If you have agreed to take the helm of a youth lacrosse team for the first time, you likely have more questions than answers. To bring you up to speed faster than Paul Rabil’s shot, here are five things about lacrosse coaching you need to know.
Lacrosse Coaching Tips for Your First Time on the Sideline
1. Know the Basics
Lacrosse is an exciting, fast-paced sport to watch, but it takes time for newbies to pick up the nuances of the game. If you are a lacrosse coaching newbie who has never played the game, you could gain some insight by watching a college or Major League Lacrosse game on television.
In addition to buying a stick and whistle, it helps to know as much as possible about the basics of lacrosse, including:
Groundballs are loose balls which either team can pick up. For example, you could say the New York Lizards had 25 groundballs when they defeated the Rochester Rattlers. Groundballs are the equivalent of a recovered fumble in football, except they occur much more frequently in lacrosse.
Scooping is the act of picking up a groundball with a lacrosse stick. Youth coaches teach this skill early and often by telling players to bend their knees while they scoop through the ball in one motion.
Dodging is the art of eluding a defender while possessing the ball. As a new coach, you need to know and be able to demonstrate several basic dodges, including the face, split and roll dodges.
Checking, which is as much a part of lacrosse as any other, is often taught in early practices. You can begin the spring season by teaching poke checks and slap checks. To increase player safety, checks could be taught on a stick hanging through the netting of a cage.
Player positions are important to know, too. In lacrosse, three attackmen stay in the offensive side of the field the whole game, while three defenseman stay in the defensive side of the field. Three midfielders cover all sides of the field. And, the goalie obviously guards the cage.
2. Create a Plan of Attack
Preparation is crucial in lacrosse coaching. Before you step on the field, sketch out how your players’ time will be spent. You don’t have to schedule every minute, but an overall guideline will benefit both you and the team.
Ask yourself questions like these: Which skills will you focus on in each practice? What drills will work those skills? How much time will you devote to scrimmaging? What words of motivation will you give your team? Then, jot down a brief outline of what you would like to accomplish in your next practice.
3. Don’t Forget the Fundamentals
Young players who learn the right technique at an early age have the opportunity to go far in lacrosse. Before you teach Rob Pannell’s signature question mark dodge, drill the fundamentals like passing, catching and shooting. You can keep your practices fun by creating contests around fundamental drills.
4. Keep a Cool Head
It’s not uncommon for emotions to fly high around the lacrosse field. Whether it’s the parents or the kids, playing time or injuries, coaches are there to restore order rather than create chaos. Youth lacrosse should be both fun and competitive. Good coaches refrain from yelling, screaming and cursing around their players.
Kids will be kids. They will make mistakes, but the best coaches use these stumbles as a teaching opportunity.
5. You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
If you have never coached before, it’s not a bad idea to ask for help.
While every parent may not be interested in coaching, there is likely a former lacrosse player in the bunch. You can enroll assistant coaches for games, or have a former lacrosse player make a guest appearance. The more, the merrier.
How are you preparing to coach the lacrosse season? Share an update with us (@LizardsLacrosse) using the hashtag #PracticeMakesPlayers.