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!
Ted Suihkonen is the Director of Player Development for HC Locamotiv in a town 3.5 hours northeast of Moscow. I started following Ted on Twitter and have been blown away by his tweets on coaching, learning, and teaching. Ted talks about unlocking creativity in his players by not providing the answers.
One part of our conversation that I found most profound was a story Ted told about watching his 8 year old son play in a small area 2v2 game. Ted, sitting up in the stands, decided to write down on a note pad every skill he saw his young son execute in this little game. One skill Ted described as a move with the puck where the boy squared up to his defender with skates facing out, right foot to the right and left foot to the left, giving him the ability to go in either direction. I think of this in lacrosse terms as an Open Hips Hitch or Hesitation Move. It's a pretty high level skill for an 8 year old to execute on skates!
A few days later Ted was on the ice with his boy and he decided to conduct an experiment: create a drill where the boy had to execute that "Open Hitch" hockey move, but this time against a cone. Interestingly, Ted's son couldn't do the move on command or against a cone!
A lightbulb went off in my head.
Would we rather have a player who can execute skills vs cones and on command in practice, but struggles to execute in the "Wilderness" of a game? Or would you rather have a player who can execute skills in games implicitly but can't execute on command or against cones in practice?
This one of the most interesting interviews I've ever conducted and I hope you get a chance to listen! Click here to listen!
Flying Solo Podcast, "Hang up 2man"
Hang up 2man is a new paradigm FOR ME on teaching and thinking about 2man game! This Solo podcast is a breakdown that I think you will enjoy. The gist of this paradigm shift is: Instead of thinking of 2man game as all about pick angles, timing, shoulder to shoulder, attacking the middle with speed, mixing up Hard Picks, Slip Picks and Swing Picks...... the way I think of 2man now is simple: Get two players on on you, or Zero players on you.
If you want to see an awesome FREE WEBINAR illustrating this model, go to 2manGame.com
Also, you can Click here to listen to the Hang up 2man Podcast!
From a 50,000 feet view, the reason 2man is so important and is becoming a mainstay of offense is based on analytics. PLL Stats Analyst and Writer, Joe Keegan has compiled compelling stats:
Here's why these stats are important: 1) assisted shots have a higher percentage chance of scoring than shots off the dodge; 2) shots with sticks to the middle have a higher percentage chance of scoring than shots with sticks to the outside, 3) and due to the concept of "Addition by Subtraction," which happens when the defense has to send a 3rd player to a 2man game, yields a higher scoring percentage than isolation. Simply put, it's harder for the defense to guard four players with three than it is to guard five players with four. The former occurs when you send a slide to 2man game and the latter when a slide goes to a 1v1 dodge.
When The Defense Switches
When the defense switches: the dodger can engage two defenders with his posture and fakes if he slows down. Keeping his own man playing him while he forces the picker's man to get ready to switch. Attacking with speed will ensure a clean and successful switch by the defender.
Once two defenders are engaged, and when the picker exits (rolls to the net), there will confusion as to who should pick up the picker and who should stay with the ball often ties leaving either the picker or the dodger open.
Watch the clip below of NLL Seals forwards Austin Staats and Zack Greer executing Hang up 2man vs a switch to perfection Staats engagers two defenders and even hangs up the goalie on this one!
When the defense is "Bookending" the picker in a switch situation, which is usually a long-picking-for-short in field lacrosse, there forms a "Pocket" and just like an NFL QB, the feeder can sit in the pocket.
The Defense Pressures The Ball
Many defensive coordinators, will teach their players to play the ball as if there is no pick there, to maintain ball pressure and if they get picked off, we will switch. This can this be a great tactic vs players who dodge "Shoulder to Shoulder" off a pick with speed because the defender guarding the picker will easily decide to switch if he sees his teammate run into a pick. Furthermore, it's unlikely a pick and roll will work if the roll man has been run into. Yes, this switch yields a match up issue if the best player on the other team has a short stick on him, but let's go back to the analytics: sending a slide to isolation is better for the defense than having to send a slide to 2man game (Addition by subtraction.)
The tactic I'm about to share is quite counter intuitive but is incredibly effective: if the dodger "Invites" his man over the pick by giving him daylight or making him think he will be able to needs to get over the pick, the dodger can, due to his angle, put the defender in a permanently trailing position. Further, once the on ball defender takes the bait and fights over this pick, there is no turning back to switch which is significant because now the dodger will basically be in a pure 2v1 situation with the picker against the picker's man.
This concept was a revelation for me! If you really think about this, it's insane!
If The Defense Goes Under and Doesn't Switch
This situation is a little different behind the net than on the wings, but first of all, when a defender wants to go under a pick, he often times has to turn his head away from the dodger to see the pick which is dangerous as he can cut back on you and make you feel really bad about yourself!
When the defense goes under a pick, there is essentially Zero players on the ball, allowing for the dodger to feed with no ball pressure from the Pocket, or to shoot.
When the ball is on the wing and the defense goes under the pick, the read is simply to set the pick close enough to the net where the dodger can shoot. If a shooter is just outside of shooting range on a pick where the defender goes under, a good strategy is to reset the pick a few yards closer.
Behind the net, when the defense goes under a pick, the dodger obviously isn't in a shooting position, but by using the goal as another picker, dodgers and pickers who learn to "Adjust" their picks, can put the on ball defender in a terrible position of having to "S" turn to navigate the picks or to get hung up. See the video example below. Notice how Ament invites the defender to follow him around the net with his hesitation. This is the same concept as inviting a defender over a pick by slowing down where you put him in a permanently trailing position!
If the Defense Goes Under and PIcker's man "Chips" or "Shows"
This technique is pretty common in Division I Lacrosse, but I think it will be extinct, because it really only works if players dodge with speed off picks. If the dodger slows down, he can easily get two players on him, guaranteeing the defense will have to send a third player to the play.
Learning 2man Game For Boys and Girls
If you're a coach....
If you're a parent...
You're going to wish your kids to mastered 2man games! In men's and women's lacrosse, 2man game is trending big time, for all the reasons explained above.
Notice the title of this section of the blog: "Learning 2man game For Boys and Girls", not "Teaching 2man Game to Boys and Girls". Sure, we can teach in the sense of presenting 2man game concepts, like I've done in this blog, on the 2mangame.com webinar and on my podcast, but understanding content does not equate to being able to execute in the "Wilderness" of a game.
In quarantine, I played A LOT of lacrosse with my three kids, Colin who plays at Georgetown and my two daughters Emily, who plays at ASU and Lucy, who was a junior in HS. The kids had their seasons ripped away from them and they not only love to play, but they want to get better, so we made up a ton of different drills and games in the backyard that I filmed and turned into The Backyard Curriculum.
What I discovered in the backyard laboratory, was some of the best development environments I had ever encountered, even though we we played with no equipment and with boys and girls.
Area 1v1's + Picker
Do you want to see how to teach your kids to "Invite" their defender over a pick? Or how to slow down and sit in the pocket when a defender goes under a pick? Check out this video from the Backyard Curriculum, it's awesome!
The Backyard Curriculum
In all seriousness, the most impactful content I've ever produced can be found in the Backyard Curriculum and it only costs $19. It's a DIY model for kids to learn world class skill and IQ!
The content in the Backyard Curriculum is literally what I do with my own children and with my JM3 Athletes!
Why I am I pretty much giving away all my most treasured secrets?
First, I know most of you will never actually follow this backyard model haha. People think the formula is: The Best Coaching/Training + The Best Competition= The best Development Results. I used to subscribe to this notion myself, but not anymore and the results I'm getting from my JM3 Athletes prove it!
Here is an article from James Clear on this phenomenon, Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds
“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” - Leo Tolstoy
Second, and more importantly, I'm trying to create a FREE PLAY MOVEMENT. I believe in this more than I care about protecting my secrets. Just like Ted Suihkonen's kid, I want athletes who can execute in the wilderness of games, not in the confines of structure.
I honestly believe we are all born with incredible instincts, intuition, and creativity and then along comes structure which stifles it.
Think about how your toddler blows your mind with the things they say, their ideas, or thee way they create?
Why does this seem to evaporate as kids get older? Because structure is telling us what to do, what not to do, what's possible, what's not possible, etc.
Now apply this to lacrosse.
Here's an example how a lacrosse technique is taught to a new young player, "OK, this is how you pass the ball: point your butt end towards your target, step with your opposite foot and point it to your target, and follow through."
Sorry, but this is the worst advice you could give someone on passing. Sure it could get a ball from A to B, but in the context of defenders, using this technique will result in being checked or the ball being picked off every time.
There are endless examples like these that I call this Fake Fundamentals and are universally accepted teachings, holding players back as they try to do what they're told.
Kids would be better off playing the game with literally no instruction in the backyard, solving problems and discovering what works and what doesn't work, learning from the environment, implicitly and not from a coach.
If you want to learn the Power of Free Play, get the Backyard Curriculum. It's a game changer. Check out the video below for a virtual tour of the website.
JM3 Attack/Midfield, Defense, GIrl's Academy
If you like the content in my blogs on skills / techniques like the piece on Hesitation Moves above, you will love the JM3 Academies! If your son or daughter is a hard worker, you will be SO pumped about the results you will see. The comprehensiveness of the cutting edge skills taught in a super practical and refreshing way, will be a game changer.
But they have to do the work! That's the only pre-requisite!
These 10 chapter courses shows you drills you can do by yourself, with a friend, or a small groups with a "Backyard Curriculum!"
If you wan to check out the academies, check out the video walk throughs below!