6-on-6 drills are great...sometimes. But for coaches struggling to get players working on offensive or defensive rotations, working the numbers advantage, or moving their feet off-ball, these fun games are a great way to shake up practice and get more players involved.
It's one of toughest questions coaches face each season: How do you keep players engaged while teaching important skills? At Lax Library, we've had a ton of success with these 7 practice games below. Give your players more repetitions, conditioning work, and extra touches on the ball. By keeping time and keeping score in your practices, you can make it a "game," instead of a "drill".
As a bonus, by cutting down the number of players on the field at one time, it's easier to identify and fix smaller issues with stick skills and footwork. With more space for your players to dodge, pass, or shoot, they will learn to understand and respond to unsettled situations with ease!
No matter what level you coach, these games you will give you the tools to keep practice fun and build important skills all season long.
Here are THE GAMES:
3-By is the #1 practice game we've seen in years. No joke. You can play indoors, outdoors, on a drive way, tennis court, anywhere. This fast-paced half-field game pits 3 offensive players against 3 defensive players on a half field.
Split up players into teams of 3 and play half-field. Use a tennis ball and 3' x 3' goal (hence the name "3-By" or "3X"). You can also use pop-up soccer goals or whatever you have available.
One of the Defenders should always cover the goal. Your offensive players will be constantly working the 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 numbers advantage. Run this drill like half-court basketball just like when you were a kid--if the Defense gets the ball, take it out and bring it back in on Offense.
You will see huge improvements in your players' communication, rotations and recovery since the Defense is always man-down in this game. You will also see better stick skills and ball movement from your Offense after running this drill.
2. West Gennies
This drill is a true Lax Classic. Although there are many variations on the 3-on-2 West Genesee Drill out there, this is the version we've seen work best, all the way from youth to the top college teams.
Place goals roughly 40 yards apart, facing one another, and put a bucket or cone to mark the center of the field. Split up players into two teams and line them up on either side of the midfield line.
Like 3-By, this is a 3-on-2 numbers advantage game--the Offense will start with 3 players and the Defense will start with 2 players. Once the ball crosses the midfield line, a "trailing" defender will sprint around the cone to help on defense. These numbers advantage situations don't last for more than a few seconds in games, so teach your players to work the ball to the open man quickly. After a goal or a turnover, the Defenders become the Attackers to work the 3-on-2 advantage at the other end of the field.
Keep this drill going without pause to get players lots of conditioning work, shots, and transitions. Tons of running with this drill, but your players will love it.
Split up players into teams of 4. Set up a shortened field in between the restraining lines--or roughly 40 yards apart. Put goals on either end of the field facing each other. Use a tennis ball and smaller 3' x 3' or pop-up soccer goals.
Another numbers-advantage game, this also requires one Defender to cover the goal, so the Defense is always Man-Down in this game. Your players will be working on the same 4-on-3 Fast Break rotations that they will see in real games. Your Defenders will be working on communication and Team Defense. Plus, running this drill on a larger field instead of half-field means your players will get plenty of transition and conditioning work as they run from Defense to Offense and vice-versa.
4. The Numbers Game
This is probably our favorite game, no matter what age or experience level you coach. The Numbers Game will improve your players' overall Lacrosse and team sport IQ, guaranteed.
Break players evenly into two teams and set up two lines at midfield facing the goal. This is a half-field drill, so you will only need one goalie in the cage.
The reason it's called "The Numbers Game" is because the Offense will always have an extra man. The Defense is always man-down in this game. If Coach calls out "4," for example, then 4 offensive players and 3 defensive players will fight for the ball and play until a goal or turnover.
Whether you want to work on 2-on-1's, Fast Breaks, or Slow Breaks, there are tons of ways to apply this drill during practice. The possibilities are endless!
This game will teach your players to work from behind the goal to get in front to score, which is unique to Lacrosse and Hockey. Plus it will give your players plenty of conditioning and ground ball work running from end to end.
Place goals facing away from one another on a shortened field--roughly 40 yards apart. Break up all your players into two teams and put a goalie in each cage.
You play this game just like a normal scrimmage with 4-on-4, 5-on-5, or 6-on-6, depending on how many players you have at practice. Because the goals are facing away from each other, each team has to work around the goal and get in front to create a goal-scoring opportunity.
To make it even more challenging, have your players make a certain number of passes before "going to the goal" to score.
6. The Navy Half-Field Game
We got this game from former Navy and current Team USA Head Coach Richie Meade. This half-field game is part relay race, part Fast
Break drill, and part defensive recovery drill.
Place a goal on one half of the field with a goalie in cage. Split players into two even teams and start one team with the ball.
You play this game just like you would half-court basketball, with one important difference. Whenever their is a turnover, missed shot, or pass out of bounds, ALL players must sprint to either the midfield line, sideline, or end line before coming back in to join the play. The ball carrier always takes the ball to the midfield line, just like in a game. This game is great for conditioning your players to run hard.
This game will teach offensive players to work the ball quickly in numbers advantage opportunities, while the Defense will learn to recover quickly and communicate to stop the ball.
7. The State Championship Drill
Another Lax Classic, this drill teachers your players to respond to unpredictability and sudden turnovers in game situations.
Just as you would for a regular scrimmage, split your players up into two even teams with a goalie in each cage. This drill can be played on a shortened, half, or full field. Have your players substitute from the box as they would in real games.
Run this drill as you would any scrimmage. Every time play slows down, the coach should blow the whistle and throw a new ball out to a different part of the field. If you're ready to create a Fast Break or a full-field sprint, blow a double whistle and throw a ball to the other end of the field, or a group of players close to each other. Whoever has the old ball throws it out of bounds and everybody on both teams plays the new ball.
The great part about this drill is you can layer it onto any of the other practice games above and focus on anything during practice. Players will never know what to expect and they will have a ton of fun in the process!
However you run practice, camps, or clinics, it's always important keep a good balance between the fun and the practical.
If you have some great practice games of your own, we'd love to hear them!