3x ("Three-By") is the best practice game we've seen in years, no joke. We played a ton of 3x at camp this summer. It is great work for stick skills, quick ball movement, defensive help and rotations, everything! We saw tons of kids playing it at the World Championships last year. They love it, and it looks like it really benefits them.
It’s called 3x because the goals are 3’ x 3’, and the teams are 3-on-3. You can play it anywhere- inside, outside, in a gym, on a tennis court, driveway, etc. Even high school and college coaches are using this game during the off-season and in practice.
3x Lacrosse goals are pretty easy to find online. You can buy the Official 3x Lacrosse Goal here.
You could also turn your normal goal face down and use the bottom triangular side as your 3x goal. Maybe this will get some of your players to actually shoot some bounce shots. (Excellent!)
Even though this is a non-contact training game, we suggest your players still wear helmets and gloves. There is no stick checking or body checking. Control your sticks and play the ball.
Most importantly, you play with a tennis ball. Repeat that- tennis ball! Anybody can jump in the goal in this game, so you don't want to take shots with a regular lacrosse ball.
Tennis balls definitely encourage soft hands in any game or drill. Their light weight can highlight weaknesses in your players' scooping, catching or throwing technique. Even top coaches like Dave Pietremala (Johns Hopkins/Team USA) use tennis balls in practice.
Encourage your players to be in good body position on Defense. Just push on the hips with the gloved hands and turn the ball away from the goal. This is a man-up game, so the Offense should be moving the ball anyways, not driving to the goal. For loose balls, just get good body position here too and play the ball.
Here's THE GAME:
Figure 1. Make teams of three players and play Rock-Paper-Scissors for ball, just like when you were a kid.
Play games to 3 or 5 points. You play half-field, like half-court basketball. Any time the Defense gets the ball, just take it out and bring it back in on Offense. Check the ball in after every point.
Figure 2. Here is the secret to what makes this game great. One of the Defenders (Red 3) must cover the goal, so your players are constantly working the 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 the whole time. The Defense is always man-down in this game. *The man in the goal can come out, but that leaves the goal open for easy shots.*
Teach your Defenders to work in an "I" formation. Red 1 must cover the man with the "Ball!" Red 2 must get his "Back!" and "Split!" the other two Blue Attackers. Be ready to cover the ball if it moves to either one of these two guys.
Figure 3. The Offense (Blue) should work mostly in a triangle. Teach your offense to move their feet and work this triangle shape. This is not really a dodging game. It's all about recognizing the numbers advantage and moving the ball to the open man. Draw the defense out to create space for your teammates and move the ball quickly.
Your Defenders should be communicating every time the ball moves to cover the man with the "Ball!" and "Back!"
Cover the "Hole"- the middle of the field in front of the goal. Play defense "from inside out".
Figure 4. Draw the Defense to one side of the field, then move the ball back to the other side. This simple Wheel Play is a good example.
Blue 1 draws Red 1 down the Goalie's left side. As the triangle turns, Blue 2 moves to top center for a better shooting position. Blue 3 comes around the back of the goal, overloading the Goalie's right side. Move the ball to the 2-on-1 (Blue 2 and 3 vs Red 2) faster than the Defense can recover.
3x really helps your players recognize when and where to move the ball. Let them play and figure out how to make it work. Tons of reps, tons of goals and tons of fun with this game.
- This is not a game for outside shots. Throw pass and shot fakes to move the Defenders. Look to make "one more" pass. Place your shots and finish inside.
- Keep time and keep score for each game to keep the intensity up. The losing team should do some full-field sprints, hill sprints, Up Downs, Push Ups, whatever.
- Turn the Goal around facing the other way, or start the ball behind the goal after each point. This gets your players used to attacking from an "Invert" and moving in front of the goal to score, which is a very common game situation.
- You could play full-field 3-By, although we haven’t seen it done yet.
- 3-on-2 West Genesee Drill ("West Gennies"): This classic drill is great for getting unsettled transition situations going end-to-end. Great work for stick skills, game situations, shooting and scoring with this one!
- If your players really understand the 3-on-2 situation, you could play this same game with four on each team and call it 4x ("Four-By"). We think it would go a little something like this.
- If you had enough goals, you could fit four 3x fields sideways on a regulation field and get a mini tournament going. Who wouldn't love to see that played in every school?
Wherever you play 3x, take some pictures of the game in front of something recognizable for your city or state so we know where you're from and send them to us!