A Lacrosse Weekend 12.12.20

Uncategorized Dec 12, 2020

Welcome to "A Lacrosse Weekend" my weekly compilation of thoughts, ideas, stories, myths, truths, about the great game of lacrosse. I hope you enjoy it! 

X's and O's with Bobby Benson

A new segment in the "A Lacrosse Weekend" blog will be thoughts and videos from Bobby Benson, former Offensive Coordinator at Johns Hopkins and a new member of the JM3 Sports team!  Coach Benson is a lacrosse savant and will drop knowledge for us regularly!

How Hoops Transformed the Blue Jay's Offense

By Bobby Benson

As some of you heard on last week's Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast, in 2014 we changed our offense at Hopkins to a basketball style motion offense.  My high school basketball coach at McDonogh, Matt MacMullan, once asked why no one in lacrosse has a motion offense like they do in hoops.  In 2008, I put pen to paper with Dave Allan to begin to develop the offense.  (Coach Allan is one of the best coaches and mentors I have ever been around.)  However, we did not implement it until the 2014 season.  While the offense required a lot of thinking, it gave the players the ability to play freely and creatively.  I would say most of the players thoroughly enjoyed the new style.  I also had a blast coaching it and was fortunate that Coach Petro completely supported a longer and more patient implementation process.  Most importantly, our offensive efficiency during the six years we ran our motion was amongst the top in the country every year. 

Occasionally, we would take offensive practice inside to the basketball court.  Below is a some clip of us practicing our offense on the court

And here it is on the field

College basketball starting up is one of the highlights of my year.  My wife is a Providence College grad so we watch a lot of them, and the Big East in general.  PC often has some great two and three man games we copied at Hopkins.  One was named Cooley after Coach Cooley himself.  I have also been told to watch Army and Davidson play offense this year as well as the ball screen stuff Texas is doing.  Lacrosse to me has always been a few years behind basketball with the introduction of zone defenses, shot clock, pick play, maybe two point line, etc.  I hope to get more into how the sports overlap right here in the coming weeks.  

JM3 Coaches Training Program

We are all in for a treat with the addition of Bobby Benson to the JM3 Coaches Training Program (CTP)!  This guy has so much knowledge it's insane!  Hopkins under Dave Pietramala was known for preparation and leaving no stone unturned!  Bobby will be breaking down the game for us in some extremely exciting ways!  One of the first webinars I personally want to see from Bobby is a breakdown on the JHU Motion Offense!  

Bobby is also going to host a weekly "Office Hours" for coaches in the CTP where subscribers all jump on a Zoom call and talk lacrosse, watch film, ask questions/get answers, submit film, etc!  If you know Bobby you know he's as good of a guy as there is and is a total lacrosse geek, so be prepared to go deep!

Another exciting part of Bobby's involvement is in the planning and execution of the 2021 Virtual Lacrosse Summit taking place January 11th-14th!  We will have an amazing line up of speakers!  Stay tuned for more details!

 Here's a video detailing the program!

Why Defenders Should Play Box Lacrosse

My son Colin played 10 seasons of box lacrosse in Canada, five summers of minor box in St Catharines, ON, Peewee through Midget (12 years old - 16 years old) and five seasons in Coquitlam, BC, 1 year of Intermediate and four years of Jr A.  The experience of playing north of the border was incredible on many levels.  Listen to this podcast on box lacrosse to learn why box is so powerful!

One misconception is that box lacrosse is not as impactful or as important for long poles to as it is for short sicks.  This couldn't be farther from the truth.  Box is the ultimate way for defenders to develop!  Most youth kids in the US grow up playing with a stick a foot or two over their head, relegated to playing defense throughout a practice, almost like "Live cones" for the sake of the coach to implement his offense.

Side note, if you want your player to be a 20% better player in five minutes, watch this video and the one below of one of the best defenders you've never heard of!


Consequently, most poles are not very skilled.  And their lack of skill not only impacts the obvious elements of ground balls, clearing or transition, but it also has a severe impact on defender's ability to play great defense in terms of holds, leverage, checks, lifts, knocking down or picking off passes etc.  A defender's stick skills are as critical to his success as any other position on the field.

The Best Defender You've Never Heard of

Check out the video below of one of Colin's teammates from St Catharines Minor Lacrosse who actually jumped straight from high school to the NLL.  His instincts, skills, vision, ability to apply pressure, check, lift and play off ball are incredible, yet he didn't actually play much long pole growing up.  The field season is pretty much the month of May and the rest was hockey and box!

Latrell Harris actually lived with my family for the 2014-15 academic year and attended Mountain Vista HS.  It was an amazing experience to add the dynamic of another kid to the family!  Division I lacrosse was Latrell's dream, but unfortunately academics got in the way.  Everyone in the US would know who Latrell Harris is if he were playing DI lacrosse right now and I bet he would have been a 1st Team All-American. 

This is what a pole who grew up playing box looks like... and look at the length of his stick!

Sandlot is Box Lacrosse

It takes a lot of commitment, talent, and some connections for an American to find his way on to a roster in St Catharines or Coquitlam, but there is a super efficient and effective solution that I would argue is right there with box in it's effectiveness in developing players!  Playing pick up games!  Street Lacrosse! The Sandlot!  Listen to this podcast on Free Play to fully understand the value of this environment.  

I hear people talk about #R E P S as the key to a good work out, good training, good coaching etc.   Remember: not all reps are created equal.   Wall Ball, private lessons, dodging cones, shooting reps on empty nets, or doing 2man game with no defenders are what I would consider "Empty Reps."  Not a total waste of time, but not going to actually help you be better at playing the game of lacrosse.   I want reps just like everyone else, but I want game situation reps, reps in context, and the way we do it with our JM3 Athlete Program is through the Sandlot Model!

Now that Bobby Benson has joined forces with JM3 we will be opening enrollment in the JM3 Athlete Program in January!  This program that is for serious boys and girls has been incredibly successful in terms of performance, college commitments, honors etc and it is all built on the foundation of Free Play!

Not everyone can be a JM3 Athlete, but everyone can tune into the Sandlot Model and if you  need a little direction, subscribe to the Backyard Curriculum.  This site is literally the blue print to phenomenal skill and IQ! 

If you are a men's or women's parent of coach who appreciates skill and IQ, and are looking for solutions for your kids, watch the video below and look for:

  • Hang up 2man
  • Nations Looks
  • Give & Go's
  • Off ball Hang up 2man
  • Endless BTB shots and passes
  • Twisters
  • Screen Shots
  • Post ups
  • Fakes, Hitches, Hard Pumps
  • Laughter at the 2:26 mark 



Hidden Ball Tricks

When we think of a Hidden Ball Trick, we usually think of fake flips where one player pretends to flip the ball while another player pretends to receive the flip, fooling the defense, and especially the goalie into guarding the wrong player, usually resulting in an almost empty net goal.  One of the great things about Hidden Ball Tricks is that if they don't work, you lose nothing!  Who cares!  But if you score it's like a "Free Goal."

In all honesty, a defense will sniff out a hidden ball trick, figure out and communicate who has the ball, or "Blow it up" with pressure, which is why it is key to do these hidden ball tricks in unexpected context: in transition, when the defense isn't ready or watching, etc.  All you have to do is fool one person (especially the goalie) and you can score!

Sometimes we would use a Hidden Ball Trick on EMO simply to encourage defenders to "Blow it up" so we could spread them out and have more skip pass or wall pass options!


The High Five Continuous

Check out what I would call the greatest Hidden Ball Trick of all time, orchestrated by JHU Offensive Coordinator, and executed to perfection vs UVA.  I call this a High Five Hidden Ball Trick where you slap your sticks together and either transfer the ball or keep it.  The cool part is immediately players. do another High Five and nobody knows who has the ball!  I wonder if Coach Benson designated it or let them figure it out?  Ask him in JM3 Office hours!


Another EMO Hidden Ball Trick

Here's a really interesting Hidden Ball Trick I learned from my Canadians who executed this to perfection vs Ohio State in 2008 without any coaching whatsoever!  No coaching, no play call, they just did it and I stole the idea and taught my HS team!

One day at practice when I was coaching Mountain Vista HS in 2015, I had told my lefties that when we did our EMO/EMD competitions often times the defense  was talking amongst themselves and wouldn't really be paying attention to exactly where the ball is coming in.  The real life mechanic is the ref will stand next to the player with the ball, tell the defense/goalie where the ball is and blow his whistle to start play.   The way this play works is while the D isn't paying close attention, a player on offense walks up to the player with the ball, pretends to discuss something quickly, then walks away cradling, even spinning his stick and stands five or more yards away (this is another mechanic) from the player who actually has the ball.  The defense will often times zero in on who they think has the ball while the player who actually has the ball stands as if he doesn't.

The best part is the kid who pretended he had the ball put his arms up to celebrate the goal before the shooter shot!

This was another example of players doing this on their own!  I actually wasn't even there to witness this much less call the play as I was on work related travel.


He's a great hidden ball trick from a girl's lacrosse game!

Gotcha Fakes

in my opinion, Hidden Ball Tricks are not restricted to fake flips.  Anytime you can make a defender think you do not have the ball when you do have it or that you do have it when you do not have it, you've executed a Hidden Ball Trick that can get you a "Free Goal."

Check out this "Hard Pump" that results in what should have been a Free Goal!  The Attacker fakes a pass right by the head and eyes of the defender where she couldn't tell that the ball was not thrown.

Here is a beautiful Jump Shot Fake that is just another version of a Hidden Ball Trick as thee rotating defender has no idea the shot wasn't taken!

Here's a sweet "Gotcha Fake" in a pick up game, which would be the best place to learn how to toy with people!

Watch Zack Miller with an all-time gotcha fake in the 2015 Semi Finals, one of the greatest lacrosse games ever!

This is one of the slicker Hidden Ball Tricks I've seen!  I saw this on Twitter executed and shared by Wesley Head Coach John Raba.  Here, the ball carrier attacks and pretends he's coming off a pick and secretly transfers the ball to the stick of the fake picker.  The dodger continues to dodge (without the ball) and the picker, who actually has the ball, bides his time until he can toss the ball into the wide open net!

Hard Pumps, like this one from Lyle Thompson only fool defenders for a second, but are still just like a Hidden Ball Trick and create Free Goals.  When you hard pump and hold your stick for a moment, it gives the impression to the defense that you passed or shot the ball because it looks like you followed through!

Question: why wouldn't the defense see that you didn't pass it?

Answer: they would if they were looking, but often times defenders are trying to keep their head on a swivel, see their man and see the ball.

I've heard coaches say, "the best fakes are the subtle fakes" or "Don't throw big fakes."  The truth is both are good!  Check out one of the best Hard Pumps you will ever see! 


How NOT to get Recruited

 Summer club tourneys and recruiting is in full swing. It’s getting incredibly competitive as there are more and more kids playing and training at high levels. Normally I give advice on what to do, but this time….

1. Don’t dodge much

2. Play with your head down, don't pass,  and "be more Selfish"

3. Do a ton of “Give and stand-there's”

4. Dodge full speed right into slides

5. Play primarily on the “Wrong” side of the field as opposed to your “Natural” side of the field

6. Stand in your teammate’s way when he’s trying to dodge instead of clearing space, picking, or “Fading/Drifting”

7. Show how fundamentally sound you are by switching hands a lot… especially on man up!

8. Don’t initiate contact on your man when you dodge

9. Just run to your strong hand, one speed, one direction, don’t use multiple moves

10. Do a lot of palms up when your coaches tell you something

11. Wait until you get the ball to figure out what you’re gonna do

12. Stare down your corner when you shoot

13. Have your dad drop knowledge on college coaches on the sideline whenever possible

14. Shoot side arm alley shots

15. Stand up tall on defense and watch the ball

16. Fade behind the net when you finish

 If you want more information on college lacrosse recruiting, check out the JM3 Recruiting Portal, a compilation of all recruiting oriented content from my blogs, podcasts, and webinars!  Check out this video for a virtual tour:




Have a great weekend! 





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