The time leading up to a game is very valuable for coaches to mentally and physically prepare their players to compete at a high level. Coaches need to ensure that their players are mentally focused heading into the game. From the physical standpoint, players need to be properly stretched and have the cobwebs knocked off the sticks before they step onto the field for game time. Let’s take a look at a good pre-game routine for your team of any age level.
From a physical standpoint, stretching is the most important thing your team should do before a game. Athletes need their finely-tuned bodies to be working at peak capabilities, and they can’t get to that point without a good stretch.
Lacrosse players need to spend a good amount of time stretching, and not rush through the routine. All muscle groups in the body need to be stretched to ensure that the player doesn’t cramp up or worse, damage a muscle or joint. Be sure to stretch the following areas:
- Legs (hamstrings, calves)
- Lower & upper back
Stretching is a great time for players to get mentally focused. Generally, the stretching will be done out on the field just prior to the game, as the opponents stand on the other side of the 50-yard line. Instruct your players to silently pay attention to the other team, to visualize how they will contribute and what they will do to help the team win. Players are in full uniform and should be preparing mentally to play the game, so make sure there is no joking around and that everyone is fully focused on the task at hand.
Once the boys are all stretched out, you’ll want them to get into a stick work routine. Many teams like to stick to the traditional line drills, but some teams have started using some different drills to get the sticks warmed up, and the players throwing and catching on point. The one knock on line drills would be that players end up doing a little too much standing around during the drill.
If you’re staying old-school with the line drills, be sure to include these warm-ups:
- Right & left hand outside
- Right & left hand inside
- Ground balls
- Over the shoulder (OTS)
Some teams like to run the “star drill,” where five lines of players form a star shape, and pass the ball from line to line. More than one ball can be going at once, making for faster action and more repetitions per player. Other teams run the triangle passing drill so that players can get the most reps passing and catching pre-game.
You want your shooters and passers to be at peak performance by the time the game starts, so think about utilizing a few offensive drills prior to game time.
The most popular pre-game offensive drill is the Tiger Drill, which involves four lines of offensive players (two midfield lines up high, two attack lines down low) and three defensemen. The first player in each offensive line steps inward a few steps, forming a box shape of four players around the cage. Those four players will be defended by the three defensemen. The result is a 4-on-3 situation, with the offensive players looking to continually and quickly move the ball to the open man to set up an easy shot in front of the cage.
If you’re having issues getting your team to move off the ball during the game, there’s a simple drill you can run pregame to get them in the moving mindset.
The Cutters & Feeders Drill is set up similarly to the Tiger Drill, but without defensive players involved. Midfielders form two lines up top at the hash marks on the top end of the restraining box, while attackmen form two lines down low on GLE at the hash marks. Each attack line has a pile of balls at the front, while midfielders ready themselves to cut and shoot.
Midfielders start the sequence by cutting towards the attackman on the opposite side of the cage, running with their heads up and sticks in the box, ready to catch a pass. Once the midfielder has begun his cut, the attackman he is cutting towards should throw a pass to him in a spot where he can continue cutting on the same line. The midfielder catches the pass on the move, and takes a shot to the far pipe of the goal while still on the run. Midfielders continue to cut, alternating lines, while attackmen continue to feed, also alternating lines.
Defensemen also need their own specialized warm-up before the game. Since what they do on the field is significantly different from what the offensive players are doing, tailor a warm-up specifically for the defensemen, too.
Long passing is something that gets overlooked in the standard passing and catching warm-up drills. Since the attackmen and midfielders will be working on shooting for a few minutes, use that time to have your defensive coach take the D-men aside and work on long passing. While it’s not technically a drill, just having defensemen pair up and stand about 25 to 30 yards apart and partner pass should be an adequate long passing warm-up for the poles.
Another area where defensemen will need pregame fine tuning is in their stick checks. Set up a simple checking line drill for your D-men. Standing roughly five yards apart, shoulder to shoulder, each defenseman will hold his stick out in front of his body. Extending the arm holding the stick outward in front of his chest, each player should leave the shaft hanging down towards the ground. The first player in line steps out to face the next player, and shuffling down the line facing the rest of the players, he will deliver poke checks on the hanging sticks of each player until he gets to the end of the line. At this point he gets back into the line, and the next player at the front of the line repeats the process.
Both of those drills should be done while the offense is going over the game plan or working on their shooting and cutting.
Perfecting the Pep Talk
The final part of your pregame preparation is to give your team the pep talk. Some coaches like to get fiery and yell a lot, while others are more cerebral and calm. Whatever your style is, make sure that you relay all the pertinent information about the impending game to your team. Who are the opponent’s key offensive players? Where is the goalie’s biggest weak spot? What offensive sets will your team be running during the game?
If you have the time and assistant coaches, try to break the team up by position for about 5 to 10 minutes, and let players know individually what they can do to help the team win the game. Some players need to be reminded to make the hustle plays. Others need to be encouraged to be less selfish and think team-first. Players who don’t get much playing time should be reminded that they can have a positive outcome on the game by bringing energy to the bench. Make players remember what got them to where they are, and that they should stick to what they do well come game time.
Anything you can draw on to get your boys a little extra motivation should be utilized. Be careful, though, to not get over-emotional and rile up the kids too much. Players who are too intense and cannot channel their emotions into something positive will often be a detriment to your cause. The players need to have a focused intensity, rather than a wild child mentality. It is vital that every player understands the game plan, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent.
The time has come for the opening whistle, and the guys are down and ready to faceoff. Trust your players to make the correct decisions on the field, and be okay with the fact that players will make mistakes from time to time. Don’t micromanage your team and bombard the players with information or they will lose sight of the basics and be overloaded with minutiae that may be less relevant to the game. Try to relax on the sidelines and trust that your preparation before the game will have your guys fired up and ready to win!Last modified: April 9, 2023