Developing your Practices

Developing a range of practices to improve your squads is a constant need. Many coaches limit their delivery through not making full use of the practices they already know or altering practices from other coaches / sports that deliver the required outcomes. There are some fundamental areas that a coach needs to consider when developing practice.

  1. Setting out Your Practice

Many coaches use the word “drill” to identify what they are to deliver. A drill is something that is regimented with little or no coaching involved, which rarely addresses thinking or allow questioning. Coaches should use the term “practice” as this defines what we are overseeing. More consistent use of this term “we are going to practice x, y, z today”, which can then form a framework for questioning the participants as to why that is the practice plan to improve their game. The plan should have:

  • details of practices to achieve the outcome(s) of the session (or set of linked sessions)
  • coaching points per practice
  • question plan per practice
  • risk assessment of each practice
  • a link to the overall aim of the set of practices (the training pathway).


  1. Identify the Main Theme for Practice

Many coaches struggle to identify the main outcomes of a session, which therefore limits the coaches’ ability to work through the links that effective session planning requires. For example attack has underlying principles that form the basis of all practice:

  • Give and go
  • Draw and dump
  • Pass and pick opposite
  • Cut and fill
  • Isolation
  • Perimeter

These support the 4 key attack phases:

  • Phase 1 Fast Break
  • Phase 2 Slow Break
  • Phase 3 Unsettled Even Attack
  • Phase 4 Settled Attack

Some coaches forget that the best teams in the world merely do these basics very well, thus understanding the principles. These coaches tend to deliver an “X’s and O’s” session (pass here and run there), which rarely achieves understanding.

For example, selecting a 3v2 practice, develops fast break as well as draw and dump. Moving this to a simple 3v2 +1, allows the attack practice to build up and develop understanding of:

  • Fast break
  • Draw and dump
  • Basic perimeter (triangle shape)
  • Give and go
  • Isolation
  • Cut and fill
  • Pass and pick opposite

Each area may well need another layer of practice to breakdown the tactic, eg triangle attack using a pass and pick opposite to develop the 3v3 piece. A coach can then return to the 3v2 +1 to check understanding. This approach allows the coach address multiple areas of attack using one simple practice with a progression. The key is then applying effective questioning to ensure understanding has taken place:

  • Where / when do we use this?
  • What does this develop for our game?
  • What are the three things you take from this and apply to your game?

These areas and this approach is set out in EL Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Lacrosse.

  1. Select a Range of Practices that Support your Outcome

Make sure you think about what set of practices then deliver your outcome. The practice should take STEPS (EL Level 1 Coaching Award):

  • Specifics
  • Time
  • Equipment
  • Position
  • Speed

It should also be adapted to meet the needs of participants with a range of intensity. Building up intensity, also allows the coach to re-visit a practice, but using different intensity criteria (space, defensive pressure, etc).

Here is an example of working through how to develop a 2-2-2 attack, using two simple practices.

Isolation from Each Corner – 1v1 Box Practice

Here the practice is adapted to limit the isolation as it would in a game. Defenders are placed in each dodging zone and can double to the edge of their area. Attackers cannot go outside of their dodging zone. Begin at one corner, dodge and shot, re-set defence and move clockwise.


Dodge from a corner, if not generating an 80% shooting opportunity off the first move, roll out and feed next attacker, who then dodges immediately, continue until generating an 80% shooting opportunity. This begins to develop corner moves with ball retention.

Off Ball Work – Box 4 Practice

Attack work as pair on the inside to move the ball from one feeder to another, the set grid limits the lateral movement.


Have two feeders / receivers at each end in 2 different colours, each with a ball. Coach to hold up the colour of the feeder / receiver who gives and receives the ball.

These two practices can now be used as references for delivering a full settled attack practice to work on a 2-2-2 set up.


Many coaches will deliver a series of good practices without knowing what or why they should be doing them. So instead of asking “more drills”, perhaps begin by asking yourself:

  • What are my outcomes?
  • Which elements of attack / defence do I need to address to achieve those outcomes?
  • What set of practices achieve that?
  • What is the progression / breakdown of that set of practices?
  • Have I seen something that is good which I can use?

A trawl of the internet will reveal a host of practices, knowing and understanding how to utilise them is the key.