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Building successful girls lax teams, FAST


It takes time to rebuild, or start a team. Or so I’ve been told on several of the times I’ve been hired to do just that.  I smile, and I nod, and then I do what I love to do. I use the same method I always use and I surprise them all.  There is a way to take a team thats barely at 500, or even brand new, and become a top team. It’s not as hard as it sounds, and it’s really fun when you know how to go about it.

I’ve been asked on many occasions what my secret is, and I wish I could say it’s purely my lacrosse brilliance but then we’d all know that wasn’t true! It’s actually the way I approach my season plan, and knock on wood, it hasn’t failed me yet. It’s also crazy simple, and with so many new lacrosse coaches out there -I hope this helps you organize what can feel like an overwhelming and complicated game to teach. This is about developing your team faster to create success. It’s not about joy-sticking your best players to get a win- anyone can do that..

I’ve created a 3 part mini-series to help you create a plan that encompasses the BIG 3. 

  1. Scoreboard Wins (scoring more goals, defense, transition)
  2. Culture
  3. Game Management

The game of girls’/women’s lacrosse is full of rules, strategy and skills that can be both hard to teach and hard to master. You can take a coaching clinic and learn the basics but you’re still left feeling like you drank out of a fire hose. You can have years of player knowledge and be a lax star but still not get your team to finish their offense. There’s more too it than just teaching all the parts of the game if you want to go for quicker success.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in prolonging the improvement process in winning games is that coaching has become a cookie cutter process. We teach all the rules, all the skills, all the everything, right from day one. Its just too much for them to master any one thing. So you progressively do get better, but it takes years instead of weeks for those improvements to show in your team’s win/loss record.  We drill ground balls until we are nauseous because…”ground balls wins games!” But, umm, sorry guys -not really.. Scoring wins games, people. Ground balls help us get the ball, thats all. They are important, but they may not be why you’re losing.

And yes I agree -Winning isn’t everything.  But learning a skill and then seeing it work on the field is a huge motivator, and losing game after game after game is frustrating for everyone. You have to find ways to be successful, even when they have a long long way to go.

If you want to help your players experience some victories while they are in the learning process then you have to become a detective. Have you ever heard the advice in growing a new business that you focus on the revenue building tasks first? People would rather focus on the things they are best at, or enjoy- like creating cool logos and buying shirts with it which costs money. Meanwhile, the revenue building tasks lay around or move at a snail pace.  It happens to be the same in coaching.  Build the parts that create a difference in overall team performance first, with side doses or incorporated focus of everything else. Don’t skip the fundamentals! But put the most effort into the ones that will make a difference on the playing field as your priority.

IMPORTANT: This is about teaching ALL your players the skills that make an impact. Its a development-based system. This is NOT about winning games by playing your best players or strategies that simply make robotic plays that score goals or winning at all costs. That’s not going to develop your team or produce wins in the long run. Develop your team faster to create wins, not just win faster.

Here’s an example of a strategy I used:

I had a team that had a consistent losing record when I came in, but was only losing many games by 1 or 2 goals. We were drilling the fundamentals and actually making these incredible second-half surges, but couldn’t seem to close that final gap. Many assumed that we just needed another year to “develop”. Well, teams always need to . develop more but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a win when we are that close! By my system, I knew we just had a hole I hadn’t found yet.  So I pulled out the stats and I looked at how many shots we were taking and tried to figure out where we were successful so we could get those couple extra goals. We weren’t giving up a lot of goals, so I knew defense wasn’t the major issue here.  I was totally surprised, but also excited to see that we were getting an incredible number of free position opportunities by drawing fouls at most games. Up to 10 per game. But we were only scoring 1-2 goals from those attempts, sometimes we scored none.  That was the hole. Yes, we needed to work on ground balls, turn-overs, shooting in general, but I knew that if we wanted to win games while we continue to work on those skills, 8 meter shots had to be the main focus of our training. Even a small improvement in those scoring opportunities was all we needed to turn our L into a W.

We worked on 8 meter strategy, shot placement, fakes, veering away from defenders and making the goalie move by changing our lane as we moved towards the goal. One week later and we’d overcome our goal deficit for the rest of the season. No more close games. Yes, we still had to work on all the other skill sets involved in lacrosse, but now we got to work on it while the players felt motivated and encouraged by immediate success. It made them more excited about learning, because they saw it work. You can only say, “trust me, we are getting better” for so long before they give up. They need to see things happening and then they believe in the process whole heartedly.

Part 1:  Scoreboard Wins -the most common things to look for that will make the biggest impact, will be the first part of this mini-series.


Stay tuned!



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