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How To Have The Perfect Lacrosse Practice


Here’s a subject I’m really passionate about.

I hope you are too.

Practice. Yes practice.

That’s because practice is everything.

Every single practice is an opportunity.

An opportunity for lacrosse players – and teams – to develop and get better.

When an athlete finishes a practice, they should be better than when they started.

Think about this, the 1% better every day rule (by James Clear) states that if you get just 1% better every day, you will be 37% better by the end of the year.

That is significant, my friend.

A great practice requires a few things in my humble opinion and experience.

Here are the big things that are important to make practices transformational.

FAST-FAST-FAST!

When I think of practice, the single most important thing that usually comes to my mind is fast.

By fast, I mean fast-paced and up-tempo. Drills should be fast to keep the energy high, keep athletes engaged, and keep athletes from being bored (yes this actually happens).  I have found that fast practices naturally elevate energy levels, make practices fun, and keep things moving along so that everything is seamless from start to finish. 

Speed matters when it comes to practice.  I remember when I first started learning the game of lacrosse at a live workshop for coaches several years ago. The lead USA lacrosse instructor, Henry, talked about how he had his athletes run on and off the field when they were starting – or finishing – a drill. There was no walking. He encouraged his athletes to always hustle when they are on the field.

Have you ever noticed kids walking slow and lethargic to the sideline after a drill or practice? We don’t want that.

Two words.  High energy.  Remember them because that is what we want each and every practice to be. Fast, fast, fast – everything is fast.

Fast can also refer to the duration of practice. Practices don’t need to be excessively long. With my background as a strength and conditioning coach, I think the same way about the topic of training. Fast and effective.  I have always been a fan of doing what needs to be done in the most efficient way – and then be done with it. Be efficient, do what needs to be done, and then wrap it up. Longer training sessions do not mean better training sessions.

That leads perfectly to the next point…

NO WASTED TIME

Wasting time drives me crazy, maybe that’s why this is a stand-alone point. When you keep things moving fast, everyone is engaged and this minimizes wasted time. For an effective and efficient practice, we don’t want to waste time. Keep things moving and have purpose and progression with your practices. No one wants to waste their time and leave a practice saying “that was a waste,” yet this actually happens.

Fast-paced, thoroughly planned practices prevent wasted time – and wasted practice sessions. The solution to not wasting time is the next critical thing on my list. That is preparation.

PREPARATION

This is the hard part for a coach because it takes time, thought, creativity and effort. Planning and preparation makes or breaks a practice. There’s been a few times I can remember being around coaches who show up without a practice plan and say to their players “what should we do today?” That’s not exactly planning.

Planning is not only important to me, but it’s a natural part of how I approach sport or human performance of any kind.  As a strength coach, strategic and purposeful training is paramount to what I believe but that’s a long story to unravel. Maybe at a later time. I like to thoroughly design training sessions, whether that’s strength training, speed development programs, or lacrosse practice.

There’s an old saying, maybe you’ve heard it – failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s that simple. I’m a planner by nature, so this one is a big one for me personally. The better the practice plan, the better the practice, period.  Planning the practice is important and essential for everyone’s success. Take the time to be organized, know what you want to accomplish, and plan accordingly. A well-designed practice is also very progressive, meaning that it builds upon skills and team concepts as it moves along.

Questions to consider for designing a practice:

  • As a team, what do we need to work on?
  • What skills need to be developed?
  • What does the team need to learn about the game?
  • What physical qualities need to be continually developed (ex. team speed)?
  • What is the goal of today’s practice?
  • What is the theme for our practice today?
  • Is the team culture where we need it to be? (If not, how do we improve that?)

FUN

Practices need to be fun. After all, that’s why athletes play the game – to have fun. While drills should be fast and progressive, it’s important to keep things fun and competitive during a practice session. Remember that a practice should be “an experience.” Creating an element of fun is beneficial for both the coaches and athletes alike. Bring in some games, some competition, and some laughs (when appropriate). Whatever you can do to create a positive, fun experience will be huge for your team. (Watch the video below to see the “experience” of practice and notice if it looks like fun.) You want players to look forward to practice, never dread it.

FOCUSED

While I believe that practices should be fun and high-energy to be highly effective, practices need to focused towards the goals of improving the individuals and the team, as a whole. To keep things focused, you have to know your team strengths and areas for improvement, then develop a purposeful plan to improve the team. You have to keep practices focused, on task, and moving along with precision.

And when I talk about focus, I’m not only referring to the practice plan itself but the athlete’s focus. I’ve seen when athlete’s come to practice and just want to fool around and not take practice seriously. Sometimes when this happens it’s extremely distracting for the players who come to practice to learn and to get better. What is needed is for all players to be focused for 90 minutes at practice – for their own benefit and the benefit of the team. Pete Carroll calls this being “all in” (see below). Let everything go, show up and be present. Practice is focused, as well as the players and coaches’ focus.

ADAPTABILITY

One other thing I want to mention here is adaptability. Even when you create a great practice plan, sometimes there might be something that just doesn’t work. I’ve done this personally where I had an idea about a new drill – or a drill I thought would be good for a certain team – and it just didn’t work during the practice for whatever reason.

You have to be willing to recognize what’s working and what’s not – and adapt to the situation. Not everything you will do will work. Be flexible and willing to change based on what you see. Planning is critical, but always be in tune with how the plan is working and be willing to change. This point is key. Be adaptable.

Of course there are more things that come to mind that I could list. But these are some of the essentials.


If I could briefly and simply summarize my vision for practices, I would just say this – PRACTICE FAST and HAVE A FOCUSED PLAN.

If you did just those 2 things, usually things will work out well.


While these are my principles and I wrote them before coming across this video by NFL Coach Pete Carroll, you will find some parallels in what I just shared with you.

I love this video and highly encourage you to watch it to experience the qualities that make a practice something special.

Pete Carroll’s Practice Principles are outlined below.

  • ENERGY
  • BE ALL IN
  • ORGANIZATION
  • HAVE A SYSTEM
  • ATTENTION TO DETAILS
  • COACHES’ ATTITUDE
  • TEMPO
  • EFFORT
  • MUSIC 
  • *PRACTICE FAST 
  • COMPETITION

In summary, there really is no perfect practice but we can plan and strive to create an experience that is close to perfection.

Plan the work and work the plan. And think of each practice as the creation of a positive experience for each and every athlete.

This is how we create something great.

Coach Scott

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