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Coaching Lacrosse With 20 Players Or Less, Part 3

Not every lacrosse team is fortunate enough to have forty players on its roster. Listen up as Connor Wilson answers a tough question – how small is too small? Part 3 of 3.

Editor’s note: What follows is the final installment of Connor Wilson’s 3-part series on coaching lacrosse teams with twenty players or less. If you haven’t already, be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Below, Connor asks if a team can be too small. His answer and reasoning may surprise you!

Is There Such Thing as Too Small?

When it comes to the size of a lacrosse team, is there such thing as too small? I’m tempted to say yes, but I’m worried that this initial reaction only due to conventional wisdom about small teams, which I largely disproved in Part 1 and Part 2.

Therefore, my answer to the above question has to be NO. There is NO such thing as too small.

willamette lacrosse 11 men 1 team
Willamette played the 2011 season with 11 players.

For more info on Willamette’s 2011 season with 11 players, check our archived LAS Special on the Willamette Bearcats!

What’s the Minimum?

However, there simply has to be a minimum number of players set somewhere, so I’ll go as low as I think is even remotely possibleTEN PLAYERS is the minimum. 

A lacrosse team could exist with only ten players, but not any less.  You might run into some issues with certain rules here and there (like on a face-off violation, where the offender has to be subbed out… but in this case, for whom?), but it’s really the bare minimum that could even conceivably work.

Ten players isn’t too small, it’s just enough. There are certainly some major obstacles in the way. For one, it makes riding and clearing on a full field out of the question. And of course, ten players on a team also makes six on six out of the question. However, it doesn’t make practice out of the question in any way, shape or form.

Riding and Clearing

Want to practice clears and work on your poles ability to make good decisions in tight spaces?  Confine your three poles, goalie and one midfielder to the area between the restraining box and midfield.  Then put on 4 players in another color jersey.  They will be riding the 5-man clearing team.

The poles, goalie and midfielder must make 6 passes, all within the box, before they can advance the ball over midfield.  When they can do this with ease, add in the fifth riding player.  You will be amazed at how quickly your team’s clears improve.

6 pass lacrosse clear drill

If the riding team creates a turnover, they can go to the cage.  A clear is successful only after the clearing team has made six passes inside the 2nd quarter of the field, and then advances the ball over midfield.

Six on Six, Five on Five, OR Four on Four

Want to work six on six?  Numbers wise, it’s impossible with 10 players.  But 5 on 5 with a goalie  is still possible, if the coach is willing to suit up!  I am 31 years old and still play with the guys sometimes if we’re short a body.  We practice on concrete and I wake up sore as heck the next day, but the kids need it, so I do it.  That’s why we’re out coaching anyway, right?  Make it happen for the kids.

You can also play 4 on 4, and if you have one side that is dominating, give the losing side an extra player.  Find ways to tip the scales and be creative.  If you have ONE player who stands out above all the rest, make him play with a girl’s stick in practice.  See if he doesn’t elevate his game after that.  It can be a challenge to come up with this stuff, but if you try hard enough, you’ll find a way.

If one player can get better simply by playing wall ball, ten players can certainly get better at practice if you put them to work in the right ways.


Playing on, or coaching, a small roster lacrosse team is not a death sentence, nor is it an excuse for poor performance.  I’ve laid out a number of ways smaller teams can compete and thrive in the world of lacrosse and if you’re in this situation, I hope it has helped you think about things in a new or positive way.

If you agree, disagree, or have a different perspective on this type of lacrosse situation, please let me know in the comments!

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