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How to Use ‘Chunking’ to Achieve Natural Skill Progression

April 22, 2014    9152 Views

TJ Buchanan | @usltjbuchanan

Chunking to achieve Natural Progression

Mary Langenfeld

Teaching lacrosse is a skill that has been passed down through generations of coaches. Coach X teaches the game the way he does because Coach Y taught him that way. Coach Y teaches the way he does because Coach W taught him that way, and the cycle continues.

Back in 2012, Lacrosse Magazine profiled Cindy Timchal’s coaching family tree and highlighted those elite coaches who are connected to her either as a former player or assistant coach. And largely through Timchal protégé and Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, a new generation of highly successful coaches has emerged from her tutelage.

One skill all great coaches share is “chunking.”

Chunking is taking a complex task and breaking it down into smaller, more easily achievable parts. Coaches of even the most elite athletes dedicate substantial time getting the individual parts to work correctly before adding complexity.

Think about how small children become mobile. First they crawl, then they learn to stand and eventually they take those first steps. Once they have mastered walking, the pace increases and they’re off and running.

Teaching your athletes in a crawl-walk-run progression will ensure they master the fundamental skills needed to continue their lacrosse journey. Here are two examples of the crawl-walk-run approach to installing a motion offense.

Teaching Motion Offense (Men’s Game)



X1 passes to X2 and clears through, opening up the alley for X2 to dodge and shoot. X1 should always be prepared to catch a pass and never have his back to the ball.

Objective: Creating space for the dodger.



Add X3 and X4. As X2 begins his dodge, X4 will follow him and X3 will drift to ball side to be an outlet behind if needed.

Objective: Providing help on both sides of the ball carrier.



Add X5 and X6 to the offense. X1’s cut after the initial pass starts the motion offense. X1 pushes X6 up to replace X4, and X3 movement to ball side “pulls” X5 behind the goal.

Objective: Keeping the field balanced.

Teaching Motion Offense (Women’s Game)



X1 passes to X2 and clears through the 8-meter looking for a return pass.

Objective: Teaching the give-and-go



Add X3 and X4. As X1 gets inside the 8-meter, X3 will rotate across and X4 will move up the field maintaining balance.

Objective: Maintaining balance on the 8-meter.



Add X5, X6 and X7. X5 becomes part of the rotation, while X6 and X7 work on “popping” in and out to occupy adjacent and off-ball defenders.

Objective: Occupying off-ball defenders.

Teaching concepts in this manner can replace passing and shooting drills and not take away from the limited time you have with your team. As your players master each phase, you can increase the intensity of the drill by specifying dodges to use, slowly adding defensive pressure, and varying the location of the ball to start the drill.

TJ Buchanan is the coaching education content manager at US Lacrosse. Suggest topics for future coaching blog posts in the comments section.

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