Glossary - Game Play (See Skill Analysis)
Field lacrosse is a discipline (style) of lacrosse, played on an open field with painted on side and end lines, with unique rules for both the men's and the women's game. Women's field lacrosse is played with 12 players per side, whereas men's lacrosse is played with 10. Field lacrosse is best described as a game of patience and ball control, similar to soccer.
Usually there is some sort of "try-outs" hosted to determine player skill level and to pick the team (depending on the number of players interested in playing).
Players are usually also further divided by calibre into either “A,” “B,” and “C” level, which are designations also somewhat representative of the amount of players in a particular lacrosse association.
Certain special players are competent enough to play Junior “A” starting from the age of 16, but many more have to battle their way through Junior “B” for a few years, before finally making it to the top level (Junior “A”). Junior “B” or Intermediate “A” players are at times called up by Junior “A” teams; and likewise exceptional Junior “A” or “B” players may also be “called up” by Senior teams, when numbers are low (graduations, weddings etc.) and often during the playoffs (because of injuries, for experience etc.).
Teams will generally play a few “exhibition” games before the regular season begins, usually after a series of pre-season practices (“training camp”). The regular season is usually between 16-20 games, with the results/standings/rankings effecting which teams will “play-off” for the “League” or “Association” Championship.
Playoffs are usually round-robin format in “Minor” lacrosse, with teams that advance to the “finals” playing a single elimination format to determine a champion (quarter finals, semi-finals, and then championship final). In Junior & Senior lacrosse playoffs, teams usually play a series of 3 games minimum or 7 games maximum. Teams can end up playing upwards of another 20 games in the playoffs. Tournaments are usually played in a similar but condensed format, similar to “Minor” lacrosse league play.
The provincial governing bodies usually have some slight variations within the rules of the game, but when teams compete for National Championships they must abide by the CLA rules and regulations. On the opposite end of the spectrum are home (“house”) centres, which usually operate their own local league, under the provincial/zone guidelines.
“Goalie” (net-minder) equipment is usually provided by the hometown Association as a means to encourage kids to play goalie (which can get expensive); there should be at least 6 sets of goalie equipment within a home association (built into registration fees), 2 small (Size 1), 2 medium (Size 2) and 2 large (Size 3). Goalies too, have rules pertaining to equipment standards (see goalie equipment), which may result in an illegal equipment penalty if not adhered to.
At the beginning of the season all pads should be adjusted to match the size of the “player” (“runner”) and to ensure all vulnerable areas are covered. Pads and helmets that are too small or too large will interfere with movement or result in injuries. Always ensure that the force-absorbing materials in the arm pads haven’t broken down. If extra protection is necessary, tape on contoured plastic (“fibres”) to reinforce the equipment or problem areas.
Players are permitted to wear extra padding in practice if coaches are emphasizing full contact, otherwise to protect against injuries. Throughout the season equipment should be maintained and also adjusted for size if a player grows. Pads should be hung up to dry after each use and cleaned with soap and water before storing (also periodically throughout the season).
Helmets should be regularly checked to make sure they are a good fit and that there are no loose screws, worn down padding or cracks. Straps must be fastened at all times to securely hold the helmet and mask in place. Players must remove themselves from the play if their straps get knocked loose; otherwise it is an “illegal equipment” penalty.
Some players also cut out the palms and poke holes in the fingers out of their gloves to improve the feel for the stick. If that is the preference, be sure to leave enough of the palm in place to hold the glove together and to keep it on the hand. Fingertips should be left in so the glove will still bend with the hand as the fingers curl around the handle of the stick.
Gloves that do not cover and protect the hands will be removed from play by the referee if spotted (otherwise an illegal equipment penalty may be called by the opposing team). In terms of proper "fitting," a player’s fingers should not be touching the ends of the finger slots, nor be more than 1 inch away.
Hockey shoulder pads can also be used, especially with small children who only require shoulder pads, “elbow pads” and “gloves,” because their arms are so short that all three pads overlap each other.
Elbow pads should be worn snug against the arm should be taped on securely at the fastening points.
During the pre-season as well, coaches may choose to run the first couple of practices in helmets & gloves only, for goalies this means everything except their “leg pads” and “chest protector/arm pads” (see goalie equipment).
If referees are unable to determine who the ball touched last before it went out of bounds, the result is a “face-off.”
Usually there is at least one, preferably two, volunteers ("time keepers") available to operate the game clock and shot clock, as well as fill out the game sheet.
Most Leagues also play with an “intermission” in between periods etc., usually between two and ten minutes. “Minor” lacrosse games usually have shorter periods, often 3 fifteen minute periods.
In extreme cases, games can be called off by the referee before the end of regulation time, but this is very rare (leaks in arena roofs, severely injured players, etc.).
Professional lacrosse plays sudden victory during overtime. Junior and Senior lacrosse doesn’t play sudden-victory overtime, instead playing a full ten-minute extra time "period" (i.e. game can still finish 11-8 in overtime, for example). In the playoffs, after the first non sudden victory overtime, the second overtime period becomes sudden victory.
As the width of the net increases in the different levels of lacrosse, often so too will the coaching strategy for playing both offense and defense among the different age groups. With less net to shoot at on a smaller net (or on a bigger goalie), it becomes much more important to get the goalie moving east-west in order to score; this means getting to “the middle” of the floor and moving across the front of the net (using body and stick “fakes”), as opposed to “set-shooting.” Defensively, keeping the opposing team out of the middle thus becomes the most important component, as well as “staying tight,” standing in “shooting lanes,” and generally clogging up the middle, as a unit. This can at times mean more “screen shots” for the goalie, but if defensive players are in proper positioning, with their “hips facing the boards,” and “denying” “top-side,” goalies should become accustomed to making these sorts of routine saves.
On the bigger nets a tighter coverage and “closing the gap” on shooters becomes one of the most, if not the most, important aspect of good defense. Open shooting lanes from the outside are much more susceptible to going in on the bigger nets. Moreover, in the professional leagues, because the crease rule allows players to dive through, a general team rule for defense is not to “get beat” “underneath” towards the “goal-line,” in order to prevent this play. Teams will generally score between 5 and 15 goals per game (per team), depending on the size of the nets and quality of the defense/Goaltending.
Some arenas also have an end line which is used for icing in hockey, but is also a good warning line or landmark (GLE). Usually the end line starts where the side-boards meets the end-boards in both corners, along the “goal-line.”
Without the ball, the offensive player should avoid going through the crease for 2 reasons: firstly, if there is a goal and the offensive player is in the crease the goal will be disallowed (unless they are pushed in there by a defender); second, if they run through the crease to check a defender who has the ball, it is a penalty (called “checking through the crease”). Otherwise, if the play is unaffected by an offensive player in the crease, no call should be made.
Defensively, players are free to run through their own crease without the ball, but with the ball they cannot (this is called “back-in” and is a loss of possession). The goalie is the only player who can bring the ball from outside of the crease back-in (ages “tyke” and under are allowed one “back in” per possession); however, they need to have at least one foot still inside of the crease in order to do so.
If the goalie has the ball in their crease and an opponent checks their stick, this is another penalty called “checking in the crease.” Once the goalie (or a defensive player) has possession in the crease they have “5 seconds” (rule) to move the ball out of the crease, otherwise it is a loss of possession. If the goalie cannot find an outlet to pass to and the referee is almost done counting five seconds, they should step outside of the crease behind the net and use the net as a shield in order to generate a few extra seconds instead of turning the ball over (opponents must run around the crease). These crease rules become particularly important during "Ball Back" situations.
These lines also turn into “rag lines” during “short-handed” situations. Once the ball crosses over the rag line and into the “offensive zone” the ball cannot cross “back-over” the line, or that team loses possession of the ball. Having said that, if the other team (on defense) knocks it back-over, a shot hits the post and goes over, or the ball bounces over the line as a result of incidental contact (not deliberate), play resumes as normal.
There are also two width-wise lines called the restraining lines, which run parallel along the top and bottom of the face-off circle. If a player crosses a “restraining line” before the ball has left the face-off dot, possession should also be awarded to the opposing team.
When playing inside of a gymnasium, such as during a Phys. Ed. lesson indoors, tennis balls or high-density foam (lightweight) balls should generally be used; tennis balls being renowned for their ability to help teach “soft hands.”
Older balls tend to be a little bit more slippery than new balls, which means passes and shots tend to come out of the stick consistently higher than normal. New balls are truer in the way they spin and the way they hold on the “shooting strings” of the stick; current technology allows them to get resurfaced (www.hedgehoglacrosse.com).
Each head has a custom “pocket” created by pulling and knotting "strings" in preferential ways. As well, most players use different patterns of hockey tape on their shaft; also creating a unique knob (taped handle) at the “butt-end.” Generally the minimum stick length is 40” with a maximum of 46” (42” in professional lacrosse), except for 12U, which has a minimum stick length of 34”.
The shaft should be selected based on weight and shape, with a players position often determining which shaft is most appropriate (as well as the appropriate length). Often offensive players will use a shorter stick so it doesn’t “hang out,” making it easier for defenders to “strip” the ball away. It is also easier to throw stick fakes with a shorter stick. A longer stick will create a longer “moment arm,” allowing for a harder shot; but it is also harder to manoeuvre (i.e. on stick fakes, and in general). Defenders will sometimes use a longer stick, as it allows them more surface area to control their check, as well as longer reach for stick checks, and for picking-off passes (“forced turnovers”). If a player drops their stick during play they can still play defense using their hands and feet, push-checking without “holding” while also using good “footwork.”
Players will choose sticks according to "feel" and performance relative to what they are currently using. Although there are relatively few "traditional" one-piece wooden sticks ("woody") being used in lacrosse today, some players still use them by personal preference or because the stick was handed down from a previous generation. Players are not allowed to switch between a wood stick and synthetic stick once the game has started.
Players are subject to a minor penalty on a stick “check” (must be requested by a team “captain”) or a loss of possession on a face-off, if the ball doesn’t come out of or gets stuck in a stick (minimum width is 4.5”, maximum is 8”). Most sticks will naturally pinch (with changes in temperature etc.) over time and only a slight pinch is necessary, if at all; too much pinch can render a stick useless.
Stick “checks” can also be called on goalies, whose sticks are not allowed to be wider than 15 inches (measured across the inside frame of the stick). Any player whose stick is “called” and deemed illegal, shall have that stick removed from play for the remainder of the game by the referee. “Illegal equipment” penalties for both "runners" and "goalies" (under Canadian Lacrosse Association guidelines) are much more severe, with “game misconduct” penalties handed out alongside a 2-minute minor.
The “top string” that runs across the top of the stick and attaches to the top of the mesh (after being folded over once or twice and tied as tight as possible) is the first order of business before any sidewall variations can be implemented. The top few sidewall diamonds should also be tied tight to the stick head with a gradual release in tightness towards the bottom. The “bottom string” attaches near the “throat” and allows for subtle adjustments in the depth of the pocket.
It is harder (takes longer) for the ball to come out of a deep pocket, and it comes quicker out of a shallower pocket. “Shooting strings” must also be added across the top of the stick, adjusted evenly from side to side (tightness), giving the stick a gradual release in tightness from the “top” down and thereby determining the amount of “hook” on a particular stick.
Shooting strings or "hook guards" are skate/shoe laces, or side wall string (nylon), that is woven across the top part of the stick to prevent excessive hooking and/or to allow for the smooth release of the ball. These strings run either straight across the width of the stick, or in the shape of a “V” that guides the ball to the release point; sometimes a row of diamonds is skipped in between, and sometimes not. The number and location of the strings are determined by the pocket depth, shape and location (high, middle or low), all of which are individual player preferences. To install a shooting string, thread the lace width wise (flat) through the mesh (diamonds), crisscrossing (interlacing) from sidewall to sidewall (across the pocket) in an evenly balanced pattern. Another method is to put the top half of the lace flat across the pocket and use the rest of the lace to weave under and around the top lace (across the diamonds) from one side to the other.
Ultimately, an adequate depth of pocket and tension on shooting strings is required so that the ball does not move all over the place in the stick while cradling, and still releases with accuracy; usually a medium depth is best (i.e. the depth of the ball below the sidewall). Players will subconsciously adjust as their pocket gets deeper with moisture and general stretch, and will be unaware that they are adjusting their throwing technique to accommodate the change. Symptoms are a loss of accuracy, power and “hooking” the ball when attempting hard passes or shots. Eventually the depth of the pocket, although excellent for “protecting the ball,” begins to affect the throwing and shooting accuracy and will have to be tightened (“tweaked”).
All synthetic or leather materials tend to dry out, so stick heads should be wrapped in a plastic bag and tied near the “throat” when stored. Store the sticks at game temperatures, otherwise they are liable to dry out, “pinch,” break, and/or throw inconsistently the next time they are used. If synthetic materials (mesh/strings) are noticeably dry prior to practices or games, players will sometimes dampen them with water or they can be loosened, in order to “bag them out.” Passing and catching activities then become the ultimate determining factor as to whether the stick is suitable for use in practice, and later in games.
If the ball falls out of the stick when cradling the pocket is probably too shallow. If shots/passes are too low the pocket is probably too deep. If the ball is "pulling" too far left or right the shooting strings may need to be loosened or the pocket re-shaped (along the side-walls).
Stick tricks should not be used in a game/practice unless they can be performed with accuracy 90% of the time, otherwise players will be letting down their teammates, embarrassing themselves, and perhaps causing coaches to consider “benching” them, if such action becomes problematic. However, “trick shots” such as BTB’s and “around the worlds” do have their place, if the time is right (see angles).
All players/persons should be held “accountable” to the person(s) ahead of them in the hierarchy. Managers manage, coaches coach, trainers train and players play. If this hierarchy is broken (especially consistently) there should be some sort of repercussions. These repercussions can be discussed by superiors at the appropriate time or done immediately on the spot by the head coach (if in regards to the actions of players during the game/practice).
There are usually two or more assistant coaches, with at least one defensive coach and one offensive coach, but if there are only two coaches total on the team they also might choose to designate themselves as co-head coaches, with each taking responsibility of either the offense or the defense (three is ideal).
Managers are most often in charge of player recruitment and transactions, policies and procedures related to team operations, and the hiring of coaches. Head coaches decide team philosophies, “principles” and strategies, in conjunction with assistant coaches.
Players’ input is certainly valuable and important in terms game strategy, and dialogue should be encouraged prior to, during and after games/practices. There are certain coaches that value the input of players more than others, with one extreme being a “player’s coach” (high value on communication with players) and the other being “military style” (low value on communication with players). Generally, military style works best with kids and player’s coach’s works best with adults. That said, authority of the coach should not be undermined and players that continually undermine the coaches authority should be “benched,” accordingly.
Coaches need to demonstrate and establish "discipline" among the team and themselves. They need to be the greatest of leaders, able to practice as they preach, follow through with execution (able to draw up a set-play or make an adjustment that essentially scores or saves a few goals from “the bench”). Coaches need to be proactive, “timely,” decisive and ultimately respected as an authority figure among the players/managers.
Trainers (accredited) should be respected as coaches and could be any one of the following: Strength & Conditioning Coaches, Athletic Therapists/Trainers, Doctors/Physio-Therapists/Chiropractors. If these sorts of resources are available ideally these professionals would be able to supply the coach/manager with an injury report after every game. Most commonly, if teams are lucky (“Minor” lacrosse), they have both a team trainer (trained in First Aid & CPR) and/or equipment manager.
Practices should get more and more technical as fundamental skill development progresses. As well, the practice plan should also reflect trying to improve and make adjustments surrounding areas of difficulty displayed in previous games/practices.
Players should practice like they play, full-speed, and focused. It is natural for players to have fun and joke around, which is acceptable if done at the appropriate times. In between “drills,” or when players are at the back of a line, would be pertinent examples of a good time, but when near the front of a line or when a coach is talking, players should be focused and attentive.
Drills usually last between 5-10 minutes (if no other variations are used) once set-up, and water breaks should be awarded every two drills (15-20 minutes). Practices usually range between 1-2 hours in length depending on age, available facilities, and volume of play during a given week.
A basic practice plan format should start with a general warm-up, a sport-specific dynamic warm-up, and then a series of drills that ideally incorporate a balance of different skills; with talks of no more than 2-3 minutes during demonstrations.
Conditioning Drills should be done at the end of practice and ideally are sport specific drills (rather than sprinting in straight lines), with general work:rest intervals of 1:2 (100% effort).
Finish or begin (or both) with a team huddle. It is of our opinion that players/teams should formally practice/play lacrosse no more that 3-4 times per week; players should be doing sport-specific power training, one and sometimes two times per week while In-Season.
If trick shots are to be practiced, wall ball is the best time to do so, whereas during formal practice they should be discouraged by the coach unless the player can execute the skill nine times out of ten.
It takes some serious scouting to seek out the perfect location for wall ball, but some considerations include: a flat (smooth) playing surface/wall, an absence of windows or other objects that could be damaged, a low volume of traffic (cars and human), a close proximity to where you live (easy access), a short backdrop (so errant balls don’t end up miles away – a fence is ideal) and/or a clear backdrop (no bushes or water where you could potentially lose your ball).
It is important that children develop an understanding of the relationship of their bodies to objects (boards, nets) and other people (dynamic – always changing). They must have an awareness of both general and self-space, in order to avoid collisions and stay safe on the lacrosse floor. Drills should progress from simple to complex (e.g. static to dynamic; “walk before you run”), with frequent re-hash on skill development from lessons past, especially when introducing a new drill. The question “why are we doing this?” should always be answerable.
Introduce more complex drills as players become familiar with the present one, allowing players enough time to become confident in the one skill or motor pattern before introducing the next (a teaching strategy known as "scaffolding").
The golden rule of any coach should be that players keep it simple (fundamental) unless they can execute a certain manoeuvre successfully at least 90% of the time (during practice and games). Even professional lacrosse players still rely on the fundamentals (i.e. not playing outside of their role), instead, making the smart and safe play; valuing possession of the ball. Certain fundamentals also lie outside of actually manipulating the stick itself, skills like effort and communication.
Introduce the next drill as players become familiar with the present drill, giving players enough time to become confident in the skill or motor pattern before introducing the next one (a teaching strategy known as “scaffolding”). Start slow so that players can learn the “flow” of a drill and then repeat it with more speed (also known as doing a "walk through"). Coaches have the option of doing demonstrations themselves, or they can hone in on a player who they see doing a skill well and ask them to demonstrate for the group (which helps foster further confidence).
Challenge players informally during drills to self-analyze after drill reps, assessing their own movement and also that of peers (What was good? What needs improvement?). When introducing new skills in physical education it is common practice to use what is known as the “whole-part-whole” technique.
Coaches should begin by demonstrating (possibly showing video) or explaining the complete skill or system (perhaps having the players try it), then breaking the skill into its component parts ("chunking") and demonstrating each as they become relevant. Each of the component parts, or several parts, should later be drilled in combination and eventually the entire skill/system gets put back together as a complete entity, like the initial demonstration.
Drills should progress from simple to complex (e.g. static to dynamic, “walk before you run”), with frequent “re-hash” (reminders) on skill development from lessons past, especially when introducing a new drill. A skill application game or activity in which the skill can be showcased should be established last, as something fun that the kids can work towards.
Scrimmages can be played with the exact same rules of a regular game or certain rules/parameters can be instituted ("small-sided games") to give focus to a particular skill (i.e. “10 second rule” in effect regardless of whether there is a power-play, therefore emphasizing transition). Coaches will usually referee a “controlled scrimmage” whereby they can also whistle down the play at any time to make a point and to have players adjust their bad habits.
Captains are usually seasoned “veteran” players who are highly respected among their coaches and teammates, able to talk to referees in a rational and productive manner. In that sense, it helps if they are “everyday” players in the line-up, able to lead-by-example (although outstanding “rookies” can also be good leaders). Team captains should epitomize the style and reputation of the team. A player who scores lots of goals and receives lots of accolades, is not necessarily the best candidate for a captaincy. Some people would argue, but it is the players that consistently “work hard,” or make the most sacrifices for the team, that are best suited to keep players in check and be team leaders.
Assistant captains are the only other players other than the Captain allowed to talk to referees during the game, and they too should be highly respected and possess strong character. Some will lead on the floor and some will lead off the floor, some are vocal and some are quiet; others may have the uncanny ability to “spark” the team and generate momentum.
Together the Captains need to help manage the players, beginning with the primary responsibility of making sure “warm-ups” are commencing on-time, properly and at a good pace.
At the younger ages, each player should be given an opportunity as a Captain so that they will later understand and be able to carry out the captain’s duties, if called upon. New players to a team are generally referred to as “rookies” or if they are playing underage "call-ups;" whereas more experience players are considered “veterans” (or "vets"). These name tags also translate into Junior, Senior and Pro lacrosse as well, where first year players are still considered rookies.
There is a long standing tradition of rookie humility in lacrosse, and where at all possible rookies should be as humble and thoughtful as possible to their veteran counterparts, otherwise risk being ostracized by the team (which is usually not a problem unless self-imposed). There are two types of rookies: good rookies and bad rookies.
Teammates should encourage each other as much as possible to create a positive “vibe,” both on and off the floor. Teammates should not get upset or negative towards another teammate that “gets beat” defensively during a game, and conversely if an offensive teammate takes a “bad shot” or has a turnover. It is the coach’s job to manage players and if one teammate is putting down another teammate they are equally in need of being held "accountable."
During the formal warm-up, more shooting drills are usually done in the beginning, with initial emphasis being placed on warming up the goalie. Teams should be careful not to expose the “starting” goalies weaknesses and should only shoot to score against the “back-up goalie.” A few transition drills usually follow to compliment, allowing everyone the chance to practice and get a feel for passing and “shooting-on-the-run,” also under pressure. To finish, teams will usually take the time to practice with the “starting” “power-play” vs. "short-handed," and then 5-on-5 “even strength” Team Offense vs. Team Defense.
What a team chooses to show in terms of “set-plays” should also be considered, as the opposing teams coaches are usually paying close attention to the opponents warm-up (body language says a lot), gathering as much information about the opponent as possible (outside of “scouting” already done prior to competition).
In the CLA (Canadian Lacrosse Association) teams are allowed to dress 18 runners and 2 goalies. Coaches should keep a line-up sheet with them while on the bench during games and can write on the back the nature of goals for and against, as well as any problems or adjustments they would like to talk about in between "periods" or at next practice. Some coaches also use line-up sheets for practices, which tends to be helpful for organization purposes (also pinny colours).
Sometimes players need to be made an example of and egos need to be put in check (the bench needs to be “cleaned up”). Having said that, the atmosphere on the bench of any successful team should, for the most part, always be positive (5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction is considered healthy). Positive reinforcement is far more important than negative reinforcement, and should be utilized as much as possible by coaching staff and the players of a team (team “captains” are one exception).
Respect and "trust" are established when players understand their "roles" and do what is expected of them. Some players need to be “challenged” in a certain way (in order to respond positively) and others need to be challenged differently, in order for certain ideals to be met.
Historically, “offensive specialists” are the hardest to challenge, as the nature of the position is full of pressure and expectation. Coaches must get creative and time their actions appropriately when sitting or challenging players, or their efforts might end up hurting the morale of the team instead of improving the team’s performance.
If teams are supposed to be at even strength, but a team has an extra player on the floor: on offense it results in a loss of possession; on defense it is a penalty for an "illegal substitution." In the last 2 minutes of a game having "too many players" on defense results in a “penalty shot.”
Generally speaking, some refs call things tighter than others; our advice is to try to talk to the referee (establish dialogue) before the game and get a feel for how they are going to call the game. Arguing every call and calls that were in fact correct, will only create a grudge and compromise your credibility when trying to get a “call” at a later time.
Coaches and captains are the only people that should talk to the ref, with all other players/staff held accountable if they take an “unsportsmanlike” penalty. Players should be instructed to play with controlled aggression from the outset of the game, adjusting to the calls of the referee’s as the game progresses (discipline).
Good referees will understand precedents they’ve set by making one call versus another, which is usually the best approach when talking to “refs.” In the end, the rule book usually takes 2nd place to referee consistency, especially when amateur refs find themselves unsure of a certain call.
By the time the ball is transitioned from the defensive zone to the offensive zone there is usually between 16 and 20 seconds left in the “shot clock.”
If the shot clock is running down on a team that is on offense and no “high percentage” shot presents itself, it’s usually best that they just throw the ball into the corner and line change as fast as possible.
If the offense of a team gets a loose ball after a shot, also known as a “multiple re-set” scenario, this is usually a good time for that team to make a line change to get fresh players on offense and play against what is now a tired defense. The offense should then try to make full use of the 30 seconds on the clock, allowing their own team’s defense further time to rest (generating momentum) and use the ball movement and motion to exhaust opposing defenders.
Be aware of: time on the "shot clock, "time in the period/quarter/half/game, time in a penalty, “delayed penalties,” and "pulled" goalies. On a more global scale, players must understand their roles and also the defensive, transition and offensive systems being played at any particular time during game/season.
The rest of the players on each team must stand outside of the restraining lines (usually a balanced number on both sides) where players are free to move until the whistle is blown (or until the ref instructs them to stop), and the ball leaves the face-off dot. Most coaches will study where the ball is going on the first few face-offs and then make adjustments accordingly.
Good face-off-takers will keep their eyes up while facing-off, keeping an eye on the referee while trying to get a sense for the “timing” of their cadence.
Once the whistle blows, face-off-takers often keep their stick low to the ground and explode their arms/legs forward in a powerful (punching) motion, followed by a quick pulling motion, as well as use other intuitive stick manoeuvres.
All players on the loose ball team should be in the “athletic position,” eyeing the face-off-dot for when they are able to cross the restraining (rag) lines and pursue the ball.
Whatever the situation may be, players need to be 100% committed to doing whatever it takes to get possession of the ball, especially in clutch situations. Players on the loose ball team need to communicate with each other constantly, using their feet, body checking and setting picks for each other; “outlet” passes can also be just as important as picking up the ball itself. Sacrificing one’s body to “keep the ball alive” is expected in vicious “scrums” that can sometimes last for upwards of 30 seconds.
If a player continually cheats and doesn’t listen to the “refs” instructions, they are at risk of taking a “delay of game” penalty. Whether the ball goes out of bounds, minor interference is awarded, a player pushes-off, there is a dead ball and especially in “Ball Back” situations, the 9-foot rule is usually strictly enforced.
These calls are made at the discretion of the referee and may be called tight or loose depending on the flow of the game and/or their interpretation of the rules. The NLL is slightly different, allowing full shoulder-to shoulder contact anywhere within a 9-foot radius of the ball, similar to men’s field lacrosse.
Players need to give their best effort while staying mentally focused on every shift, although this can be challenging if they are forced to “double shift.” A lack of overall number of players on the bench (for any reason), multiple turnovers, consecutive fast-breaks and poor shot-selection, are all instances where players may be forced to “double shift;” playing a shift when they are not necessarily adequately rested.
In essence, it is too late for a player to get significantly faster or stronger mid-way through the season, in contending with all of the physical wear and tear on the body. The trick here, for coaches, is to recognize (scout) the tendencies of certain players, those who may be susceptible to these sorts of inconsistencies. Nobody is perfect, but at least if coaches are aware of the problem, they can get players to “work harder” in the "off-season," for example; or “train” with more focus while "in-season."
Coaches need to know how to get the best out of their players by training them smart, before training them hard, per se. “Conditioning” drills should be implemented in ways that are specific to the sport of box acrosse (i.e. 1:2 work/rest, 25 second median shift length in the Offense-Defense System), otherwise based on references from team trainers and/or certified “strength & conditioning coaches.” Furthermore, “strength coaches” should train players in a position-specific fashion; whether players identify as defensive specialists, transition specialists, offensive specialists or Goaltenders. For the most part, all three “runner” positions are very similar in nature; whereas a goalie’s fitness program should be almost entirely different.
Goalie’s play for the entire 60 minutes during a game and need more of an “endurance” component (which effects mental focus and one’s ability to stay “ready”), as opposed to player positions that are more intermittent (sprint-oriented) in nature. Goalies need to be extremely flexible as well as having exceptional reactionary ability, and their strength and conditioning programs should reflect this (flexibility + reaction = agility). Goalies need “conditioning” just as much as players do, and alongside good stamina they still need to make the odd sprint to the bench during a delayed penalty or when pulling the goalie late in the game. It is good practice for coaches to have goalies sprint to the boards and back periodically during practice, or otherwise have them switch ends with the back-up goalie. Moreover, if the team is running interval sprints at the end of practice (particularly if the practice didn’t involve a big fitness component), goalies should participate wearing “lights.”
To “utilize the bench,” the first player at the “offensive door” should be on their “proper floor side” and usually is a premiere goal scorer (See “Standard Breakout”), in case of a “breakaway” scenario. The next two players coming onto the floor should be opposite-handed relative to the first player, running across the floor as outlets for the transitioning defenders, while also getting into positions that take proportionately longer to get to. In regards to “bench order” at the “defensive door,” the first two players should be players with good speed in order to catch opponents running on a fast-break or otherwise to "pressure up."
All players on the bench should be aware of the game situation, in case they are all of the sudden “subbed” into the game (see Delay). Good communication and take-charge type of players are essential while on the bench, and more importantly on the floor, especially in understanding how to eliminate “bench assists.”
The general team rule for line changes is that if you are going to leave the team out of position (i.e. potentially give up a fast-break), don’t change.
Usually one of the bigger offensive players will start the offensive-set in the middle, setting inside-out picks or posting-up. If the post-up entry pass is not available by the time the ball is swung over from the weak-side, the middle player should attempt to set an up-pick; and then a down-pick if the up-pick is unsuccessful (re-picking).
Some set-plays are also initiated by the middle player sealing their check down/up and opening up a passing/cutting lane.
Generally players will start the offensive-set at the crease and shooter positions, respectively, running a variety of cycles, picks/seals & rolls/pops. The most common action on the weak-side is to attempt to play two-man game once the ball is swung over from the strong-side.
If penalties are “coincidental,” each team is given the same amount of penalty time arising from the same incident. For “10-minute misconducts,” penalties are usually accompanied by a 2-minute unsportsmanlike or delay of game penalty, but if not, players must still sit for the entire duration of the penalty. The 10-minute misconduct itself doesn’t actually leave a team short-handed or at a numerical disadvantage, instead it removes the individual player assessed the penalty for an extended period of time while both teams play at “even strength.” For 10 minute misconducts and major penalties, players involved must sit for their entire penalty, and cannot leave the penalty box until a “dead ball.” “Game misconducts” are also a possibility if players continue to rant after given a 10-minute misconduct penalty. “Gross” and “Match” penalties are the most extreme form of penalties, usually accompanied by multiple game suspensions.
Some penalties can be considered “good penalties” from a player/coach point of view, particularly if: they are hard-working penalties, involve “protecting the goalie,” are related to “team toughness,” are “coincidental” penalties when one’s own team is already on the power-play (thus creating a 4-on-3), or in the last couple of seconds of a game defending against a 6-on-5, as a few pertinent examples.
Referees will usually be more lenient when it comes to offensive players “giving it back” to defenders, as these players are taking physical abuse all game and rarely get the opportunity to "give it back" if playing in the Offense-Defense System.
Another good trade is when a team is already on a power-play and the other team tries to “mix it up” in any way. Taking a coincidental penalty at this time turns a 5-on-4 advantage into a 4-on-3 advantage, which significantly increases the likelihood of scoring.
Trades are also discussed in reference to when competing teams exchange players or draft picks (see “call-ups”), but these sorts of transactions don’t usually start happening until the Junior and Senior levels of lacrosse.
Most teams will also pull the goalie if there is a “delayed penalty” against the opposing team because there is no real threat of them scoring on the empty net, as the play is to be whistled dead as soon as they obtain possession of the ball.
If a team is already on the power-play and a second penalty is later called against the short-handed team, instead of pulling the goalie, the team on the power-play should shoot the ball as quickly as possible (“green”) in order to play 5-on-3 for as long as possible.
Players on defense can cross-check/push-check a player at any time in the defensive zone, with or without the ball, as long as offensive players are “engaged.” Aggressive “checks from behind” will also be called penalties, especially when close to the boards. If an offensive player willingly exposes their back in the open-floor however, a check from behind is rarely called by the referee.
“Controlled slashing” is often an ambiguous term used to define a legal slash and might be called more or less strictly depending on the referee and the game tone (flow) set by the players on the floor. Generally, if the slash is done without a big wind-up (tomahawk action) and/or hits an opponent’s stick or arm, it should be legal. To be safe, the slashing action should start no more than 6” from the player and it should be an honest attempt at dislodging the ball (designated as anywhere on the gloves or stick). Sometimes upwards of 18” slashes may be allowed by the referee, if deemed in control and making contact with the gloves/stick. Coaches should get a good read on the referee and have players adapt accordingly. To be safe, "cross check down and slash short."
Defenders seem to get a certain amount of leeway based on the referee’s discretion, usually with a half-second allowed when offenders try to create separation when attempting to execute a “pick & roll” on offense.
Defenders will ideally use proactive footwork to avoid any chance of a penalty, but usually a certain degree of turning & clamping, “hooking” and “holding” is permitted.
Other types of unsportsmanlike penalties include: attempting to “draw a penalty,” failing to proceed directly to the penalty box, inciting an opponent into a penalty, disputing rulings of referees, throwing objects onto the floor, invading another team’s huddle, and spitting.
A “gross misconduct” is the most extreme form of an unsportsmanlike penalty, usually accompanied by multiple game suspensions.
When a 4-on-3 situation arises, offensive players generally set-up in a square formation (offensive version of the "box"), occupying the two shooter and crease positions.
A 5-on-3 power-play is traditionally still sets up in a "box" offensive formation (4-on-3), with the 5th player standing near centre-floor acting as a "rover" on any loose balls, or opportunities the defense may have to breakout. Double-teaming the ball after losing it ensures the deadly 4-on-3 time gets maximized.
A 5-on-4 power-play should strive to score 50%; whereas a 4-on-3 power-play is expected to score 75% of the time; both percentages can be skewed by actual power-play lengths (see coincidental penalties).
A time out is only granted if requested by a player on the floor during play, when his/her team has possession of the ball, or during a stoppage in play. If a team was in possession, or being awarded possession of the ball when time out was called, that team retains possession to restart the play. In all other cases, play restarts with a face-off.
When a time out is called with play in progress, neither the 10-second count nor the 30-second shot clock will re-set when play restarts.
Strategies and tactics are utilized on a team-to-team basis; some used more regularly than others, but all Systems should be refined (during practice) and ready for implementation, if necessary. Adjustments and “scouting” are closely linked, as adjustments are pre-conceived to some extent through the knowledge afforded by scouting opponents; although adjustments must also be made spontaneously as well.
The best coaches are able to recognize problems before they prove themselves costly.
Game film is sometimes not accessible and can often be misleading (depending on the quality); usually watching other teams play in person provides the most effective observation.
Goaltenders should be avid in the scouting department, especially in knowing the tendencies of the opposing team’s offensive players (breakaway moves, release points & favoured positions in the offensive end).
“Offensive specialists” and “transition specialists” should also be well aware of the tendencies of goalies, in order to make the best of their scoring opportunities.
Players not cleared to play by team trainers or doctors should take all the necessary precautions to ensure that they are able to play again, as soon as possible (avoid the urge to return too soon).
The psychology of injury has been extensively researched in recent years and a condition identified as the “malingering athlete” has surfaced, wherein a player claims to be injured when they are really just hurt. This can be a “scapegoat” or “excuse” for poor performance during games/practices and other shortcomings, and is something coaches should be aware of when developing coaching strategies.
Players with injuries that will keep them out of play for an indefinite period of time should be encouraged to stay as involved with the team as possible until their return, for both individual and team morale purposes.
Players should have a slight nervous energy, being quelled by constant positive “mental-talk” and any other tactic that helps them reach an “optimal level of excitement.” Some players might need to get “pumped up” with music, where others may need to calm their excitement through meditation tactics or visualizations (from the 1st person perspective).
Teammates should be respectful of others when it comes to their pre-game rituals, as some players morale is easily affected by a broken routine. Coaches also need to recognize how to help tease a player/team into the optimal level of excitement, in order for them to perform at their best in any particular situation. Coaches need to lead by example, or perhaps play coy. A coach might show a level 2 of excitement after one game (perhaps unhappy about the team’s effort), and another game demonstrate a level 9 in between periods in order to “rally the troops.”