Tony Vallance has been coaching at the college level for the past 11 years including stops at Dean Junior College, Muhlenberg College, Bellarmine University and most recently Fairfield University. Originally from Maryland, he played goalie at Penn State University where he graduated in 1998. He is currently the Director of Lacrosse Instruction at the House of Sports, located in Ardsley, N.Y.
First of all, I’d like to wish all of you coaches the best of luck in your upcoming seasons. Along with that good luck, I’ll ask you a very basic question: “Are you keeping it simple, Coach?”
Keep it Simple
The beginning of the season is always a time where I personally have to remind myself not to get carried away with trying to do too much.
At the college level there is way too much time between the end of fall ball and your first real game. That time is usually spent watching film of your team from last year, watching your opponent’s games from last year and trying to get info your opponent’s first scrimmages.
By the time you hit Week 1 of practice, you have four versions of your zone defense, two versions of a 10-man ride, eight options to your motion offense and don’t even ask how many EMO plays.
It can be very easy to throw everything and the kitchen sink at your players and then wonder why they are struggling to understand or execute them.
As the college season is now over four weeks old, you can see examples of programs that are focusing on the basics to get things back on track.
Duke is a great example of a team that has struggled early in the year but now seems to have things together. When the Blue Devils played Maryland a few weeks ago, their defense struggled and pretty much every goalie on the roster got to play in the first half.
The biggest issue I saw on film was that the Duke defenders were not doing a good enough job of getting out to play the ball – whether in front or behind the goal.
Against the Terps’ very talented offensive personnel, this lack of pressure on the hands of shooter and dodgers didn’t leave the Duke goalies much of a chance.
After watching Duke get a hard-fought win versus UNC on Wednesday night, the Blue Devils were pressuring out much further on defense and were able to keep another very talented ACC team in the single digits on the scoreboard.
Now there could have been many different adjustments the Duke staff made as well, but that change in on ball pressure was the glaring improvement to me.
The takeaway for coaches is to look for the simple fix first.
Is you defense struggling? Before you switch your recovery package or slide from the adjacent, check your on ball pressure.
Are they picking up too close to the goal?
Is your on ball defender giving up the middle of the field too easy?
These could be two quick fixes that make your entire defense look much more cohesive.
Is your team struggling to clear the ball effectively?
Before trashing your setup or defaulting to having a shortstick pick up the ball, spend some more time on stickwork.
As your defensemen get more confidence in their stickwork, you might find your clearing game firing on all cylinders again.
Bottom line is there are two schools of thought in getting your team ready to play at the start of the season.
You can throw the kitchen sink at them right out of the gate or build up slowly over the course of the season.
While both methods can lead to a successful team, if your team does struggle at the start of the season look to keep it simple first, Coach!
Video options: Where to watch lax online
For those of you who love lacrosse on film/TV like me. (I hope there are some of you out there too), this season has a ton of options for your viewing pleasure.
While DVRing ESPNU games is always an option, there are some great websites that allow you to go back at anytime to watch a game when you want. ESPN has its entire season archived on its website or you can watch on an iPad through its “Watch ESPN” app.
Certain teams and entire conferences have options to watch their archived game film on-ine as well.
The NEC Conference has many games on its “NEC Frontrow” website and Yale archives their film on YouTube. I was able to rewatch the Eli’s of Yale take down Fairfield this week by watching on YouTube, but the outcome didn’t get any better for my Stags.
Whether you want to hunt down a specific EMO play UVa had success with or you’d like to watch Maryland’s attackmen work at X, there are tons of chances to watch and rewatch college lacrosse action this year.
And the best news is you won’t have to keep 18 boxes of VCR tapes and DVDs in your basement. (Just don’t tell my wife.)
Please feel free to email in any questions or topic ideas for future installments. I can be reached at email@example.com.
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