"Are you frustrated with the lack of coherent lacrosse information available on the internet? Don't waste your time practicing with disconnected practice plans that lack purpose and progression (The WHY + The HOW). Use the Laxlife tried, tested and true, practice plans which are evidence-based, with skills and drills horizontally integrated (evenly balanced) across several practices, to ensure that skills are developed efficiently and effectively"
The fundamentals of lacrosse include: basic defense, scooping (loose balls), cradling/ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting & basic offense (appearing hypothetically in that order). You play good defense, knock the ball loose, pick it up, protect it and/or cradle it forward, pass the ball to any open players ahead of you, catch the pass and then shoot it if you are undefended and in the middle of the defense; otherwise creating a shot with basic offensive maneuvers.
Our first three Laxlife practices horizontally integrate the above mentioned fundamentals, culminating in a small-sided game of 3 vs. 3 at the end of the 3rd practice.
Basic Lacrosse Practices (#1 to #3): Progressive Development:
Within our "Laxlife Practice Plans" we feel that we have appropriate plans for all ages and skill levels. Initial basic practices provide team administrators the opportunity to identify the physical development (chronological age vs. biological age) and caliber of players; some of whom may be better suited in an older or younger age group, and others who may be good enough to potentially play “rep” league lacrosse instead of "house league." Our FREE basic/beginner level practices (Practices #1 to #7) provide the perfect opportunity for the formative (general) observations and assessments of players, which are helpful for creating parity within a house league setting, and also for establishing goals and next steps (direction) for a team once it is made. Our Fundamental Skills Assessment is an example of a helpful tool in this regard, and can be integrated horizontally through a series of practices (as it is in Practices #1 to #3 - discussed below), or otherwise in a player assessment type atmosphere, which takes roughly 2 hours of practice time to complete depending on the numbers.
The Basics (Practice #1):
The warm-up in our 1st practice establishes its remedial tone, with players in helmets & gloves, and the first activity for the kids being to run a few laps around the perimeter of the rink (or a designated perimeter) with only sticks in hand, no balls. The only instruction for players is to keep two hands on the stick, which is a very important fundamental concept overall; coaches may also gauge the running technique of individual players, something which can be developed in future practices. This initial warm-up offers players a feel for the stick in determining which side of their body it feels most comfortable on (learning by discovery), while also assisting in getting the players’ blood flowing (warm).
Dynamic stretches would typically follow this general warm-up, but in the interest of skill development in this 1st practice we feel it is best that they be forgone based on time appropriation. Following the general warm-up, we recommend dividing the kids into two teams (equal lefties & righties) where they will work as a group for the first three practices (depending on numbers). Next, announce that at the end of the 3rd practice there will be a 3 vs. 3 game between the two teams, which helps keep players motivated and striving to improve their fundamentals, under the guise of “getting prepared for the big game.” This is a great opportunity for the kids to develop camaraderie, and has its benefits for organizational purposes as well.
Being that lacrosse participants must have some degree of skill in passing and catching before commencing game play, this first practice essentially introduces the four most basic skills required to play a game of lacrosse: basic defensive footwork, loose balls, cradling/ball protection; then passing/catching. We are essentially teaching these skills in the hypothetical order that they appear in a game: moving without the ball, picking the ball up off of the floor, protecting the ball once you’ve got it, and then either passing to a teammate or shooting. Certain skills take precedence over others and are taught in a specific order to ensure success in present and future drills/practices.
Laxlife campers always begin by demonstrating the fundamentals with proper technique
Two last important points to make about this first practice is that after each fundamental is taught there is a fun culminating activity (game) that involved the fundamental, and also that there is no goalie designated for this practice, as well as the next two practices described below. The reason being, that we feel all players should be learning the fundamentals, with fun being of paramount importance for retaining players new to the game; likewise, we wouldn't want to pigeon-hole someone as a goalie too early (especially young kids).
The Basics (Practice #2):
The 2nd Practice (as well as the first practice) has the option of an outdoor venue (based on equipment availability) and players/parents are also invited to attend a demonstration (20 minutes prior to practice) on the basics of stick stringing and stick cutting. The 2nd practice naturally progresses forward in several different aspects, while incorporating many of the basic concepts from the previous practice. Starting with a quick re-hash on the skills learned in the previous practice, one of the first obvious progressions is in the general warm-up, as players are now encouraged to practice their cradling as they run around the box; also in the next drill as they "Follow the Stick" (Athletic Position - Variation #2). This gives the players a chance to progress their footwork from an offensive perspective, as opposed to a defensive perspective (no ball) in the previous practice.
Cradling is perhaps the hardest fundamental skill to develop over a short period of time
The first warm-up drill (Partner Passing – Variation #2 to #4) provides players the opportunity for further practice with the two most important of the skills taught in the 1st practice: passing & catching. These drill progressions are an example of moving from simple to complex and/or static to dynamic in orientation, which was also a strategy employed in the 1st practice with loose balls and cradling. Players are encouraged to gradually move further and further away as they pass; then pass with a short run; and lastly try catching passes while facing away from their partner. Once the players are warmed up, coaches should then take the time to introduce some basic dynamic stretches (stationary routine) and stress the importance of doing them as a team (in a relatively straight line) for cohesiveness, which is intimidating to opposing teams and also fosters unity.
The main activity of this practice then focuses on one of the main fundamental skills that was not touched on in the 1st practice, which is shooting. Teaching the mechanics of shooting is usually best accomplished starting with a set-shot, which occurs when the player has "time and space." After a brief demonstration, players are encouraged to head to the boards/wall and to pick a target, getting a bunch of early reps with set-shots (Wall Ball - Variation #4).
Continuing with the theme of players getting lots of reps, next players move to the net, with all players shooting at the net at once in the (Horseshoe Drill - Variation #1), and coaches keeping track of how many balls hit the net each time (you can't score if you don't hit the net!). Next, players then get the opportunity to practice shooting-on-the-run within the same drill formation (Variation #4), which happens much more frequently than set-shooting, utilizing the same mechanics taught with passing, and very similar mechanics to set-shooting.
Finishing the practice continuing with the theme of "fun,” two games are used as culminating activities: Cradling Relay Race - Variation #1, with cradling also being an important part of being able to effectively shoot-on-the-run; and Shooting-On-The-Run Relay Race - Variation 1 (See Diagram Below), which should take precedence over the previous drill if you are short on time.
To conclude, at least 5 minutes at the end of practice should be devoted to intermittent sprints in the "Rabbit Run" - Variation #1, which is the type of cardio players should be getting used to as they prepare to play an actual game of lacrosse in the following practice. The cool down introduces “static stretching” and is completely player-centred, giving players a chance to demonstrate what they know, and again learn by discovery. It may be noted as well that with the exception of monitoring successful catches while passing with a partner and team relay races, there has been very little competitive activity in these initial practice environments.
The Basics (Practice #3):
Practice Plan #3 and all subsequent practice plans may also be held at an outdoor box (if available) in order to save costs, although usually it is best to practice in the same environment that players will typically be playing in. Having said that, if players have any aspirations for playing field lacrosse, accounting for the sun, wind and sometimes rain, while playing outdoors could also prove to have beneficial aspects for some.
Up until now, we have also yet to discuss what we say to the group (also when), and why we say what we do. In our first practice we spoke about the History Of Lacrosse among First Nations people, and of an Ancient Haudenosaunee Legend where the birds played against the animals, and how there is a place for everyone in lacrosse. In the second practice we discussed "hard work" and its importance in lacrosse and life, and in the third practice we like to talk about some of the all-time "great teams" and “teammates” in lacrosse (also what made them great). All three of these discussions commenced either before or after practice, but coaches still need to be unpredictable and spontaneous in their practice planning and reinforcement strategies, in order to keep the attention of kids/young adults (using a variety of teaching styles). Therefore, a story about the virtues of the game may be appropriate at any point during a practice, not just the beginning or the end.
The beginning drills in this practice focus on rehashing previously taught skills in a more dynamic fashion, namely loose balls and catching, which are important aspects in the modified lacrosse game at the end of practice. The remainder of the third practice focuses on basic defensive (“Open Floor Checking” - Variation #1 & #2), basic transition (Outlet Passes) and basic offensive skills (jukes, face dodges, roll dodges) as they relate to Game Play. The game itself is 3 vs. 3 and should be played from side-boards to side-boards with the 3x3 nets (or bottom-up nets) flush against the side-boards (with 8-foot creases taped onto the floor). Play starts with a loose ball from the coach (or pulling the ball out of the net after a goal), with 1-minute shift intervals (mixing up the players as best as possible - a balance of lefty's and righty's) and keeping track of the overall score only for 10+ year olds. Ideally there would be four nets on site, ensuring that a game could be played in both ends (maximum participation) need be, with everyone else standing at centre-floor.
Players participating in a 3 vs. 3 small-sided game at an Orangeville Laxlife Camp
Laxlife Rules for “Soft” Lacrosse:
1. THE BALL USED IN THIS PROGRAM IS A HIGH DENSITY FOAM (SOFT) BALL
2. THERE IS NO CONTACT BETWEEN STICK AND BODY (PENALTY SHOT)
3. THERE IS NO CONTACT STICK ON STICK “STICK CHECKING” (PENALTY SHOT)
4. THERE IS NO BODY CONTACT “BODY CHECKING” (PENALTY SHOT)
5. WHOEVER PUTS THE BACK OF THEIR STICK ON BALL RETAINS POSSESSION
6. THERE IS A SAFE CIRCLE OF 1 METRE AROUND THE PLAYER WITH THE BALL IN THEIR STICK
7. THIS PROGRAM DOES NOT UTILIZE GOALIES
8. THERE IS A 8-FOOT CREASE SURROUNDING THE GOAL (TRASH CAN or UPSIDE-DOWN NET)
9. SPORT SAFETY GOGGLES ARE RECOMMENDED ALTHOUGH NOT REQUIRED
10. ENSURE THAT BALLS NOT IN USE ARE KEPT IN A SAFE AREA AWAY FROM THE FIELD OF PLAY TO AVOID PLAYERS STEPPING ON A BALL
*CHANGES IF PLAYERS HAVE HELMETS & GLOVES: RULE #1 (RUBBER BALL USED), RULE #3 (STICK CHECKING PERMITTED), RULE #4 (“BUMPING HIPS” PERMITTED), RULE #5, #6, #9 (EXEMPT)*
Team #1 plays against Team #2 (cumulative score), in what is otherwise known as a “small-sided game.” This intermittent activity is excellent for players’ cardio and also gives them a chance to apply the skills they have learned thus far (getting lots of touches of the ball), while also having some fun. Coaches should suggest that players do static stretches at the end of practice, taking note of who actually does them, which primes them for future discussions.
Younger players will often benefit from more landmarks (pylons) on the floor
Progressing through the Laxlife Practice Plans in the order they appear is perhaps not as critical as the actual skill progressions within each practice. At times, going back and redoing a previous practice or specific drills from a previous practice that players struggled with, is more important than following the practice plans verbatim (it will not be a completely linear process).
The beauty of our Laxlife Practice Plan Creator is that it allows you to create your own practices, or take a Laxlife Plan and remodeling it to suit your team's needs; refining them over time, each time you execute them. Coaches can get as creative as they’d like with all of the flexibility and variations within the Laxlife Drillbook. They can even create their own drills with our Laxlife Drill Creator. Drills don’t necessarily need to be run for the exact amount of time suggested; coaches should be looking to create practices that suit the needs of their team. At times, certain drills that are not well executed will need more practice. Coaches need to be able to make decisions while thinking on their feet (ad-libbing), perhaps even cutting off a drill mid-way through or skipping a drill entirely if a certain aspect of a skill needs further attention. It is up to the coach to feel out which drills are running smoothly and when drills are ready to be changed.
Coaches should always reflect and take notes on practices. It’s natural that some players will be more gifted in lacrosse than others, a bell-curve for the most part, but the team will only ever be as good as its weakest link. Our Drillbook & Playbook will hopefully give all lacrosse enthusiasts alike the opportunity to experience success in the game of lacrosse. Our website is an honest attempt to break a complex game down into its simplest form.