Glossary - Game Play  (See Skill Analysis)

  • Box Lacrosse/Field Lacrosse:  Box lacrosse is a discipline (style) of lacrosse played with 6 players per side (5 runners & 1 goalie), in an enclosed area surrounded by boards & plexiglass (“glass”). Most Leagues allow teams up to 25 players on a roster, able to "dress" up to 18 runners and 2 goalies during a game.  Box lacrosse is best described as a game of quickness and reaction (anticipation; action; reaction).  It is similar to basketball and hockey in terms of it's game play.

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.

  • Select League/“Rep” League/Travel League/Try-Outs:  "Select" or rep'" is a travel lacrosse League where the best (most competitive & skilled) players represent their "home-centre," competing against other rep teams in their "Zone" during the regular season, playoffs and tournaments.

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).

  • Minor LacrosseAges 3-16.  Most “Minor” lacrosse Leagues have a few different rules pertaining to game play, compared to “Junior” and “Senior” lacrosse. Age groups are divided by two year intervals (i.e. kids born in 2005 & 2006 play against each other), which ultimately becomes good “preparation” for “Junior” lacrosse (ages 17-21). Minor Lacrosse divisions are as follows: 6U, 8U, 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U.  

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.

  • Junior & Intermediate Lacrosse:  Junior” eligible lacrosse players are ages 17-21; “Intermediate” lacrosse Leagues can also be played by players ages 17-19.  Players are usually given a certain level of leniency within the rules once they reach this age group, which makes for a more exciting and “tougher” brand of lacrosse.  “A” is the highest level of play, whereas “B” lacrosse, being more tight-knit and locally-oriented, is often a much more physical brand of lacrosse than the faster paced “A” game. 

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.).

  • Senior Lacrosse/Major Lacrosse/Professional Lacrosse:  Ages 21+. Players are given as much or more leniency than Junior lacrosse players and should be “refereed” like men. Usually it’s not quite as fast-paced, as players are much smarter about how they play, conserving energy where possible and capitalizing on the mistakes of the opponent. As opposed to “forcing” plays that are “low percentage” and running around recklessly, they use experience and veteran savvy to outsmart opponents. That said, “hard-work” is usually the biggest difference in ultimately winning or losing a game. Loose balls and ball possession usually translate into wins and losses.
  • Masters Lacrosse:  Ages 35-65. Masters lacrosse is enjoyed by players 35 or older, including Grand Masters aged 45 and older. All CLA (Canadian Lacrosse Associations) rules are the same with the following exceptions: no shoulder pads (with caps) are allowed to be worn, no unnecessary roughness is permitted (“push-checks” only), players have five seconds to pass the ball upon gaining possession, when the ball is near the boards the closest player gets an attempt at the ball with no intentional contact allowed by the opponent (1st to the ball rule), and lastly, any dangerous shots that hit players are to be penalized as a minor penalty of 2 minutes.
  • Registration/Training Camp/Exhibition/Pre-Season/Regular-Season/Playoffs/Post-Season/Tournaments:  After completing a pre-emptive “registration” process (waivers & fees), there are generally 3 aspects to a season (from an administrators perspective): pre-season (exhibition), in-season (regular season) and post-season (playoffs).

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.

  • Associations/Organizations/Zones/Home Centres/Leagues:  Lacrosse Associations are governing bodies, structured bureaucratically, beginning nationally (National Sport Organization) with the CLA (Canadian Lacrosse Association), then as a Provincial Sport Organization (i.e. Ontario Lacrosse Association - OLA), then divided into community districts/zones (Community Sport Organization), usually playing in Leagues against whichever teams are in the closest proximity to each other.

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.

  • Equipment/Fitting/Illegal Equipment Penalty/Player (“Runner”) & “Goalie” (Goaltender/Net-Minder):  Lacrosse players (“runners”) are required to wear shoulder pads, elbow pads, biceps pads, kidney pads, helmets, gloves and shoes, and if not are at risk of being called for an “illegal equipment penalty” (wearing jewelry is a “game misconduct”). Shoes should not be "street shoes," with most players preferring a high-cut basketball shoe over a low-cut cross-trainer. A "jock" or "jill" (protective cup) is also highly recommended, especially for goalies.

“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 & Masks:  Helmets and masks must be CSA (Canadian Standards Association) approved. Face masks must not be altered and only certain styles are approved. Players caught wearing anything not approved are at risk of being ejected from the game.

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.

  • Gloves:  Lacrosse gloves are light and flexible and are specifically designed for the freedom required for “stick handling.” The “cuffs” must be tight enough to cover the wrist, but loose enough to allow for unrestricted movement. Hockey gloves can be used but it should be noted that due to the stiffness of the wrist and thumb (less flexibility), they tend to interfere with the finer movements involved with handling of the stick.

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.

  • Kidney Pads/Rib Pads/Back PadsThese pads are not required for non-contact games (Masters) and are a safety precaution for partial contact games of younger players (Peanut). These pads are necessary equipment during contact games because of the vulnerability of the back, kidneys and ribs.
  • Arm Guards/Slash Guards/Biceps Pads/Inserts/Shoulder Pads/Chest Pads“Checking” in lacrosse takes place on the arms (hands), shoulders, and chest/back. The pads covering these areas must have a cushioning effect to absorb the force of physical contact, and must be hard enough to withstand direct hits from the stick. “Shoulder/Chest pads,” “arm guards (elbow pads)," "biceps pads/inserts,” and “kidney/back pads” are sold separately, or sometimes as one unit with the parts laced together so they can be adjusted to the size of the players.

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.

  • Full Equipment/Full Gear/Fully Padded:  Most practices commence with players fully padded, but occasionally coaches will allow players to practice in “helmets & gloves.”
  • “Helmets & Gloves”/Light Equipment/“Lights”:  If players have had a high volume week in terms of games and practices, some coaches will give players the liberty of practicing in “helmets & gloves” only, rather than full equipment (goalies are usually still in full equipment).

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).

  • Lacrosse Box/Lacrosse Bowl/Arena (See Legend):  The term used in indoor (box) lacrosse referring to the entire “playing surface” on which the game is played. The box is technically the outside area surrounded by boards and glass, like that found in a regular sized hockey arena.  The standard arena floor in North America measures 200 feet (61m) long by 85 feet (26m) wide. 
  • Glass (See Legend):  Plexiglass is usually fastened to the top of the boards that surround a box, except for the bench areas. This is the same “glass” you find in hockey rinks around the world helping keep the puck/ball in play, with seamless glass being the highest quality and preferred glass.
  • Floor/Playing Surface:  The area enclosed within the “box.” The floor is usually made out of concrete, turf, or wood (parquet).
  • Side-Boards (See Legend):  The boards fixated lengthwise along the side of the box.
  • Half-Board/Mid-Board/“The Wall” (See Legend):  Referencing half way between the “end boards” behind the goal and the "rag line." Some people also reference the half-board area as the “mid-board” or “the wall,” which is an inherited hockey term that could otherwise be related to informally practicing against a wall (see “wall ball”).
  • End-Boards (See Legend):  The boards fixated width-wise behind the back of the net.
  • Out Of Bounds (See Legend):  When the ball bounces outside of the box during the game, the game clock is usually stopped, and whoever touched the ball last before it went out, it becomes the other team’s ball. This is also true on shots that hit the goalie (saves) and go out of bounds.

If referees are unable to determine who the ball touched last before it went out of bounds, the result is a “face-off.”

  • Game Clock/Scoreboard/Time-Keeper/Score-Keeper (See Legend):  The clock in an arena/box that shows the time remaining in each period/quarter, as well as penalty times, the score of the game (number of goals for each team) and sometimes shots on goal (aka number of saves for each team), is known as the "game clock."

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.

  • Games/Regulation Time/Periods/Quarters/Halves/Intermissions:  Lacrosse “games” in Junior & Senior are usually sixty minutes in total length (aka “regulation time”), divided into 3 “periods” or 4 “quarters,” or less commonly two “halves.”

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.).

  • Overtime/Extra Time/Sudden Victory:  If a game is tied after "regulation time" "Minor" lacrosse Leagues will usually just end the game as a tie (during the regular season). Extra time is often added for tournaments and provincial/national championships, after an initial round-robin format, where ties are still in effect. In quarters/semis/final games usually “sudden victory” is played; the first goal scored in overtime is the game winner.

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.

  • Net/“Cage”/Goal Posts/Cross-Bar/Junction:   Minor - 4’ x 4’; Junior/Senior – 4’ x 4’6”; Professional – 4’ x 4’9.” Lacrosse nets vary in size, with “goal-posts” (area surrounding the net) often varying in diameter from net to net. The post across the top of the net is known as the "cross-bar" and where the cross-bar joins the post is known as the "junction" (it takes a very skilled shot to hit the junction).

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.

  • Goal-Line/End-Line (See Legend):  The line that runs from post to post along the ground, across the front of the net. The ball has to completely cross this line in order for the opposing team to be awarded a goal.

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.”

  • Crease (See Legend)/“Back-In” Rule/“5 Second Rule”/Checking Through The Crease Penalty/Checking In The Crease Penalty:  The “crease” is a nine-foot radius surrounding the net. There are several rules pertaining to the crease which surrounds the goal in box lacrosse. Firstly, when an offensive player has the ball his/her feet and stick cannot touch any part of the crease, or the play is to be whistled down by the referee and it is a loss of possession. If the ball enters the net before the player steps on or over the crease line, a goal is awarded.

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 Backsituations.

  • Up-Floor/Up The Floor:  Toward the opponent’s goal/net. The direction defensive players should be trying to run immediately after picking up a loose ball.
  • Rag Lines/Restraining Lines (See Legend):  Two lines that run width-wise and parallel across the top and bottom of the “face-off circle.” These lines act as “restraining lines” during a “face-off,” with players not allowed to cross until the ball has left the "face-off dot," otherwise “possession” gets awarded to the opposing team. Players are allowed to move freely behind the lines until the face-off whistle is blown and before the ball leaves the face-off dot.

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.

  • Half Line/Centre Line:  Applicable only in the NLL (National Lacrosse League), the half line is similar to the rag line in that once the ball crosses into the offensive zone that particular team cannot allow it to cross back-over the line, or it is a loss of possession and the other team gains control (at all times). If the other team (on defense) knocks it back-over as a result of incidental contact (not deliberate), play resumes as normal.
  • Referee's Area/Referee's Circle (See Legend):  A half circle between the rag lines, located near the penalty box and score keeper's area. Only team captains are allowed to talk to referees when they are discussing a situation in the "referee's area," usually once the referee's finish their dialogue and make a judgement on a controversial play in the game.
  • Far End (See Legend):  The opposite side of the neutral zone (rag line), relative to where the ball is on the floor. Otherwise, generally referred to as the end that is furthest away from one’s own bench.
  • Player’s “Bench” (See Legend):  There are two player’s benches, one per team, located on the same side or opposite sides, found outside of the box, usually near the neutral zone. This is where “line changes” take place when players are finished their “shift.”
  • Face-Off Circle/Face-Off Dot/Foot Lines (See Legend):  The face-off area consists of a small dot within a two-foot circle (collectively known as the “face-off dot”), with a larger circle surrounding it. Running parallel, lengthwise along the face-off dot, are two foot lines which the face-off-takers feet are not supposed to cross, otherwise possession should be awarded to the opposing team (not “called” very consistently by referee’s it seems).

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.

  • Balls/India Rubber Ball (Lacrosse Ball)/High Density Foam Ball/Tennis Ball:  Made from authentic Indian rubber (from India), this is a heavy ball relative to its size and at times can spin randomly due to the forces applied to it. The oldest and first rule in lacrosse is that you cannot touch the ball with your hands; the ball itself is filled with history.

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.”

  • New Ball/“Freshy”/Old Ball/Greaser/Dog Ball:  Lacrosse players should always be encouraged to practice how they play and as such, practicing with new lacrosse balls is ideal. That said, one day of playing “wall ball” is usually enough to turn a “freshy” into a “greaser.”

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 (

  • Ball Spin/English:  India rubber balls are prone to taking awkward bounces that players will slowly become familiar with, via experience. Sometimes the way a player throws the ball also adds a certain element of spin, either purposely or because of an unorthodox release, which can be tricky to read for goalies and players alike.

Bounce passes are for the most part discouraged by coaches because they tend to spin away from teammates (on concrete), which can cause needless turnovers and wasted scoring opportunities.

  • Synthetic Stick (Head, Mouth, Throat, Shaft & Butt-End)/Ball Stop/Wood Stick “Woody”/Twig/Crosse:  A typical synthetic lacrosse stick (otherwise known as a "twig" or "crosse") is typically made up of two pieces, a “shaft” (titanium, composite or wood) and a “head.” The bottom of the shaft is called the “butt-end” and the other end of the shaft where it attaches to the head is known as “the throat.” At the bottom of the inside of a head ("throat") is a soft foam pad known as a "ball stop" (preventing the ball from popping out of the stick upon entry), and at the top of the head it's known as the "mouth," which is where shooting strings are typically found.

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.

  • Stick “Pinch”/Stick “Check”/Illegal Stick:  A term used to describe the shape of the head, a “pinch” refers to a more narrow shape. Players will often mold their heads in the oven (4 minutes at 400° - using string to pull the head into a specific shape), but too much pinch can be costly in more ways than one.

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.

  • Mesh/"Pocket"/“Diamonds”/Stick Stringing/“Shooting Strings”/"Side Wall"/“Top String”/“Bottom String”/“Tweaking”:  The “pocket” is where the ball sits inside of a stick “head;” high, middle or low; deep or shallow, based on personal preference and consistency. Tightening, loosening and/or double looping (2 “diamonds” per hole versus 1 diamond per hole) the “sidewall strings” that attach along the outside of the stick head (holes) and hold the “mesh” in place, are the most effective ways to shape a pocket (otherwise known as “tweaking” a stick). These strings must be adjusted evenly on both sides in order for a stick to throw consistently accurate; whereas the new Warrior "Warp" stick has various custom pockets that don't require adjusting.  Otherwise, certain individuals are generally known as the stick "guru's" around town, and much time must be spent to figure out the art of stick stringing (  The first question a good stick stringer should ask is "what style of game do you play?"  

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.

  • Hook/Whip:  The amount of hold or pull applied to the ball by the strings tied into the stick. A lot of pull will create more “hook” or hold, which creates a harder shot, and is better for ball protection and throwing stick fakes. Less hook will allow the ball to come out of the stick with a quicker release, usually with less hold on the ball.

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/Trick Shots:  Stick tricks are outlandish manoeuvres with the stick, done primarily off the floor as a means to practice hand-eye co-ordination and develop a “feel” for the stick. Players that are serious about the game are generally carrying their stick almost everywhere they go.

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).

  • Manager/Head Coach/Assistant Coach/Coaching Staff/Trainers:  The hierarchy on most teams is as follows: General Manager, Head Coach, Assistant Coaches (Including Team Trainers), Team “Captains,” Players. If no general manager exists then the head coach is the ultimate authority on the team.

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.

  • “Chalk Talk”:  If players are having trouble grasping a particular concept, drill or skill, attempting to explain all of the particulars on the floor in order to try and make a drill run smoothly, usually just makes things worse. It’s generally best to just skip the drill and come back to it at a later time, taking the time to explain the particulars during a “chalk talk” session, either after practice, or prior to the next one. Floor time is expensive and should be utilized as efficiently and therefore as effectively as possible.
  • Practice/Drills:  Practice makes permanent. How a coach runs a practice will directly translate into the product they see on the floor. Practices should be progressively developed from the pre-season, to in-season, to post-season. A base of skill development (“scaffolding”) and conditioning should also be established in the pre-season, maintained in-season and peak during the playoffs (post-season).

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.

  • “Wall Ball”/“Having A Toss”/“Tossing The Rock” (See Stickwork Drill #1):  “Wall ball” is an informal practice session where a player can work on skills that they are currently struggling with, or otherwise make sure that their sticks are throwing the way they like (so there are no excuses during formal practices/games). It can take from 4000 to 40 000 hours to master any skill, and the majority of this time will need to be accumulated away from the arena, practicing against a wall, shooting on a net, at an outdoor box, or “having a toss” with a buddy. Where possible, try to practice the way you play (wear gloves); practice at full speed.

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).

  • Motor Skills/Motor “Patterns”/Manipulation Skills/Muscle Memory:  Practicing can otherwise be called refining individual and collective locomotor (movement) and manipulation skills (locomotor and manipulative “patterns” together make up what we call “motor skills”). Variables such as locomotor patterns are often taken for granted, but young players must learn to perform them correctly and therefore efficiently (See ABC’s Of Running) in order to apply them in relevant movement situations. Using one’s hands or feet to manipulate an object is one of the hardest and most mentally demanding skills to learn.

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.

  • “Scaffolding”/"Chunking"/Progressive Development/Demonstrating/"Walk Through"/Re-Hashing/Skill Development:  With the introduction of any new drill, the time frame allotted in the practice plan will usually be greater, primarily for demonstration/diagram purposes. Coaches should ask players if they have any questions after providing the drill descriptions, and any substantial clarifications can be further explained at the end of the practice or perhaps during “chalk talk” sessions (avoid fielding too many questions or giving lengthy clarifications, especially with young kids).

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.

  • Scrimmage/Controlled Scrimmage/Small-Sided Games (See Games Drill #19):  Scrimmages are shortened versions of games played during practice, or during rep team "try-outs." They can be used as a means of formative assessment (observing the general skill level of the players) or as part of a “scaffolding” technique used to motivate the players (skill application).

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.

  • Team “Captains”/Leaders/Veterans/Rookies/Call-Ups:  It is important that a coach/teacher identify and work with their leaders from the get go. Most teams end up with one “Captain” and two “Assistants” who represent the players, but any variation or combination of up to three representatives (i.e. 1 Captain only; 3 Assistants only; 1 Captain, 1 Assistant) is allowed in a game (highlighted on the game sheet) by most Leagues.

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:  The word “lacrosse” has many translations amongst the various First Nation languages, one of which is “little brother of war.” Teammates should trust and respect each other as though they were soldiers fighting together, for their country (team). Teammates don’t need to be best friends off of the floor, but every teammate should be humble and respectful towards the team, if they think that they are going to win a championship.

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."

  • Jersey/Sweater/Pinny:  The trend in today’s sporting environment is to wear dark jerseys ("sweaters") at home and white jerseys on the "road"(while traveling). It used to be opposite, but likely the clean white best represents the team while in another team’s home box. Goalies’ jerseys are obviously much larger, with all jerseys made from the lightest weight, most breathable material possible (style is nice too).

Certain players like different fitting jerseys for different reasons, but more often than not, what you see is what you get. Ideally, practice “pinnies” are also available in two or three different colours, which is best for drill organization purposes.

  • Home Team/Away Team/Road Team/Visitors:  Whether playing “house league” or “rep league” lacrosse, ideally one team is wearing dark jerseys and the other team is wearing light (white) jerseys; something distinctly different. The trend in today’s sporting environment is to wear dark jerseys at “home” and white jerseys on “the road” (while traveling).

Over the course of a season, usually teams will play at least once at each others home venue. The home team should take pride in their facilities and command the same respect from the fans.

  • Warm-Ups/Informal Warm-Ups/Formal Warm-Ups (See Game Day Warm Up):  Ideally teams will arrive at least an hour before a game (preferably more), with enough time for 2 warm-ups: Informal (no equipment) & Formal (full equipment). If there is some sort of time constraint or floor availability issue, informal and formal warm-ups can be combined into one warm-up, or, informal warm-ups can take place off the floor, outside of the arena. Informal warm-up is generally used to get the sticks and bodies of players responsive, with a “dynamic warm-up” at the top of the list of priorities. A few basic shooting drills are also usually then done for goalies.

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).

  • General Warm-Up:  A series of basic calisthenics (body weight activities), done before dynamic stretches, which are used to get the blood moving (break a sweat) and joints lubricated. During training, this could entail (20m x 4): run forward/backpedal backward (twice), side-shuffle with arm swings (both directions twice), tracking forward/backward (twice), carioca (both directions twice). During practices and games, a general warm-up could also be a simple drill done at 75% of max intensity.
  • Dynamic StretchesA series of movements that eventually takes all of the working muscles through their active range of motion (ROM). A proper dynamic warm-up should be done prior to the initiation of any form of exercise (using sport specific movements), after a general warm-up.
  • Cool Down/Static Stretches:  At the end of a hard practice, training session or game, players should be given 2-3 minutes to cool down (light jog or easy drill done at 75% effort), which helps flush the lactic acid out from muscles and also lower a players heart rate. “Static stretches” usually follow, which are intended to hold muscles in a series of elongated positions for an extended period of time (30 seconds is best practice), ideally addressing all of the major muscles groups. They should be done following any form of exercise (ideally directly after); otherwise in the morning, at night before bed, or at one’s leisure; in order to prevent injury and increase flexibility.
  • Roster/Line-Up/“Dressed”/Line-Up Sheet:  Line-Up Sheets are usually printed in thick cardstock paper, with written out line/unit combinations and posted in the dressing room after informal warm-up on game days.  In certain instances players may find out days prior to the game, or even after “formal warm-up.” Depending on the calibre of the League, some coaches will use the line-up as a means to communicate with players (positive and negative reinforcement). In the higher levels of lacrosse there are also players on the team that are not necessarily in the line-up on any given night. These players must still dress for warm-ups and prepare as though they are going to play, as occasionally the unexpected happens and these players may be needed, added to the line-up just prior to the start of the game.

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).

Lines could also refer to “drill lines,” as well. It is natural for players to have fun and joke around while in line, and that is acceptable if at the back of a line. However, when players are near the front of a drill line they need to be focused and attentive.

  • Special Teams/Units:  A group of players designated to perform certain duties during certain situations in the game. Power-play and short-handed are two of the most notable “special teams” used during the game due to their frequency of use, but other special teams include: Ball Back Team, “Face-Off/Loose Ball Team” and last minute defensive/offensive units.  Most special teams have two units, otherwise it usually depends on how tired one group is versus the other, or the situation, with the first unit being the most relied upon. If the 2nd unit is playing better than the 1st unit during a game, or over a stretch of games, it should be considered whether to make them “starters,” or to change the line-up entirely.
  • Starters/Back-Ups:  All positions on the different special team units usually have a starter and back-up. The different special team units include: power-play, short-handed, “face-off/loose ball team.”  Other special teams/units are usually put together on the spot (i.e. Ball Back teams). Power-play & short-handed 1st units usually also double as “6-on-5” last minute offensive/defensive "units" as well. Sometimes players that are playing exceptionally well during the game might also be added to a unit late in a game, while players having a bad night might be removed. All players should know exactly where they are on the line-up sheet prior to a game or practice, and be held accountable if their unit is called and they aren’t on the floor. If players who are called to be on the floor are too tired to go out, they should let the coach know as soon as possible, ideally before or after the unit is called.
  • Playing Time/“PT”:  The amount of time a player is on the floor during a game. Usually the marquee players on a team will get more playing time, as they are often on multiple “special teams.”
  • Sitting Players/Benching Players/Challenging Players/“Cleaning Up The Bench”:  In order to establish authority and credibility as a coach, as well as “accountability” amongst players, coaches need, at times, to adjust the amount of “playing time” and “responsibilities” of individual players. “Sitting” or “benching” players is ultimately a reduction in playing time or responsibility. This is considered negative reinforcement as a coach, but is sending a direct message (making a point) that a certain action or series of actions, on or off the floor, is detrimental to the team and will not be tolerated.

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.

  • Huddle/Cohesion:  Before the start of each game or period, and during time-outs, players often “huddle up” as a team or as special units. Coaches may or may not be involved, as sometimes players are able to huddle up during other sorts of stoppages, if the opportunity presents itself. Huddles usually discuss and reinforce game plans, or someone (e.g. captain) says something motivational and/or timely, assessing the current situation.
  • Game Sheet:  Most formal games of lacrosse are scored on a “game sheet;” as well as the game clock. Date, location, time, team names, coach names, rosters, referee names (signatures upon game conclusion); goals, assists, penalties, and the times at which they occur, all appear on a standard game sheet sanctioned by a hypothetical Association.
  • Even Strength/5-On-5/Illegal Substitution Penalty:  When teams have the same/equal amount of offensive and defensive players out on the floor (in play) at any given time, they are said to be playing at “even strength.” If there are not equal numbers on the floor, usually there is a player in the “penalty box” or a team has “pulled” the goalie.

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.

  • 30 Second Shot Clock (See Legend):  A team has 30 seconds to get a shot on goal once they’ve obtained clear possession of the ball, otherwise the play is stopped by the official and ball possession is awarded to the other team.

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.

  • Situation/Scenario:  Players on both offense and defense should always know what the “situation” is before stepping onto the floor. It could be power-play, short-handed, “multiple re-set” or a number of other potential “scenarios.”

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.

  • Face-Off/Draw (See Games Drill #5):  The start of the game, the start of each period, and after every goal, the play begins with a face-off (also known as a “draw”). Each face-off begins with two players at the “face-off dot” (inside of the rag/restraining lines), with their right shoulder’s facing their own “goal/net,” their sticks flat on the ground, and their stick “pockets” in a back-to-back position. The ball is then placed between the two sticks (without touching & straight - not tilted) and on the whistle players must pull back, with their feet and arms, using their body weight, quick reactions, and artful stick manoeuvres to try and work the ball free, gaining possession for their team.

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.

  • Face-Off Stance:  Face-off-takers should be strong, flexible, with quick hands & reactions, endurance, agility and “pursuit.” The stance a player chooses is an individual preference but a well-balanced position with weight (centre of mass) slightly over the ball (crouched), feet hip-width apart, parallel, and hands spread wide, is best practice. The stance of a player should also not reveal (disguise) their intended move/tactic, as multiple moves (clamp, half-clamp tie-up, screw-driver plunger, etc.) are usually needed based on teams making “adjustments” to the other team’s face-off tendencies.

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.

  • Face-Off Team/Loose “Ball Team”:  A special team unit made up of a team’s best ball handlers and/or players with the best work ethic and loose ball skills. Most teams will dress more defensive “personnel” than offensive players overall and thus “ball teams” are usually made up of mostly, if not all, defensive players (plus they are usually tougher players). Certain situations in the game, though, might also affect which personnel is on the loose ball team, including being down a few goals late in a game and if the other team has a premiere face-off-taker; “adjustments” are usually quite frequent.

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.

  • Whistle/Cadence (See Games Drill #5)The cadence of a referee is the words and actions they use before blowing the whistle for a face-off. Down, set, “whistle” being the normal routine. Referees are instructed to not be predictable in the pace of their cadence, but the best face-off-takers are great at anticipating the referee’s cadence. It helps if the face-off-taker looks at the referee while facing off.
  • Trapping:  The first motion of the face-off-taker has to be a pulling back motion, and if not, possession should be awarded to the opposite team (which doesn't always happen). Referees will often give a warning to “pull” before making the call, but if players don’t pull back and simply push forward putting all of their weight overtop of the ball, a “trapping” call is at risk of being made.
  • Withholding The Ball:  Lacrosse players are great with their use of deception and at times are able to quickly trap (withhold) the ball against their body while fending off a double-team for example, in order to maintain possession (gain an advantage). Some will even try to put their thumb on the ball while one-handed cradling. They may also withhold the ball under their foot in a scrum against the boards, or under their stick or body on a face-off. There are many situations, but if deliberate, and caught by the eye of the referee, all are a loss of possession.
  • “9-Feet”/3 metres (See Defense Drill #16A):  If at any point during a lacrosse game possession is awarded to the opposing team, players on the defensive side of the ball carrier need to give that player “9-feet” of space before the referee will start the play.

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.

  • Minor Interference:  Every player should theoretically have an equal opportunity to pick up a loose ball. If this fact is not honoured, then possession is usually awarded to the player that is interfered with. However, some players that are bigger and/or faster than other players can also use these attributes to obtain a legal advantage while corraling a loose ball. For instance, a bigger player may use his/her body to “box-out” their opponent from a loose ball if they get to it first. If a speedy player is obstructed by a bigger player who has not yet established their position, then possession should be awarded to the speedy player who is illegally obstructed with.

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.

  • Pushing-Off/Warding-Off/Free-Arm:  A player in possession of the ball is not allowed to use a “free-arm” to “push-off” or control the direction/movement of an opponent. The result of this sort of play is usually a loss of possession, with the defining factor usually being visible extension of the arm. A free-arm is only allowed to absorb contact from an opponent.
  • Goal/"Snipe"/Score:  A “goal” is when the ball enters the net, or goes completely across the goal-line. The last player on the “scoring” team to touch the ball prior to it entering the net is awarded the goal. A really nice looking (or accurate) goal is otherwise known as a "snipe."
  • Stinging A Corner/Painting a Corner/"Tucking" It In:  When a player "scores" a goal with a very hard and accurate outside shot it is otherwise known as "stinging" or "painting" the corner. When a shot hits a "top corner" on an inside shot it is also known as "tucking" it in the top corner, named after lacrosse legend John Tucker who was famous for these sorts of goals "in tight."
  • Assist/Apple:  An assist (“apple”) is awarded to either one or two players, assuming they were one of the two last players to touch the ball before their teammate scored a goal. If a defender plays or possesses the ball in between this time, assists shall not be awarded.
  • Shots On Goal/Saves/Stops:  When a player takes a “shot at the net,” it will either go into the net for a goal, miss the net, or the ball will hit the goalie for what is known as a “save” (or “stop”). When a goalie successfully gets their body or stick in front of a shot and it happens to then goes out of bounds, the team that shot the ball retains possession. Most Leagues don’t formally keep track of “shots on goal” until Junior or Senior level lacrosse, it is usually a very telling statistic about the nature of a game.

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.

  • Effort/“Hard Work”/Hustle/Conditioning/Endurance/Fitness/“Good Shape”/Fatigue/Training Status/Nutritional Status (See Cardio Skills Analysis):  Lacrosse players are expected to be giving 100% effort at all times while on the lacrosse floor, otherwise they should be looking to line change. If players look sluggish, aloof, or are generally having a bad game, “nutritional status,” “fitness” and/or mental focus are usually the main culprits.  Players might blame their stick (which is legitimate for beginners), or being “hurt,” or this or that, but they should not be allowed/encouraged to make "excuses," only challenged (nutritional log?) to be better (unless legitimately injured).

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.”

  • Line Change/“Subbing”/Utilizing The Bench/Bench Order (See Transition Drill #3B):  A line change is when one or more players substitute off of the floor, switching with another player on the “bench” of the same team. After a “shift” of on average 45 seconds (in Minor lacrosse), players should look to “change” unless a “fast-break” is happening, at which point players may need to stay on the floor to help either prevent or create, a scoring opportunity.

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.

  • Bench Assist (See Goaltending Drill #3B):   A defender that runs “hard to the bench” beating an opponent off of the floor, and creating a fast-break opportunity that leads to a goal, is informally referred to as having created a “bench assist” and should be praised/encouraged by the coaches and teammates alike. Even if no goal is scored, this concept still requires great attention. It works both ways, as offensive players running hard to the bench can also eliminate fast-breaks and thereby prevent goals against.
  • Short Change (See Legend & Defense Drill #15A):  Whether headed to the “offensive zone” or the “defensive zone,” the short change is the side of the player’s bench (door) that is closest to the zone the player is attempting to get to (1st & 3rd Period/Quarter). For Instance, offensive players can utilize the short change to try to get breakaways off of a quick change by a defender, gaining 10 metres in transition, from one door to the other. Defenders are able to get on the floor quicker on a short change, which allows them more time to pressure up in an attempt to run time off of the opposing team’s shot clock.

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.

  • Same-Side/Near-Side:  Multiple members of the same team on one side of the floor together, are considered to be on the “same-side.” The near-side is considered the closest side-board relative to the player, and can also refer to the closest (“near side”) end-board.
  • Opposite-Side:  Teammates that are on opposite sides of the floor relative to each other (see proper floor sides).
  • On-Ball/Ball-Side:  The side of the floor that the ball is located on. The opposite of “off-ball,” otherwise known as the “ball-side.”
  • Off-Ball/“Back-Side”:  The side of the floor that the ball is not located on. The opposite of “on-ball,” otherwise known as the “backside” of the play.
  • East-West/Side-To-Side (See Legend):  In reference to game play, most often either to the angle on which a pick is being set, or the direction in which a player is carrying the ball. East-west refers to a lacrosse play that moves in the direction of side-boards to side-boards. Teams need to get the ball moving east-west effectively in order to consistently score goals.  East-west (inside-out) picks are usually also the most effective in terms of getting teammates open in "the middle."
  • North-South/Downhill/Turning "The Corner" (See Legend):  North-south refers to game play, most often either the angle on which a pick is being set or the direction in which a player is carrying the ball. Also known as going "downhill," it is a lacrosse play that moves in the direction of “end-boards” to end-boards. On offense getting north-south with the ball after beating a defender top-side is known as "turning the corner" and is pivotal in regards to getting quality inside shots.
  • Minor Penalties/Major Penalties/Misconducts/Gross & Match Penalties:  2-minute “minor penalties” are released after 1 goal against and 5 minute “majors” are released after 2-goals against, otherwise penalties are released when the penalty time expires (except in multiple penalty scenarios).

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.

  • Drawing Penalties/Drawing Calls/Diving:  If a player knows they are being “over-checked,” some will take “dives” or otherwise make a check look over-aggressive, in order to “draw a penalty” or “minor interference” call from the referee. It is usually obvious when this happens during a game, but sometimes referees will instinctively make a call when they may perhaps have had a bad view of what actually happened. Players who dive often usually end up with a bad reputation and some referees will even give them an unsportsmanlike penalty or delay of game penalty, if they think it is excessive.
  • Trading/Coincidental Penalties:  If a defensive “egg and spooner” can create a “coincidental penalty” situation somehow, it is usually considered a good “trade” for the team. If a regular defender can entice a premiere goal scorer (play maker) into punching (roughing) them, and create a scenario where they are removed from the game to serve a penalty; again this is a good job (trade) by the defender.

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.

  • Delayed Penalty/Slow Whistle:  If a defending player commits a minor or major penalty against an opponent in possession of the ball, the official raises their hand and does not blow the whistle until a shot is taken, the 30 second shot clock expires, a goal is scored, or possession is lost.

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.

  • Wrap-Around PenaltyThis is a unique penalty to box lacrosse and is similar to being “on the back” in field lacrosse. As soon as the defender takes one hand off of their stick and places it on the offender’s back (key criteria), followed by a one-handed wrap-around slash, the player is at risk of being called for this penalty. A good defender can still make this play, but the defining factor is if the defender puts their hand on an opponent’s back for leverage while performing the check, throwing a wild slash. This can also be called a holding penalty, depending on the result of the check, so players need to be very careful when taking one hand off their stick on defense.
  • Illegal Cross-Checking Penalty/Checking From Behind Penalty/Slashing Penalty/High Sticking Penalty:  Cross-checking and slashing are the two most basic manoeuvres used for defense in box lacrosse, but both can also be called penalties if not performed correctly. Cross-checks are legal if they are done between the opponent’s waist and shoulder. Anything above the shoulder is a “high-stick” and anything below is called an “illegal cross-check;” both are penalties.

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."

  • Butt-Ending Penalty:  Using the end of the shaft of the “stick” in a jabbing motion. The “butt-end” has to be completely visible for the ref to make this call, otherwise it is a tactic that can be craftily used when “turning & grabbing,” on defense.
  • Spearing Penalty:  A violent stabbing motion, usually directed at the head or gut of an opponent, not to be confused with a “poke check,” which is a more controlled movement similar to a spear.
  • Holding Penalty:  When a player impedes the progress of any player using their arms/legs, or by “holding” their stick, (with or without the ball), they fit the criteria for a holding penalty.

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.

  • Hooking Penalty:  The act of using the stick in a way that enables a player to restrain an opponent’s body/motion. If the action is stick-on-stick (see clamping) it is usually permitted. Players must gauge the precedents set forth by the referee and play accordingly.
  • Tripping Penalty:  When a player intentionally puts their stick or body in a position that causes an opponent to trip. If the player is tripped and doesn’t completely fall, a penalty might still be assessed. Most often this penalty happens when a player’s stick gets caught in an opponent’s legs, when they stick their leg out as an opponent runs by, or when a defender ducks as a ball carrier dodges them.
  • Elbowing Penalty:  The use of an extended elbow in a way that may or may not cause injury. Usually this call is made on an elbow that is directed at the head of an opponent or on an attempted “body-check” gone wrong.
  • Head-Butting Penalty:  The action of a player using their head to attempt to make contact with another player. If done accidentally during a “bull rush” or through incidental contact (accident), no call should be made. It is usually very obvious when a player has the intent to throw a “head-butt.”
  • Unsportsmanlike Penalty:  Usually this penalty is assessed when a player “swears/curses” either at a referee, another player, coach or fan.  If directed at the official, it usually turns into a “10-minute misconduct” and/or “game misconduct” penalty fairly quickly.  

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.

  • Roughing Penalty:  An excessively violent pushing or punching motion with or without the glove on; or any other excessively violent contact that is otherwise avoidable (deliberate) using the body or stick. 
  • Fighting Penalty:  An incident where at least one player is penalized for throwing a punch, punches or blows, at an opposing player.  Referees have the discretion to assess "minor" or "major penalties" based on the degree of violence of the punches thrown, along with any other appropriate penalties (see "team toughness").
  • Delay Of Game Penalty:  Deliberately throwing the ball out of bounds, disrupting the re-start of a game, rolling the ball away rather than immediately putting it down, not giving 9-feet to a ball carrier prior to a whistle, being late returning to the floor between periods, and calling a time-out without any remaining, are just a few examples of potential “delay of game” penalties.
  • Penalty Shot:  The two most common times a penalty shot is awarded are if a team takes an illegal substituiontion penalty in the last 2 minutes of a game, or if a defender touches the ball with their hand in their own crease.  There are also several other situations when a penalty shot could potentially be awarded. 
  • Penalty Box (See Legend):  When a player takes a penalty during game play they must spend two or more minutes in the "penalty box," which is usually located on the opposite side of the floor from the player's bench.  Players and coaches must be aware of the situation and "take inventory" when an opposing player or a teammate is about to come out of the penalty box (also called "the box" for short). 
  • Power-Play/5-On-4/4-On-3/5-On-3/2-2-1 Formation/2-1-2 "Dice" Formation (See Power Play Tactics Analysis):  A numerical advantage on the floor as a result of a player on either team taking a penalty.  A power-play is the result of 2-minute minor and/or 5-minute major penalties, taken by one team or the other.  During a "5-on-4," teams will usually set-up in 2-2-1 formation (standard offensive positions), but a 2-1-2 ("dice") formation is also used, and sometimes a player behind the net (1-2-2).  There is generally less interchange between positions during a power-play, with players instead having assigned roles.   

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).

  • Back-Over:  When a short-handed team in possession of the ball crosses over the other team’s rag line (into the offensive zone) while attempting to Rag The Ball,” 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.
  • Time-Outs:  In “Minor” lacrosse, each team is allowed one 60-second “time out” in the regulation time of the game.  In Junior and Senior lacrosse, two “time outs” are allowed per game.  If the game goes into “overtime” and a team has a time out left, it carries over into the extra time. 

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.

  • Adjustments/Adapting/Improvising/Ad-Libbing:  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” but if it is broke, “adjustments” need to be made.  Coaches/players must be prepared to implement different offensive/defensive strategies at different points and throughout the various “situations” during a game; "as well as improvise" based on the actions of the opponent.  

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.

  • Scouting:  Scouting other teams and players is an on-going process that is best accomplished using a team (all-embracing) approach, with coaches being the ultimate sovereign (iron-fist) for establishment of a “game plan.”  Taking input from designated “scouts” in hard-to-reach locales, knowledge from past coaches and teammates, and more importantly watching game film, are essential components in getting to know the opponent and their tendencies.  

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.

If in the playoffs or before a game with important implications on the season, coaches of advanced lacrosse players should incorporate practicing against the team defense/offense used by the opponent (see scouting) into their practice plans.

  • Pylons/Cones:  Small “cone-shaped” objects are often used in practices to guide players and direct emphasis to certain areas of the floor.  Generally used most amongst beginners, these “pylons” are also very effective for use during conditioning drills.
  • Land Mines:  Coaches should take the opportunity at the beginning of the season and periodically throughout, to remind players to always be mindful of stray balls (“land mines”) lying in and around a drill.  Players and coaches alike should be actively removing any balls that are interfering with drills (good etiquette and safety precaution) wherever possible. Many needless ankle sprains (“injuries”) have happened over the years from players stepping on balls.
  • Hurt/Injured/ Excuses/“Malingering”:  In sports there is a big difference between being hurt and being injured.  Being “hurt” means that a player is temporarily in pain but still able to continue playing without falling victim to the “tough guy mentality.”  If players are legitimately “injured,” they should stop playing immediately, otherwise problems can compound in the long term (a two-week injury now takes 4 weeks to heal).  

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.

  • RICE:  Injured players should, generally speaking, follow the RICE principles (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) until a further diagnosis by a doctor is possible.  
  • “Tough Guy” Mentality/“Being A Hero”:  In North America we have been raised on the “tough guy mentality,” and to “tough” our way through injuries; for short term gain and potentially devastating long term consequences.  Players need to seriously evaluate their intentions to play through an injury, as many careers have been cut short, and many more injuries significantly lengthened, because of this machismo that essentially hinders, not helps, the team/player in the long run.  An exceptional scenario could be a championship game late in a player’s career, where the successful outcome of a season might outweigh the risks involved with attempting to play through a serious injury.  Bumps and bruises don’t count here, but the fact of the matter is that a 1st degree sprain/strain can easily turn into a 3rd degree sprain/strain and/or chronic long term problems, because of a player trying to “be a hero.”  More often than not, if the player does play hurt (or when they’re not quite ready to return), they end up re-aggravating the injury and costing the team a player on the game sheet.  The tough guy mentality is essentially the opposite of making excuses or malingering.
  • Optimal Level Of Excitement/“Mental Talk”/“In The Zone”/“Psyched Up”/“Dialed”/“Zoned Out”:  On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being mentally aloof and 10 being raging with mental excitement, lacrosse players should play the game somewhere around a level 6 or 7.  Players need to get “psyched up” certainly, but not to the extent where it translates into reckless game play.  Players can claim to be getting “in the zone” (being quiet), but they must also be careful not to fall too far away (“zoned out”) from the present moment (level 5).  

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.”

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