With almost every college in the country now “in season,” and many high schools starting up soon, it’s time to talk about that all important first practice. Here are some guidelines I use to make sure my team always has a great first practice of the Spring. For more, check out 5 Rules for Lacrosse Players.
Photo Credit: Wesleyan Lacrosse
1) Over Communicate
Players need to communicate with each other during games, but as a coach, if you want to instill this ideal into your kids, YOU need to communicate it to them. The coach that stands there silently with a scowl on his face is not inspiring his kids to be better, nor is he educating them. In fact, I don’t know what that coach is doing except being a total creep.
If you expect the kids to talk, you need to lead by example. This does not mean you have to yell a lot. In fact, you don’t have to yell ever. But you do need to talk. Players have a lot to learn, and the first day can be confusing for first time players, freshmen, and even veterans. Communication lays the ground work for what you want to do all year, and WHY you do things the way you do them. Once the players know, they will buy in to what you are selling more readily.
2) Keep It Fun
Every team is different, and what might be fun for you might not be fun for someone else. The point here is to know your team, and find ways to make the first day of practice enjoyable. This might mean that your entire practice on Day 1 is all high paced, high action drills and work. Or it might mean you do 1 on 1 GBs all day because that is what YOUR team loves.
Start the first practice of the year off right and the kids will invest in the team, because it is something they actually want to do. Everyone has basic things they need to install, and limited practice time, but a boring info heavy practice that isn’t fun can set a dangerous precedent for your squad. A fun practice looks different at every level, and fun does not mean that you don’t work hard. Combine the two and you’re off to a good start!
3) Focus On Positives
It’s the first day of practice. Are your players going to be perfect? Nope. It’s not possible. So when a player makes a mistake, feel free to point it out, but players will make lots of mistakes. Do you really want to spend all your time on Day 1 yelling out, “No, don’t do that!” No, you don’t.
I like to focus on ONE bad habit on Day 1, and that is the only negative feedback I will give. For example, one handed GBs might be the ONE thing we focus on during Day 1. NO ONE HAND GBS. If a kid does a one hand GB, they do push ups. Everything else is positive. If a kid gets stripped after picking up a two hand GB I’m yelling “nice GB!,” and not “protect your stick!” Stick protection and vertical cradle will be the negative we focus on during Day 2!
Make notes of what your team needs to work on and focus on ONE negative element each day. The rest of the time should be spent positively reinforcing what the players are already doing correctly.
For me, part of having fun is competition. But as I said above, every team is different, and not everyone is ready for 100% competition or game play. For my high school team, we do a 3 on 2 drill, which splits the team in half and creates an atmosphere of fun competition. If your team isn’t ready to do 3 on 2s, then maybe you do a shooting competition where kids need to hit a particular corner. Or you do a long pass contest to see who can get the ball closest to their target from 25 yards away. The point here is to get the players competing early, as they will hopefully be doing a lot of that during the season.
5) Show Up And Go 100%
If you’re doing something… anything really… you should be invested in it! If not, why are you doing it? As a coach, parent, or player, the first day is HUGE for setting expectations. Show up ready to roll. Your stick should be fixed up and throwing perfectly. Your gear should be clean and fixed up since the last season. Your mind should be clear, and you should be ready to give it your all.
When coaches don’t show up with a plan of attack, players take note. When players show up and aren’t ready to roll, coaches get frustrated. When parents aren’t invested everyone else cares less. Showing up is barely half the battle. Going 100% is the real key. You’re there, so why not give it your all? It will improve your experience, I guarantee it.
Follow these five simple rules and you will definitely have a better first practice of the year than you did last season. The methodology is simple and proven. Lacrosse is a team sport… so build your TEAM from Day 1.