A Lacrosse Weekend 8.27.22

Uncategorized Aug 27, 2022

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!   

If you are a men's or women's lacrosse player, coach, or parent, I think you will love the weekly content, videos, and analysis.

Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast

If you are interested in learning a new and holistic high performance approach to coaching lacrosse including the technical, the tactical, the physical and the psychological and an emphasis on the Principles Based Offense, I highly recommend you listen to the conversation I had with Christopher Newport Head Coach, Mikey Thompson.  This type of podcast is my favorite because it was a true conversation more than an interview.  Mikey and I became friends when he subscribed to the JM3 Coaches Training Program as a young head coach and at the time, was in a massive learning curve trying to get information on anything and everything.  We realized we were both on parallel paths of Free Play exploration; me with my daughter Lucy and JM3 Athletes and Mikey with his team at Christopher Newport.  Ultimately, Free Play (ideally combined with film review) is not only a vehicle for players to learn unmatched fluency in the game, but it has been the catalyst for deep learning for Mikey and me as coaches.

Mikey adopted the JM3 Principles Based Offense in the middle of the 2021 college season and rode it to the NCAA Final 4, the best season in program history.  Last year in 2022 CNU had a breakthrough year as the #1 seed in the D3 tourney, with a scoring margin of eleven goals throughout the year.  Sadly, the Captains lost an OT heartbreaker in the quarter finals, but the model is working wonders!  You will listen to how Mikey integrated the offense and how it worked for the players who were his best "Down hill dodgers" as well as opened up massive opportunities for the kids who aren't great dodgers, allowing them to use their skill and IQ to be invaluable to the offense.

The 5 Principles of Offense:

1.  Possession: shot selection in terms of range, angle, off the catch vs off the dodge, is a player by player concept.  Statically, shots with sticks to the middle score at a higher rate than shots with sticks to the outside.  Feed selection, and handling pressure. Along with winning face offs, clearing, and riding, and ground balls, teams must win the possession battle for the best chance to win the game.

2.  Passing: assisted shots score at a higher percentage than unassisted shots, swinging the ball, moving the ball, passing the ball in the middle of 2man games, head manning the ball, moving the ball off the ground quickly are all traits of highly effective offenses.  Ball movement spreads the defense out and and changes defensive responsibilities.  Overall you must have a great passing team to have a great offense.

3.  Picking on and off ball simultaneously:  on ball picks have a higher scoring efficiency than isolation dodging and lead to more assisted shots as well as more shots with sticks to the middle.  Picking on ball pulls defenders out of the slide package, creating more space for skip passes and backside actions.  

The defense must decide out to cover picks: switch, stay go over, stay go under, double team, stack and whack etc.  The offense can create the advantage of a two on one or a positional advantage if it recognizes the coverage and understands and executes the coverage solution.  If one defender switches and one defender stays, it is a two on one.   It is easier to create a two on one with picks than it is 1v1 if you understand the coverage solutions.

Off ball, the defense not only has to decide how to cover the actions, the have to decide how much they want to cover the action.  Off ball the defense is usually more worried about stopping the ball and often times ignore backside actions.  This is why mastering off ball picking and coverage solutions is so critical!  Why exchange backside when you could pick, slip, and seal and punish a sagging sloughing defense that is designating a slider and covering nobody?

4.  Spacing: the main idea is to keep the middle open for cuts and dodges while not allowing the defense the anchor from which to slide and to which to second slide.  Having a player camped in the middle is a defensive advantage.

5.  Reads: the ability to read the defense is paramount in any offense and becomes the focal point of the Principles Based Offense with a focus on how your opponent is playing picks.  In most offenses however the focus is on the actions and motions not the reads.  For example a coach would say, "we have to exchange out top in our 222 Big-Little when the ball is behind!" in one breath and "Hey, I know I told you to exchange here, but you were wide open, there's nobody guarding you!"  

In the PBO, once we get kids picking on ball and off ball simultaneously and moving the ball, 90% of the coaching is on the reads, keeping the middle open and shot/feed selection.  Yes, this is similar to any offense, but due to the complexity of so many one off looks in regular offenses, it becomes impossible for some kids to remember what to do and to read the defense.

The AMAZING thing about focusing on reads is you can simultaneously create an infinite number of looks with the different picking scenarios on and off ball while keeping the reads simple and consistent.  On ball and off ball the reads are exactly the same!  The defense can either switch or stay.  If the defense stays they can go over or under.  Once you learn how to read this, and focus on reading this, you're opportunities for creating advantages increases significantly.

Lastly, if your volume of picks goes up while your percentage of creating advantages also improves, you will be more productive on offense!  

Here is a video from Deerfield Spring Break 2021 where I installed the PBO in five days.  This was a classic group of field players who through free play and non stop picking developed into National Champions! 

If you want more information on Principles Based Lacrosse, I have a brand new section in the Men's and Women's Coaches Training Programs called Principles Based Lacrosse that has all of the written, video, and audio content including every drill with descriptions which breakdown everything in this article and much more!

Watch these walkthroughs of the Coaches Training Program.

Coaches Training Program Walkthrough [Become a member here]

 Women's Coaches Training Program Walkthrough [Become a member here]

These amazing programs below develop players and teams faster than any other systems out there.

Check them out! 


If you're interested in learning more about the JM3 Athlete Program email me at [email protected], If you want to learn more about pck up games and how to create these environment at home, check out the Backyard Curriculum.  Get yourself some small nets, at HotBed Lacrosse and tap into the miracle of Free Play.

Be sure to get your own Small Sided Box Lacrosse Goal @ BoxLacrosseGoals.com

#principlesbasedlacrosse #backyardcurriculum

Hotbed Lacrosse has the best box lacrosse goals in the game. Small sided games, free play, high reps develops a player faster than any other type of practice. Get your goal today


Integrating Mindfulness

In December of 2020 Mikey sent me the audio book, The Inner Game of Tennis, which as been a game changer for me and my athletes.  Mikey has long been studying and practicing Mindfulness and this book opened my eyes to the mental side of the game and how to be in the "Zone."  Basically, the book discusses that everyone has two selves: self one is your ego self, your thinking self that judges and criticizes while Self 2 is your childlike, auto pilot self that simply operates without thinking.  To be in the zone an athlete must not allow Self 1 to be in control.  As soon as you're judging and thinking about what happened or what might happen, you're not in the moment, you're not in the zone.

What struck me about this book was I had noticed that my JM3 Athletes made massive strides in their mental game through playing pick up.  Kids who were painfully unassertive learned to make the play that presented itself.  Kids who lacked focus because they worried about the criticism of coaches or were constantly looking for coach's affirmation, learned to be in the moment.  And kids who were always beating themselves up, which ends up being equated to selfish or bad attitudes learned to play through it.  

When I would watch film of JM3 Athletes in Free Play it was amazing to watch the focus, the communication the laughter, the shit talking and cheering!  It's pure human interaction and most of all they're in the moment the whole time!

In my pre podcast call with Mikey when we were talking about the integration of Mindfulness to the development of the Principles Based Lacrosse model I had a revelation! (although I think this has been obvious to Mikey for some time now).  Self 1 is the side of coaching that constantly judges, fixes, worries, micromanages, wants to control everything and wouldn't allow coaches to stay with a model of Free Play, Principles Based Offense, etc.  Yes, players need mindfulness, but coaches need it just as much!

Mikey has been passionate about Sports Psychology and has his masters in coaching with certifications in mindfulness.  Mikey works with JM3 Athletes on how to practice mindfulness and in this podcast goes into some detail on how he does this.  Mikey is a partner in The Peavy Project, check out their website! 

Prioritizing Performance - Feed The Cats

An integral part of the Principles Based Offense is integrating the Tony Holler Feed The Cats model of prioritizing performance through speed training, and prioritizing rest, recovery and sleep.  This is a major paradigm shift for most coaches and fits amazingly well into the Principles Based Lacrosse model.  Organizing your practices into high days and low days.  High days when we do full game like speed in drills and scrimmage situations, whereas low days is where we focus on decision making that builds skill and IQ simultaneously through varying levels of Free Play environments.

In terms of physical improvement, there is nothing more significant than speed improvement.  Everyone knows this!  Coaches recruit speed!  However, coaches don't develop speed.  In fact, coaches detrain speed (and performance) with conditioning tests, 5am workouts, and going too hard, too often!  In "A Lacrosse Weekend" from last week I wrote about about Tony Holler's Atomic Workout and how the Princeton Men's Lacrosse team had phenomenal results after they engaged with Tony and implemented their "Feed The Tigers" model!


The Atomic Workout was created by Tony for JM3 Athletes who's busy schedules limited their ability to train for speed.  This 16 minute workout involves a simple warm up and timed sprints, where the metric of choice is to calculate Miles Per Hour based on a 10 yard time with a 30 yard fly in.  There is only one way to get faster and it's running your fastest.  And you can only know if you're running your fastest if you time your sprints.  The preferred timing device is a Freelap timing system that I highly recommend because of it's ease of use and durability.  Yes, it costs about $600 but, you will never have to pay for speed training

If you want an in depth breakdown of how to integrate Tony' Holler's feed the Cats workout into your lacrosse program, read this blog from March 5th 2022.  It's pretty good!

JM3 SPORTS uses the FreeLap speed timing system with our Athletes along with Tony Hollers Atomic Speed Workout and the results are phenomenal! 

Start seeing speed gains in weeks! Get your FreeLap speed timer >>>CLICK HERE <<<

If you want to get Tony Holler's Speed Training for Lacrosse go to this link >>> CLICK HERE <<< 

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Player Development

There is no doubt that the Free Play model is powerful and when you run practices with the constraints lead approach, you will learn how to design environments where the emergence of skills occurs and it's your job to tweak those environments to create opportunities for adaptations.  One incredibly powerful constraint in the development of players is the use of picks regularly as a means to teach players to be better and smarter.  Mikey and I talk about this at length in the podcast, but many coaches are afraid of 2man game because their players are more comfortable in space, dodging down hill.  The truth is learning to dodge in the context of 2man game not only enhances optionality, it creates the highest of level dodging with the integration of deception.

A Drill That Teaches Advanced Dodging Concepts

Watch the videos below and read the descriptions regarding the drill called 1v1 + Picker and you will see why it is critical to integrate 2man game into your player development!  This breakdown is only the "No switch" situation, when you add switches, double teams, stack and whack coverages, it simply adds to the affordances being offered to the dodgers and teaches them more solutions!

1v1 + Picker is a drill environment that naturally teaches advanced dodging concepts and techniques.  The video above is worth watching a few times!  First, try to notice, rep by rep, if the dodger is reading and reacting to the way the defender is playing the pick.  Then,try to identify what techniques emerge as a solution to the defender's coverage.

Below is a breakdown of why 1v1 + Picker is important: 

Deception: the dodger's initial advantage in 2man game is the on ball defender can't guard the dodger equally in two directions: towards the pick and towards the net.  Therefore in 2man game the dodger can learn to leverage deception use / refuse picks using one to set up the other.  This deception comes in many forms: posture, eyes, hesitations, hitches, pass and shot fakes and more.

Coverage Solutions: learning to dodge in the context of 2man game accelerates learning.  This drill simulates a "No switch" coverage in 2man game where the on ball defender must either go under or over the pick.  This happens frequently when a defense doesn't want to change match ups.  Rather than just making a move and "Going hard" the dodger begins to recognize affordances offered by the defender based on the coverage.

If the defender goes under the pick, the dodger would either look to shoot, or slow down so the picker could adjust the pick and force the defender to farther under the pick, affording the dodger a positional advantage of a straight line while the defender would have to run around a pick.

If the defender fights over the pick, using deceptive posture and timing the dodger gets a step towards the pick, the dodger can "Invite" or "Bait" the defender over the pick, putting the defender in a permanently trailing position or on the back of the dodger.

The picker also learns critical pick placement and how to read the defense.  Pickers need to set their pick around 4 yards from the dodge so they have time to read the on ball defender.  If the defender is pushing out, the picker will stick the pick at an angle the dodger can dodge to.  If the defender turns their head to go under the pick, the picker must adjust the pick to make the defender run farther around the pick.  

The dodger will also learn to get a step to the pick just before the pick is set, rather than waiting until the pick is set.  This nuance allows the dodger to surprise the defender because they they can't tell where is or when the pick will be set.  Once the defender knows where it is, they can more easily play the dodger to the pick while being able to recover if the dodger refuses the pick.

 Watch below how the dodgers use a variety of moves as solutions to the defender's coverages. 


Here is a great video of dodgers using high level solutions vs a defender trying to aggressively fight over the pick. The dodgers use a subtle hitch go to sell their using the pick only to roll back on contact to refuse the pick. 

Be sure to check out our premium online lacrosse training and programs.

If you want to learn a more in-depth approach to all of the drills in this blog check out our premium content. Thousands of athletes, parents, coaches, and programs are subscribed to one of our memberships and have joined the JM3 community to take their lacrosse skills and IQ to an entirely new level.

Check out some of our game changing programs below. 

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 Have a great weekend!


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