head coach john danowski duke larosse allstars

Advice from 3 Great Lacrosse Coaches

It's Monday, and that means you're probably going over and over what happened in your games this past weekend. We are too. Hopefully all your players performed up to expectations. We found this advice from 3 great coaches that will hopefully stick in your mind when you're on the sidelines with your players at your next game.

It's January, which means it's cold out there for pretty much everybody. It also means nobody is playing conference games right now, nobody is looking for a playoff spot.

That's an important detail we want to point out, because it means there is only one thing that matters in your games this time of year- player development. January means it's preseason, or indoor season, off-season, conditioning season, stick skill season. Put that in perspective when you approach your players at this time of year.

We pulled some advice from some of the best lacrosse coaches in the world:

If this is what these coaches spend time thinking about and working on, it's time for the rest of us to listen up!

"Come game day, it's their game." -John Danowski, Duke University

We will listen to pretty much anything Coach Danowski has to share. He's won the NCAA DI National Championship three times, including the last two in a row. He looks poised to do it again this season in 2015.

All the Duke coaches, including Danowski's son, Matt (Chesapeake/Duke 2005-08), are great motivators and great communicators of information. If you watch Danowski on the sidelines of his games, he is always cool and in control, letting his players do the work on the field. The Duke coaches have a lot of faith in their players to do their jobs on the field, and in turn the Duke players have a lot of faith in and respect for their coaches.

On the field, your players might be far away, stuck inside their helmets, out of breath, trying to keep up with what is happening in the game. Even high school athletes have a hard time following directions from the sideline while they are on the field. Let the kids play the game.

As a coach, your job is not to control robots from the sideline by screaming. Let your players learn and make mistakes on the field. You can make adjustments and correct mistakes more effectively on the sidelines when you have a player's full attention.

 "...Communicate to the kids exactly what it is you want them to do." -Richie Meade (Team USA/Navy/Furman)

Richie-Meade Lax All StarsIt sounds simple enough, but how often do you hear coaches in any sport yelling uncertain terms like "Move!" and "Hustle!" at their players from the sidelines.

If Coach Meade is focused on something as simple as being clear and concise with the "kids" on Team USA and in highly demanding programs like the United States Naval Academy, perhaps it should be a focus for all of us.

If you aren't getting the results from your players that you want, perhaps they don't know exactly what you want them to do. Yelling louder probably isn't the solution. Take a look at your language, word choice, tone of voice, or timing of your message. Perhaps your players simply can't hear you. Perhaps they don't know the meaning of one of the words you are using.

"You want me to teach plays or do you want me to teach them how to play?"

matt brown lax all stars

Matt Brown. Photo courtesy of Lacrosse All Stars

That is the question Matt Brown asked Denver Head Coach Bill Tierney back in 2009 when Brown first joined the DU staff on Offense. This is one of the keys to Denver's "Culture of Success" that has produced some serious talent since that time: Mark Matthews, Eric Law, Chase Carraro, Cam Flint, just to name a few. And Denver is #1 going into 2015.

Coach Brown's coaching philosophy is not all that different than Danowski's- let the kids play. Teach them how to play so that they have the skills and knowledge to do the exciting stuff on game day. This is fundamentally different than trying to call different plays from the bench.

Following his approach also fundamentally changes the way you run your practices. If you just practice plays--making the same scripted motions and maneuvers over and over again--you are not really teaching your kids how to play.

In games, where your players are supposed to perform their best and have the most fun, the situation is changing every second. They need the skills to respond, adapt, think, overcome, and persevere. Or would you rather they just follow the script?

  • Related: Check out this great version of the classic 3-on-2 West Genesee Drill we got from Coach Brown. He runs his drill as a half-field "game" with his college players, complete with time, score, a winner and a loser.

Brown is also a big-time advocate of Box Lacrosse, where the ball never goes out of bounds, the action never stops, the field is smaller, the goal is smaller, and games are never cancelled by rain or snow. All of these factors drastically increase the number of repetitions and experience that Box Lacrosse players get over their field-only peers. To put it simply- Box Lacrosse players play more. And there are no "plays"...

It doesn't matter what level you coach, from youth all the way up to college, these 3 pieces of information are what we hear consistently from the best coaches in the game. They aren't about X's and O's, they aren't about game plan or strategy, they are all about the kids.