We go to a lot of youth and high school lacrosse practices where the players are all standing in line, or just jogging through line drills, throwing lazy, arching passes. It's painful to watch. One way to inject some intensity and competitiveness into any practice is to keep score. Keeping score can make any part of practice literally "count for something"- goals, ground balls, turnovers, Clears, etc. can all be counted as points somehow.
When teaching your players good individual defense, maybe don't teach the Poke Check first. We realize this might sound blasphemous, since the Poke Check is a classic. But we have heard that even top coaches like Dave Pietremala are getting away from it (although don't quote us). In game situations, a beginning player is running at full speed, trying to poke the 2"-wide shaft or the ball carrier's bottom hand, both relatively small targets. Instead, teach them to play Body Defense with the Feet, Hips, Hands, Stick last.
No matter what level of lacrosse you are coaching- youth, high school freshmen, high school varsity, etc., your players are going to make mistakes. Even if you are coaching the elite U15 traveling club team for your area. There will be lots of them if you are a high school varsity team in a new or developing area. You probably have good athletes that just don't have many games under their belts yet. Your star Attackman will miss a pass, your Defenders will drop the ball on the clear, somebody will miss an easy ground ball. It is how you respond to these mistakes that will determine what kind of working relationship you will have with these young men (or women!) that are looking for your guidance.
High school and college lacrosse coaches today want players that can get in front of the goal. The Split Dodge down the alley isn't going to cut it all the time anymore. Against better Defenders and better Goalies today, you have to be able to get those high percentage chances in the middle. Teach your players to get to the "Slot," just like getting to the "Paint" in Basketball. Initiate the contact with the dodge- lean in to the defender to push your way into the middle.
Wall Ball is by far the #1 way to improve stick skills in youth players. Whether it's catching, throwing, shooting, or ground balls, Wall Ball can make these workouts an individual responsibility for your players so you can move on to shooting drills and game situations in practice as soon as possible.
"Ground Balls Win Games."- Every Lacrosse Coach knows that. If you are coaching beginning lacrosse players of any age, unfortunately you are going to spend a lot of time with the ball on the ground in a messy scrum. Make the most of that time if you want your team to be successful. Ground balls require focus and toughness. Often they are followed by a full-speed, full-field sprint. Recognize and reward your players that consistently run hard to get the ball for your team.