For Coaches
Dynamite defense: Coaching legend shares practice tip

Dynamite defense: Coaching legend shares practice tip


By Greg Bach

Young lacrosse players love being on the attack and scoring goals, but it’s what happens defensively that often determines the game’s outcome.

So how do you get your players to buy in to playing the kind of unrelenting defense that rattles opponents and forces off-the-mark passes and low percentage shots?

And how do you get them craving stops and cherishing turnovers?

It all starts during your practices. The more you emphasize the defensive elements of the game, and acknowledge good defensive effort, the greater the chances of your team embracing this important part of the game.

And becoming really good at it, too.

SportingKid Live asked Bill Tierney, the University of Denver’s legendary men’s lacrosse coach, for one way volunteer lacrosse coaches can help their young athletes play solid, suffocating defense – and enjoy doing so.  

“One of the things we do is when we scrimmage we give point totals for competitive situations at both ends of the field,” says Tierney, winner of six NCAA championships and a U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee. “For instance, if we are playing full field then each team can get 2 points for an assisted goal and 1 point for a regular goal.  But also, at the defensive end we give 2 points for a save and clear, 2 points for a defensive ground ball and clear and 1 point for forcing a bad shot or turnover. At the end of the game, we add up all the points, not just the number of goals scored. This way, the kids take ownership of playing hard and getting rewarded for their efforts at the defensive end as well as the offensive end.”

So be sure to incorporate that scrimmage into your season to ratchet up your team’s defensive intensity. 

Tierney also recommends shortening the playing area and conducting several small-sided games at once, which puts a premium on players being able to maneuver with the ball – while also providing lots of opportunities for them to work on their defensive skills too in stopping opposing players. 

“Use small-sided games going crossways on the field, where you can play 4 against 4 or 5 against 5 so they have to play up and down and both offense and defense,” he says. “And remind them that defense wins championships.”

Coaching Lacrosse Defense Scrimmage Practice

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