Welcome to "A Lacrosse Weekend," my weekly compilation of thought, ideas, history, stories, myths/truths about the great game of lacrosse. I hope you find it enjoyable.
Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast with Patrick McEwen, AKA @LacrosseFilmRoom
Last week I did a podcast with Patrick McEwen, a self made lacrosse expert and it's worth the listen. Most of the learning I did came from the "Lab" of coaching in DI or from others in their own lab. McEwen on the other hand taught himself the game through film and analytics. There are not a lot of people with whom I talk lacrosse that regularly leave me completely perplexed, yet every time I speak with Patrick I invariably am at one point dumbfounded. if you speak with this guy, read is articles, or listen to his podcast, you will be blown away with his knowledge and understanding. He is an engineer at heart with a passion for sports analytics and the sport of lacrosse.
Patrick actually created an algorithm that picked the NCAA tourney teams and their seeds exactly with the exception of Duke and Yale being switched. In his algorithm he actually had to build in a factor "Is this team coached by Bill Tierney?" in order to get the seedings right.
In this Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast Patrick and I focus on new NCAA rules and how they will impact the game. We talk about the dive, playing fast vs. playing slow, two way middies vs. offense/defense and efficiency, riding vs. subbing, and many other interesting topics around analytics.
Here's the link to the podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/phi-lacrosse-ophy-podcast-s-1-ep-13-with-patrick-mcewen/id1386328369?i=1000419869983&mt=2
Spotlight on Shawn Evans
I've written about this in past blogs, but my favorite player to watch right now is Shawn Evans from the Peterborough Lakers and Buffalo Bandits. In an upcoming Phi-Lacrosse-ophy podcast with Lakers GM and NLL Wings Head Coach / GM Paul Day, one of the topics about what makes Shawn Evans great. "Competitiveness" was Paul's first descriptor. Incredible passer and so smart were the other words to describe Evans. Below is a sampling of some interesting plays Evan made in the MSL Finals vs the Oakville Rock. The array of skills and nuances that Evans uses is insane. Take a look:
• When Evans beats his man underneath in a 2man game, he constantly pumps his backhand in order to manipulate the defender in the 2v1. PTR OAK3 Evans back hand pumps pivot BTB feed *
• A master of processing situations, here Evans comes top side in the 2man game and steps in tight to the pick to draw the switch creating more topside space to step into. PTB OAK3 Evans manipulates switch with hitch
• Always trying to buy time for receivers by making the defense play him. PTB OAK3 Evans sells topside btb pass
• I need to talk shooting with Shawn Evans some time, but this shot is sick. Subtle, but sells far and pulls it near. PTB OAK3 Evans unreal shot
• No idea what happened here ... PTB OAK3 EVans WTF
• More 2v1 manipulation, faking the defender away, draws him more. PTB OAK3 Evans backhand pump backhand pass
• Double threat position is a dodging posture that keeps your man honest and the defense staring at you. Evans deceptively feeds from this posture. OAK PTB Evans double threat feed
• This is a pretty sick sequence while killing a penalty.... a lot in this clip. OAK PTB Evans 1v1 physical dodge, fakes, swim, hesitations, backup post up
• Evans is a master of getting into "No mans's land" as close to his man as possible, but just outside of his defender's ability to crosscheck him, said another way, the defender no cushion. OAK PTB Evans double threat under move
• Always pulling the defense away, popping a lever pass so he can get the pass off and absorb a check, making the "D" commit just a little more. OAK PTB Evans drag lever PP
• This is absurd. OAK PTB Evans under move, squared up post up 1 hand fee quickstick shot
• In his Double Threat position, Evans is so dangerous at getting underneath, that faking the toe drag gets him topside. OAK PTB Evans fake toe drag
In my chat with Paul Day he made an interesting statement, "we (as coaches) are not technical." What he was referring to is generally as coaches in Canada, they don't really teach shooting, or faking, or dodging. Yet the technical ability of these players is through the roof. How can this be? The number of "Solutions" a player like Shawn Evans has for every situation seems endless. This is discussed in the Talent Equation Podcast with Ted Kroeten: if kids play enough, they acquire solutions and when their opponent counters, they counter with another solution. Solutions = Skills.
It's no surprise that in Peterborough, ON there is a ton of pick up lacrosse and backyard lacrosse where the kids play endlessly in the summer. And in the evenings, the kids go off to box practice, where 5v5 is the most complicated the game ever gets (correction, 6v5 when you pull the goalie would be the most complex scenario.). The simplicity of the box game leads to deeper skill development.... just like in the backyard.
One of my gang's favorite activities is playing street lacrosse or street box. We play several different versions of pick up games depending on how many players we have or what net we decide to use, but they're all fun. If you watch this video, you will see some "Solutions" being discovered or utilized. Also, there are examples of several different versions of the game: 2v2 + box goalie, straight up 3x, 4v4 etc. Also, you should notice that there are boys and girls playing of varying ages. There are older kids, younger kids, DI committed kids, some college players and old guys.
Lacrosse players need a "go to" pick up game! Street lacrosse gets it done, gang!
Learning to Shoot
Finishing might be the most important skill in the game. How many times have coaches said, "If only we had finished our 1v1's with the goalie, or even half our 1v1's with the goalie." There are so many players who aren't fast, aren't big, aren't overly athletic, but they can finish, so they play. It blows my mind how often I see players practicing shooing on an empty net. When you shoot on an empty net, you end up shooting as hard as you can and as accurately as you can, which seem like good things. However, what you really end up practicing is staring down your shot and telegraphing your shot. Every time you shoot you are "telling a story" to the goalie. Learning how to move a goalie, manipulate a goalie, freeze a goalie can't be done on an empty net.
For Moms and Dads
If you want to help your kids be better lacrosse players, this is one of the best things you can do! And it's really fun!
Break away finishing practice in the street
141 Offense: the "Denver Exchange" and the "Cottle Look"
For serious coaches, September is almost over and it's time to start studying in preparation for your lacrosse season. Now is the time to add to your repertoire of new looks, drills and skills. It's also the time to refine what you already do, by layering on the next level, like a software upgrade.
Check out this 10 minute tutorial on some of the nuances to "Exchanges" in a 141 offense: https://vimeo.com/269922203
This is an example of the kind of content you can find in the Coaches Training Program. The 141 presentation is one of my favorites, but honestly, there are endless great topics and we try to cover everything; offense, defense, rides/clears, transition, special teams, cutting edge skill and IQ development and great drills. CTP Presentations have an average of 70 video clips illustrating the concepts, drills, and skills.
Go to www.JM3Coaches.com and look at the video testimonials from coaches in the program. We have some of the top coaches in the nation in this program!
Allman Brothers, Extreme Skiing, and DI Coaching
28 years ago last week I went to an Allman Brothers Concert at Great woods. It was September of 1990, I had returned from a year of traveling to Australia and coaching at Colorado College. My experience at CC made me want to either coach at the DI level, or ski a season for real. CC was great, but it wasn't the best lacrosse and I was just a little too far from the mountains to take full advantage. I thought I had a coaching job offer at Harvard, the head coach actually offered the assistant job to me at a camp we were both working, but he subsequently didn't return my calls for two months, so by September I was looking for plan B. After the Allman's concert, we all went back to my friend Corey Gavitt's house and we watched the movie "The Blizzard of Ahhhhs" starring Scott Schmidt and Glenn Plake, the grandfathers of extreme skiing. The movie took place primarily at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, It was the sickest thing I'd ever seen. Within days I was in a car headed out to Tahoe.
Unfortunately and fortunately, the snow never fell in the fall of 1990 and when the Yale job opened up in December, I applied, interviewed, and just before Christmas I was a DI assistant!
15 Years later, my brother Neil was working at The North Face, who happened to be the sponsor of Scott Schmidt. Neil was the only employee who could keep up with the sponsored athletes and therefore participated in a ton of the product testing. One day, Neil told Scott the story of how I watched The Blizzard of Ahhhs and was so inspired that I moved west. His response, "Yeah, I've heard that story many times." Legend!
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