.
c. Praise in public, criticize in private: Even on the sideline in games let an assistant run shifts and take transgressors behind the bags to have a chat.
5. Line drills are useful only for warm ups: Brief warm ups. The balls get sprayed around and kids go at half speed and nothing productive gets accomplished. This is my own personal peeve, but there is so much to lacrosse that is engaging and fulfilling that you can teach, why waste your practice time?
GJ NOTE – I HAVE A BUNCH OF DRILLS BETTER THAN LINE DRILLS. LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT TO GO OVER THEM.
6. Resist the temptation to put all of your skilled players at attack: I can’t tell you how many youth teams I’ve seen that leave 4 or 5 goals on the table because they can’t clear.
7. Cultivate goalies: Even if you are lucky enough to have a kid who WANTS to play goalie, rotate your best stick handlers and best leaders and most coachable kids through the goalie rotation every practice. Have 2 good goalie kits on hand and keep reinforcing that good goaltending is worth more than a 6 GPG attack man.
8. Run lots of full field drills and scrimmages:
GJ NOTE – MY FAVORITE DRILL IS A 3V2 CONTINUOUS DRILL – IT IS AN EXCELLENT TEACHING DRILL, GREAT FOR CONDITIONING AND THE KIDS LOVE IT. LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT TO GO OVER IT.
9. Teach face offs:
10. Emphasize teamwork