TJ Buchanan | @usltjbuchanan
What does every athlete dread each day at practice?
What is one of the most important aspects of a successful athlete?
How do you get a fourth-quarter advantage on your opponents?
Every coach needs to address conditioning, but at the same time can struggle to get maximum effort from their athletes. If you do it before practice, the players are spent and you may not get a great practice out of them. Or they figure out ways to come late. Do it at the end of practice and you risk injury, because they already are fatigued or you’ll hear more excuses.
That’s why you should disguise conditioning in the form of drills and limit the amount of time you spend blowing the whistle to start another sprint. Hiding conditioning in drills makes it seem almost fun for the kids and uses game-like situations to develop their lacrosse skills at the same time.
Tricks to disguise conditioning:
Shorten the wait
Reduce the number of players in a line or drill so that they can get multiple repetitions in a short amount of time. Having several stations of small groups set up around the field ensures players get multiple opportunities to participate.
Rotate the groups between drills every 5-7 minutes and in just 20 minutes the kids have done three or four different drills with multiple runs in each. The 4x4x3 Drill (not illustrated) is a great example.
- Set up multiple 4-on-4 stations with a goal at each to limit inactive players (no more than 4-5 subs at each station).
- Each station runs all three scenarios (Y-North, Y-South and Box) in succession (15-20 seconds max for each situation).
- Once the eight players have run all three drills, sub new players into the set.
Use the whole field
Full-field drills such as the Maroon Drill (advanced) force players to get up and down the field quickly in a game-like situation. They are constantly in motion at game speed and must react to various situations. Emphasize shorter, more frequent reps.
- Start with three attackmen and three defenders at each end of the field, inside of their restraining boxes, plus three additional players for each team in the middle of the field.
- Roll a ground ball toward players in the middle of the field to vie for possession.
- Once possession is gained (red team), the players look for a quick pass up field for a fast-break opportunity.
- The team on defense (blue) is not permitted to enter the box, but may pressure anywhere outside of the box.
- Red team runs a 4-on-3 fast break. Blue team defends it.
- As soon as the ball hits the ground or a goal is scored, roll out a new ball to repeat the drill, often in uneven situations near midfield.
- Switch the six middle players every three reps, with each rep lasting a maximum of 15-20 seconds.
Don’t stop practice
Have water bottles handy at each drill location and the athletes can rehydrate while they are waiting for their next rep. Taking 5 to 10 minutes off to let everyone get a drink allows their heart rates to lower, and then you need to ramp them back up. In reality, it takes 30-45 seconds to get a drink. Most of your break time is wasted with athletes waiting to get to the water jug or taking gear on and off. (Note: You may need to schedule breaks based on weather conditions or the age of your athletes.)
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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