Observations on Youth Lacrosse Games

Observations on Youth Lacrosse Games

Postby picknroll » Fri May 06, 2011 9:21 am

I've watched a lot of youth lacrosse games as a unattached bystander this year. I am the transportation for a couple of young referees. It's an interesting to watch from that perspective. I've seen games at multiple ages and levels. There seems to be a common set of themes that are observable across most any youth lacrosse game. Here's what I see ...

First off you'll see all eyes focused on the offensive end of the field - coaches, players, fans, pretty much everyone. I'm sure I did the same thing as a youth coach. Now an interesting observation is to look at the other end of play - opposite the ball. I would say that 90% of the time you will find three attack planted on or near the midline and three defenders at least 20 yards away from them - usually inside the box. I've even observed one coach who set his defense up in a tight triangle - just waiting for that fast break to come :)

Now the other part that is related to this is clearing. There's a tendency for the clearing team to have poor spacing and poor movement. In the worst case scenario there's six guys planted stationary about 10 yards from the goalie after a save. A lot of goals are scored when the goalie passes to one of his teammates that are standing right in front of the goal and drops the ball. Now the interesting observation is that probably the most successful clear for young teams is when the goalie accidentally throws the ball over the head of the teammate that is planted right in front of him. The ball rolls up to the midline where the attack are undefended. They get the ball every time.

By my observation the younger level goalies never look to clear to an attack, even when the attack are totally unguarded. I think that's a missed opportunity because most youth teams are conceding the clear by not guarding the attack. It doesn't even have to be a good pass. Most of the time the defenders are so far away that the attack can easily pick up the ground ball on an errant pass.

So I think that's a read that you make early in the game if you are a youth coach. See if the attack are being guarded on the opposite end from the ball and get your goalie to clear to them if they are unguarded. That should solve many clearing problems and avoid blow backs - which happen a lot in youth lacrosse. On the converse you should teach your defender to guard the attack as part of the ride. It will take away that long clear outlet for the goalie.

The next observation is that some teams obviously practice 4v3 fast break situations (both offense and defense) and some teams have no systematic way to play a fast break. If you watch a game where one team is proficient in fast breaks and the other is not, it is generally a blow out game. I watched one U11 game where one team ran a perfect L break. The other team was not taught a triangle and defensive rotation. I think it was about 10-0 by the 2nd quarter with all of the goals scored on fast break. Blow outs are not always a talent disparity. I think you need to drill the 4v3 situation over and over for a youth team. I would say that you should practice 4v3 as much or more than 6v6. I observed one youth coach whose only instruction from the sidelines was calling out the numbers: 4v3, 5v4, 6v6, etc. His team had awareness of how to respond both offensively or defensively to each of those situations. The skill level of this team was very similar to their opponent, but they were easily winning the game just because of the situational field awareness of the players. I was highly impressed. So the takeaway for me is to not spend all your time practicing 6v6. Build situational awareness in your players, especially the 4v3 fast break which is the best opportunity to score in youth lacrosse.

Another recurring theme that I see is teams playing man defense without understanding off ball defense, especially backside help. Teams will try to play aggressive man defense and get spread all over the field off ball. Once you leave the area in front of the goal open this is a recipe for disaster. You've got to have a basic slide package in place to run a man defense, even at the youngest levels. If you are not able to successfully teach a slide package to your team, just go zone. I used to be opposed to running a zone in youth lacrosse, but now I think it's a good foundation for being in good backside position as you progress to a man defense. There's nothing wrong with running a zone in youth lacrosse. It's highly effective in stopping 6v6 scoring opportunities at the younger levels. Also you do not have to be passive in a zone. Learn a backer zone where you can put pressure on the ball. A backer zone and a good sliding man defense are really not all that different when it comes down to it. The main thing that you want to accomplish in settled defense in youth lacrosse is pressuring the ball while keeping the crease area locked down. Once you vacate the crease area defensively you are vulnerable to having 1v1 goals scored off a dodge. Teams that are getting blown out are usually vacating the crease defensively.

I've also noticed that virtually no one uses a long pole on the face off wings, although they are legal down to U11 now. I think you are forgoing a ground ball advantage if there is no pole coming off the wing. Even if you are not running an LSM because of subbing difficulties, you can still put a long pole on the wing. Just stick a short stick middie back at close D on the face off.

Lastly time and time again I see teams running a 3-3 offense on EMO that is totally stationary. They stand there and pass the ball around to each other until they either kill the penalty or make an unforced turnover. Even if you have no 6v6 settled plays you need some kind of an EMO play - at all levels. Carrying the ball across the zone and then throwing back to the spot where the dodge started can be a simple and effective way to get movement on EMO. Try to figure out something that will cause some confusion for the defense. Don't just stand there passing the ball. I saw one coach running a 2-2-2 with the crease players (biggest guys on team) pin wheeling as the ball moved on the perimeter. That seemed to create problems for a box and one zone. I liked that EMO for youth players (or any level really). The main thing is to incorporate some type of movement.

One thing that I can say is that I do believe is that our youth lacrosse continues to improve. I remember back in 2006 when I first got involved 6th graders could barely throw and catch. Now I see U11 teams throw and catch with high proficiency. It's great to watch!
picknroll
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 1304
Joined: Sun Sep 10, 2006 9:05 pm

Re: Observations on Youth Lacrosse Games

Postby shortstick » Fri May 06, 2011 8:16 pm

Pick,

as a U13 coach, all excellent observations. I have advocated a zone defense every year I have coached youth lax and intentionally put my best athletes at goalie and close defense. Off ball play is the key to this game, both offensively and defensively. Getting O middies at this age to understand when to cut and when to move away, as well as D middies to understand not to ball watch and be prepared for cutters and the following 2nd cutters is a near impossiblity at younger ages it seems. ](*,)

If you have a goalie that has the strength to "Gilman" down the field is a plus especially if you have small and QUICK attack. They will always beat the typical LP to the ball and now you are in transition. I will always take the smaller quicker attack over the typical youth LP in transition.

I recall hearing Loren Smith at a clinic pointing out that spending alot of time at younger ages practicing 6v6 was a waste as most of the game for those ages is played in transition. I took that to heart this season and spend most time in practice forcing the defense to play man down and making the offense recognize the open man in transition after the 2nd pass.

I have resorted to playing an excellent athlete at LSM from F/O until settled offensive oppty and given up on the concept of getting him situationally on and off. His goal is to learn to be a threat on offense. Maybe a future Ross Porter?

Lastly, my biggest challenge with youth is the EMO. Everyone wants to be a hero and no one has any patience. I have lost my voice after most games due to frustration with this. ](*,) All in all, excellent points and I am in total agreement on the skill level improvement that has been seen over the past 9-10 years in youth club lax. Great comments!
shortstick
1st Line
1st Line
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:58 pm

Re: Observations on Youth Lacrosse Games

Postby picknroll » Sat May 07, 2011 3:54 pm

Thanks.

I don't really advocate a Gilman in youth (except on MDD), but I'm a big fan of a long clear to a breaking middie or a wide open attack. If it turns into a Gilman its' not so bad as you say.

In general it seems that we need to teach that space favors the offense. I watched a U11 game this AM where three offensive players would plant themselves on top of the crease. I don't think this was any sort of formation, but rather just players eager to catch and shoot. This same team had a good dodger who kept winning the dodge 1v1 - only to run right into three defenders on the crease - brought there by the offense!

I believe every youth team should have at least two offenses: a crease oriented offense (usually 1-3-2) and an open offense (circle). Going circle clears our the crease area and forces adjacent slides. If you have a dodger that can win 1v1, the circle will create space for him to dodge. I think it's always a good idea to test the opponent's ability to slide against a circle.

Settled clears are another problematic area where youth players forget that space favors the ball carrier. The natural tendency for young players is to stand about 10 yards from the ball carrier. They surround him - bringing six defenders to the ball. Just spreading the field on a settled clear usually give enough room to advance the ball with a carry. You also need to teach that clears are a man up situation (the goalie is the extra man). Just space out wide and pass the ball to the open guy.

It's amazing how young players want to clump around the ball. It's like "bunch ball" in soccer. Teaching spacing is key.
picknroll
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 1304
Joined: Sun Sep 10, 2006 9:05 pm

Re: Observations on Youth Lacrosse Games

Postby numbersman » Sat May 07, 2011 6:43 pm

Having two goalies in the family, I have always watched goalies pretty closely. It's pretty clear from what I have seen, that many youth goalies are getting coaching that is focused too little on body positioning and clearing. Many look uncomfortable using their stick as a throwing device.

Clearing for a goalie is all about practice, whether it is a pattern clear or a fast break clear. Getting a goalie comfortable not just using their stick for saving but also for throwing should be a priority. I always like to see teams running the goalies through the running/throwing warm ups - it means there is an expectation that the goalie should be able to catch and throw like everyone else.

Both of my sons were pretty proficient clearers because they spent a lot of time practicing it. They both got to the point that they could consistently hit a middie in full sprint up field. Once the middies realize that the goalie can get the ball to them on the run, they will start breaking after a save, looking for a quick clear. This gives the goalie the option of starting the offense on a fast break or using a pattern clear if that makes more sense.

Luckily clearing is something you can practice with any lacrosse buddy you have. With a little practice, a 7th or 8th grade goalie should at least be able to consistently pass to a stationary attack man at the midline.
What if the hokey-pokey IS what its all about?
User avatar
numbersman
NCLF All American
NCLF All American
 
Posts: 1068
Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: Walnut Creek

Re: Observations on Youth Lacrosse Games

Postby picknroll » Sat May 07, 2011 8:56 pm

That's a good point. You can never do enough long passing for your goalies and long poles. Also incorporate clears into every drill so it gets the goalie used to making a breakout pass.

One other point that I forgot to mention is coaching attitude. I was within ear shot of a U11 half time speech a few weeks back where the coach (getting blown out) informed his players that "the coaches have done all that they could do" and now it was up to the motivation of the players. That might sound good at halftime, but I personally saw at least a half dozen things that the coach could do to improve his teams chances. If you are struggling I would suggest getting another coach to watch your games and get feedback (hopefully a more experienced coach than yourself). I am sure that there's always something to work on - players, coaches, everyone. I don't think your ever done, especially at U11 and I don't think that's a very encouraging statement to make to the kids.
picknroll
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 1304
Joined: Sun Sep 10, 2006 9:05 pm


Return to General Youth

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron