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A Great New Lacrosse Drill Inspired By Rugby 7’s

Lacrosse and Rugby 7’s both rely on speed, excellent passing, and top level conditioning.  I have developed a new training drill for lacrosse which takes full advantage of all the similarities.  This drill is almost entirely based on the rules and principles of Rugby 7’s and it focuses on both creating and defending good dodging opportunities.

craigwell-1-dobson rugby 7s
Rugby 7’s – physical, fast-paced and exciting. Just like lacrosse.

When I’m watching other sports, I’m always looking for ways to pull over skill sets to my favorite game.  While I enjoy regular (Union) rugby, I really like Rugby 7’s; a lightning fast variation of the game that is often used as an out of season training tool by Rugby Union players.

Watch the video below to get the feel for a Rugby 7’s game, and then we’ll get into the specifics of the drill.  The action starts around the 2:30 mark.

It’s an impressive game, right?

Since lacrosse also emphasizes the importance of speed, passing, and conditioning, I found a way to develop them using Rugby 7’s as my starting point, and it has grown into an exciting brand new lacrosse training drill.  This drill will help your players learn how to move the ball sideways and backwards, while moving the overall possession of the ball forward and down the field as a team.

Many lacrosse players are skilled at finding open men in front of them, but not so much behind them or to the sides.  This drill helps teach awareness, creativity, and requires excellent sticks skills for all players.  It is also extremely beneficial for defensive players.  All of the benefits will translate directly to success on the field.

The Basic Principles Of The 7’s Drill

The coach will create two (or more) even teams, and all the teams will be populated with middies, attack, and defensemen as evenly as possible.  Team B will throw the ball from one end of the field to the other, much like a kickoff in football.  Team A receives, and carries the ball upfield.  The object of the game is get the ball into the other team’s “end zone”.  Team B can stop Team A by creating a turnover (takeaway, interception, ground ball, etc).

Forward passes are NOT allowed.  The only time a forward pass can be made is as a “punt”, and then the other team must touch the ball before the punting team can regain possession.  A team might punt the ball if they are deep in their own territory and under pressure, with nowhere to go but into their own end zone.  A player might also “punt” the ball if he is about to go out of bounds with possession.  It’s a turnover, but it pins the other team back in their own end.

Team A is only allowed to throw the ball laterally and behind them when retaining possession.  Team A can also run the ball down the field (or in any direction) at will, just like they do in the 7’s video I included above.

Full Breakdown Of The Rules:

– Create teams of even strength mixing poles, middies and attack men.  Each team should have 7-10 players on it.

– You can play half field or full field.  At each end of the field, there should be a defined “end zone”.

– The goal of the game is to run the ball into the end zone.

– Players can run with the ball in any direction.

– Players can ONLY PASS the ball backwards.

– A forward pass is regarded as a punt.  If the ball goes out of bounds, the team that threw it (pass or punt) immediately goes to defense and must give the ball carrier 5 yards.

– Picks are legal.  Moving picks are NOT legal.

How Play Will Often Shake Out

Team A is on offense.  Since the ball can not be thrown forward, Team B should form a defensive line across the field.  As a player on Team A tries to break through the line with a dodge, players from Team B must come and meet him to prevent him from just running through.  It is likely that more than one player on Team B will be required to stop the player from Team from dodging through the line of defenders.  And this is where the drill gets REALLY interesting.

A strong dodger may be able to get through one or two players, but if Team A realizes this, they will bring 2 or 3 defensive players to meet the dodger every time.  In this case, the dodger must then know how to draw the double or triple, and THEN make the pass laterally or behind him to move the ball.  And there are a vast number of ways for him to do this, with each one hitting on a certain set of skills.

1) Roll away from the pressure, switch hands, throw the look back pass we so often see in the college game.

2) Orchestrate a flip pass behind you to an overlapping teammate.

3) Notice the D has overcommitted, and swing the ball to the opposite side of the field laterally.  Basically a side and away look.

These three basic approaches then allow for a lot more creativity and experimentation.  Maybe your team will run a double reverse, or start throwing more behind the back flip passes.  Maybe your kids will develop perfect throw back passes.  It all depends on what the coach emphasizes.  How do YOU want to get the ball through the defense?  Pick out what you want to work on and make it happen.

Offensively, your players will be tested as skill will trump athleticism, and vision will trump set plays.  Forcing your kids to make backwards and lateral passes will only make them more aware of the option on the actual game field.  Stick skills will be sharpened, and team chemistry will develop as players will be forced to use the guys on their team to see success.  Players will be forced to carry the ball, and make good decisions under heavy pressure while also learning to switch sides while clearing.

Defensively, this drill emphasizes communication and using your feet more than anything else.  It prepares the defense to move together, and cover backside players and off ball, often down a man (splitting offensive players off ball).  It teaches them to slide with the body and STOP someone, instead of swinging at sticks.

The drill will help your players clear the ball, and possess it on offense, even under pressure.  It will open their eyes to new ways of moving the ball, and it will force defenders to communicate, run, and play solid team defense.

Defensive Keys To The Drill:

When a dodger threatens the line that the defense has set up, multiple players will need to meet the dodger.  The basic set-up of the drill requires the defense to force the dodger either back, or into a double.  That in turn Forces the dodger to move the ball laterally or backwards, and then resetting the line to prepare to stop the new dodger.  From there, the defensive team can begin to try to pick off passes, create takeaways with checks or force bad passes which go out of bounds.

If offensive players are dodging through the defensive line with ease, then you know your defense needs to really step it up.  Defensive players MUST meet dodgers in bunches, and then recover to find the next dodger.  This is the perfect to drill to focus on playing team defense in smaller groups (2-3 guys), sealing off a side, doubling, managing the approach and breaking down to recover.

Offensive Keys To The Drill:

This is a great way for offensive players to learn how to draw two or three men, turn, move the ball and get reinvolved in the offense as it shifts to a new section of the field.  A successful team will be able to draw defensive players to one area, move the ball, and then attack the weak side.  Quick ball movement, good stick skills, and understanding your teammates are the keys to focus on here. It is also important that your players learn to recognize when it’s a good time for hard dodging, and when it’s a good time to move the ball on.

If your offensive players are having a hard time breaking through the line, the cause is most likely a lack of stick skills and confidence in their ability to make good, accurate passes and dodges while moving their feet.  Being able to move the ball to set up strong dodgers on weakened defensive areas is key.

Additional Notes:

Endzones can be replaced with trashcans or goals with goalies in them.  Then the offense can shoot from anywhere, but a missed shot is regarded like a punt, and the other team takes over the ball.

There are a ton of little tweaks that can inserted into this drill to make it more appropriate for your team like adding goals, trash cans, or even disallowing punting (to really put the pressure on the team with possession).  If your defense is dominating, make one of your attackmen all-time offense, that way, the defensive team will always be a man down.  If the offense is dominating, take a pole and make him all-time defense.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of this drill are truly endless and with a couple tweaks to fit your program, it might just become one of your go-to drills.  It is fun, requires the kids to run and play as a team, has lots of hidden conditioning, and the benefits a team can experience by looking at something in a new way cannot be underestimated.

By putting our players in new and challenging scenarios, we can truly prepare them for whatever will come their way on the field.  Add this drill to your arsenal and you’ll see improvement from your guys at both ends of the field!

If you have any questions on how to run this drill effectively, PLEASE ask me in the comment section.