Frank Fedorjaka has won more than 160 games as a college lacrosse head coach. A three-time Patriot League Coach of the Year, Fedorjaka attributes part of the success of the Bucknell program on making sure that his players are having fun and enjoying their experience.

How important is fun in lacrosse?

It’s one of the six core values of the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, but fun goes well beyond just teaching people how to play the game. Even at the elite levels, fun remains a key component to success.

In his nearly three-decade coaching career, current Bucknell men’s lacrosse coach Frank Fedorjaka has learned quite a few lessons. One of the most important is getting the support of his veterans.

“The biggest thing is senior leadership and senior buy-in,” Fedorjaka said. “Without it, you’re not going to reach your potential. Your seniors have so much influence, and if you get a complete buy-in from them, you’ve got a shot.”

So how do you get your seniors to buy in? By making sure they’re having fun along the way.

“I work hard at making sure they aren’t burnt out by their senior year,” Fedorjaka said. “I want them to have fun. I want our guys to enjoy playing lacrosse.”

Last spring, Bucknell won 11 games, shared the Patriot League regular-season title and knocked off eventual national champion Yale as part of a six-game winning streak late in the season. They narrowly missed an NCAA tournament bid.

Those are some pretty impressive accomplishments on their own, but even more so when you factor in the rigorous academic standards of Bucknell and limited financial aid and scholarship resources to attract players.

So how do they do it?

#1 Find a Role

Bucknell isn’t swimming with five-star recruits that do everything well, but Fedorjaka can find a role for guys that might have a hole in their game.

“Our system is based on who we have,” Fedorjaka said. “We have different people who have different abilities and skill sets every year. Our system is flexible enough that no matter who we have to fit, we can adjust that year, that week or that possession.”

#2 Keep Things Simple

Bucknell is well-known for its 10-man ride, but it’s not a regimented system.

“Riding is really important to Bucknell, but we can adjust based on our personnel,” Fedorjaka said. “If we have three really quick attackmen, we’ll ride differently than if we only have one. If we don’t have players that ride well 1-on-1, we’ll do more of a zone ride, or a hybrid ride with zone and 1-on-1.”

The key is to make sure people know what they’re doing.

“Our rules are simple enough that we can give a different look, but not make things too complicated,” Fedorjaka said. “It’s either A or B. They have to make a decision, but not choose between three of four choices. In an ideal world, that’s how we coach.”

#3 Give Players a Voice

Fedorjaka likes to have his players come up with the rules when possible. When he works with his defense on how to handle a particular scenario, they’ll gather in the area around the crease they call “The Hub.” Fedorjaka knows what he thinks they should do, but it has to feel right to the players. He lets them talk it out.

“I like to watch how it unfolds and let them figure out what’s natural for them,” Fedorjaka said. “If they have a little say, they take more pride in it.”

#4 Don’t Practice Too Long

Fedorjaka finds diminishing returns on long practices, so he likes to keep it right around two hours — the length of a game. He and his staff make a constant effort to point out the positives during practice, and they play a lot in practice.

“You can do drills to work on 1-on-1 defense, but you can also get better by playing 1-on-1 defense,” Fedorjaka said.

The result is a lively practice with conditioning built into the session organically. Fedorjaka thinks the Bison only did pure conditioning three times last season.

#5 Keep Players Happy

“We only have 42-43 guys every year,” Fedorjaka said. “It’s a lot easier to keep 42 guys happy than it is to keep 60 happy. You want to make sure everyone is enjoying it, not just the starters. The energy and enthusiasm in practice have to be there, because that carries over to game day.”

A key to keeping players happy and enthused is to make sure they feel involved.

“With only 42 guys, that’s a lot of reps for everyone,” Fedorjaka said. “Everyone gets equal reps and stays involved. We post our depth chart each week, and there are plenty of opportunities to move up because we play so much in practice.”

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