A Dynamic Warm-Up is a fundamental element of any physical activity, often beginning with a series of basic calisthenics (body weight activities) used to get the blood moving (break a sweat) and joints lubricated. In a training environment, this could entail a 20m: run forward/backpedal backward (twice), side shuffle with arm swings (both directions twice), tracking forward/backward (twice), carioca (both directions twice). For kids, it could be as simple as a modified multi-sport game. During practices and games, a general warm-up could also just be a basic drill done at 75% of max intensity.
In a sport specific context, any drill that keeps the players' feet and sticks moving continuously for 3-5 minutes, or until players “break a sweat,” is a great prelude to the dynamic stretches (or foam rolling) that should generally follow. Below are some of the common drills used not only as a tool for warming-up, but also for coaches who are new to a group and trying to assess the overall level of stick skills.
The next most tried, tested and true method for warming up the sticks of beginners, also providing lots of reps in a short amount of time, is doing “shuttles.”
The most basic shuttle is a loose ball line shuttle. With two lines starting across from each other (approximately 15 metres apart), the first player at the front of the line “attacks” a stationary loose ball in the middle. This player “traps & scoops” the ball, then puts it back on the ground for the first player in the opposite line from them and runs to the back of that opposite line. There is a certain element of cardio/fatigue with the extra running involved and that is where shuttles are useful as a general warm-up.
The next progression is very similar except this time the first player in one line rolls a ball to the first player in the opposite line and then runs to the back of that line. The player at the front of the opposite line “attacks” the loose ball, and continues the cycle (see diagram above). There are many variations of a line shuttle and it can be used for loose balls, passing, or both. If more than one shuttle grouping is being used because of lots of players, competition between the different shuttle groups in terms of how many successful catches they make in a row, for example, can be a great motivator and lots of fun!
Board shuttles bring a trickier ball bounce to the equation, whereas the last drill had a stationary ball placement which progressed to rolling the ball along the ground. Now, players are asked to pass the ball against the boards, with the next player in line corralling the rebound and doing the same for the player behind them. Players will ultimately see a much more diverse array of loose balls, with the most basic teaching point being “get your body in front of it.” That way, at least if the player misses the ball it could hit their body, which often gives the player a second opportunity at it. Coaches should always have at least 3 balls on hand, that way if a player misses one, they can toss another ball in quickly, so as to not interrupt the flow of the drill.
In three player shuttles, players are arranged into groups of 3, in a straight line, with the outside players approximately 15-20 metres apart and a third player in the middle. The player in the middle switches every 30 seconds at the sound of the coaches whistle and each player gets two turns in the middle with each variation of the shuttle.
The most basic variation is the “reaction pass” (Variation #1) where both outside players have balls and the player in the middle is facing one of the two outside players. The player in the middle switches back and forth with who they are looking at, catching a pass and then passing it back to the same person, before eventually turning and receiving another pass.
In Variation #2, the player in the middle starts closer to one outside player than another, facing the player they are furthest away from. The player in the middle passes the ball to this person and continues running forward until they receive the pass back. As they receive the pass back they either turn into the ball (Variation #2A), or turn away from the ball (Variation #2B). As a reference point, "turning into the ball" would see the player turn in toward the midline of their body with their top-hand shoulder, whereas "turning away from the ball" would be turning away from the players' mid-line. The player in the middle continues back and forth, switching patterns each time through the drill.
The “Traffic Shuttle” fundamentally requires more players than drills #1 to #3, which can be done with as little as 2 and 4 players, respectively. This drill would require at least 8 players. Spatial awareness is a big part of being able to successfully corral loose balls, pass and catch in a game situation, and this drill is a great progression for players as they now have to execute loose ball, passing and catching skills ("stickwork") in a more dynamic environment. The most important lesson here is for players to keep their “head on a swivel” as much as possible, before and after receiving the ball. This drill can also be made into a relay race, where coaches track successful passes or cycles through the shuttle without a dropped ball. The team with the most at the end is the winner.
The bottom line is that doing basic lacrosse drills that get the blood going is a lot more fun for kids than just running laps, cone drills, or whatever you may be doing as a general warm-up for your practice (likely for too long and/or with not enough continuous cardio). The less players in each shuttle, the more cardio effect to be had, and the higher likelihood of players dropping balls in the drill. If you are coaching young beginners, you may never even get past loose ball shuttles, but at least you can still progress with some of the different shuttle variations listed above, with further variations available to subscribers.
For more intermediate and advanced shuttle variations, visit the warm-up section of the laxlife.ca website.