When lacrosse tryouts are looming on the horizon, it’s natural to feel anxious as you edge closer to the start of the season. To rid yourself of some of this mental unease, it’s important that you take the time to properly prepare for tryouts on your time.
For some of you, however, this may be your first lacrosse tryout ever. It’s difficult to know how to prepare when you don’t know what to expect.
Lacrosse tryouts will feature some, if not all, of the activities listed below.
- Warm Up and Stretch
- Passing Line Drills
- Ground Ball Drills
- 4v3 Fast Break Drills
- 1v1 Dodging
- Wall Ball Test
Each of these activities will be analyzed in detail so that you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect come tryout day. There are also several training strategies included below so that you could get the most out of your practice time.
1.) Warm Up and Stretch
The very first thing that you and the other players will do is a warm up and stretching session.
To start, you’ll take a group lap around the field at a nice, steady pace. From there, you will form lines and enter into a dynamic stretching routine. The exact stretches that you do will vary from team to team, but it’s nothing to stress over. The dynamic stretching routine used for lacrosse are very similar to the ones used in other sports, like football and basketball for example.
Next, you may even move into static stretching. Again, the exact stretching routine is subject to change depending on your team’s preferences, but you should be able to catch on rather quickly.
All in all, this portion of the tryout is simply meant for injury prevention.
How to Prepare for It
Be sure to arrive to the tryout early so you don’t accidentally miss the warm up. Trust me, you don’t want your first impression with your new coach to be a bad one. Organize all of your equipment and change of clothes the night before so you aren’t scrambling to get to the tryout on time.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t treat warm-ups as a joke. It’s tempting to go through the motions and perform all of the stretches halfheartedly, but I would strongly advise against this, at least over the course of tryouts. Believe it or not, coaches do vigilantly watch for which players are attentive during warm-ups.
I only say this because I remember everyone at my very first lacrosse tryout was punished for not taking the warmup seriously. That day, we started out with dead sprints instead of a light jog with some stretching. The key takeaway here is to treat every moment of tryouts like it matters, even if it’s something as petty as jogging from one place on the field to the next rather than walking.
2.) Passing Line Drills
Next, you will warm up your stick skills with line drills. If this drill seems simple, it’s because it is.
With line drills, all the players will break up into several different lines on each side of the field. Typically, these lines are sorted by position. Each line will have another line that is facing directly toward them. You can see this general setup in the image below.
Once everyone is set and organized, one player from each set of lines will go to retrieve a ball. It’s a smart idea to gather a couple extra balls just in case there’s an errant throw.
From here, the player with the ball will run toward the player directly across from them (1) and deliver them a pass (2). Once they have delivered their pass, they will move towards the back of the line of where they just threw the ball and fill in (3). This process then repeats over and over again.
These steps are outlined more clearly in the diagram below.
In addition, there is an alternative form of line drills that involves less players but far more reps. In this type of line drill, players essentially run in a continuous circle, throwing and catching the ball with every complete cycle.
To see how this is done, watch the clip below.
How to Prepare for It
In order to prepare for this drill, you need to be skilled at catching and throwing on the run. To get better at doing this on your own, you need to play wall ball. But not just any kind of wall ball.
Many lacrosse players remain stationary as they throw the ball against the wall. This may help with line drills somewhat, but it’s not ideal. Instead, you need to incorporate some throwing repetitions while you’re moving toward the wall.
Run towards the wall, pass the ball against the wall, let it bounce, and catch the ball while you’re still moving forward. Cycle back to your original spot and repeat this process. If you do this on a consistent basis, you will pass this drill with flying colors come tryout day.
3.) Ground Ball Drills
Next, you’ll likely move on to ground ball line drills. Typically, you will start off by going through the same motions as those involved with the passing line drills we described earlier, only you’ll be rolling the ball on the ground instead of throwing it.
After this, you may work on ground balls further by simulating actual ground ball situations. In contrast to ground ball line drills, this will actually involve physical contact between players.
All the players in the tryout will be separated into groups. Each group will be pitted against another group. From here, coaches will break off with one set of rival teams. When everyone is all set and organized, the coach will organize the two teams into separate lines.
This is where the actual fun begins. The coach will throw the ball out in front of the players and blow the whistle, signaling the players to go after the loose ball. Depending on what the coach wants, there may be one player released or multiple. The released players will then vie for possession of the ball by trying to outmaneuver their opponents. The play only ends once a player has gained possession and thrown the ball back to the coach.
Essentially, it’s a free for all fight for possession. I’ve found that football coaches turned lacrosse coaches have a strong inclination toward this drill given their enthusiasm for physical contact. So if your coach fits into this category, pay special attention to these GB drills!
How to Prepare for It
Anyone can be a great ground ball scrapper if they put the time in. There are just a couple of things you need to remember whenever the ground ball is on the ground:
- Sprint to the ground ball.
- Don’t shy away from contact.
- Get low on your approach.
- Keep your stick parallel to the ground.
- Don’t break stride as you scoop through the ball.
If you take these tips to heart, you’ll separate yourself from the majority of players at the tryout. Most players aren’t willing to put in all this effort to get their team an extra possession. In order to separate yourself from the competition, you have to do the dirty work that nobody else is willing to do.
The best way to instill these positive ground ball habits is by lining a few balls onto the ground and treating these balls like they were a loose ball in the game. Go through all the aforementioned steps above to imprint these habits into your subconscious. It may seem tedious, but if you do this drill enough, the coaches at the tryout will take notice of your superior ground ball fundamentals.
Oddly enough, many coaches will grant a player a roster spot if they have a knack for ground balls, even if they’re lacking in other areas. Ground balls are that important to winning games in lacrosse.
4.) 4v3 Fast Break Drills
Having thoroughly warmed up your stick skills, everyone’s now adequately prepared to move on to activity that’s more resemblant of live gameplay. One of the best drills that does exactly that is 4v3 fast break drills.
Transition is a huge part of lacrosse. The ball moves back and forth between the offense and defense at an unbelievable rate. The majority of transitional opportunities come in the form of a 4v3 scenario. This fast break drill simulates this situation and shows players how to properly handle these potentially game changing opportunities.
The three attackmen will set up in a standard “L” formation with the three defensemen covering their respective assignments. The goalkeeper will be positioned in the net. The drill starts with a midfielder careening down the field at a dead sprint towards the goal. From here, the primary goal of the offense is to score while the primary goal of the defense is to stop the immediate threat and buy time.
You can see the general layout of the 4v3 fast break drill in the diagram below.
As the midfielder sprints toward the goal with the ball, the defense will be forced to rotate. Otherwise, the midfielder will have a free shot on goal.
This defensive rotation opens up the other attackmen. By passing the ball quickly and effectively to the open man, the offense should theoretically always be able to get off a high percentage shot. After all, three defensemen cannot properly guard three offensive players.
How to Prepare for It
If you’ve never been exposed to this drill before, just know that the ball moves extremely quickly. When players first enter this drill, they’re left in shock at how fast they need to move the ball. As a result, they panic and make mistakes.
In order for you to keep your cool, you need to get comfortable with moving the ball in and out of your stick with a single cradle. To build up this catching and throwing speed, you need to hit the wall.
Lobbing the ball against the wall in a lackadaisical manner will get you nowhere. You must throw the ball at the wall with force and concentrate on only cradling the ball once with every pass. By doing this, you will eventually build up the muscle memory to pass and catch quickly.
Make it your goal to get the ball in and out of your stick within a single second. My coach would sometimes count out loud how long each player held the ball during this drill to get players to move the ball more quickly.
You also need to understand that the speed required of this drill also demands a superior level of field awareness. This sounds crazy, but you should know what you’re going to do with the ball before it’s even in your stick.
The best way to build up your IQ to this level is to watch film on fast breaks to learn how defenses tend to rotate. Come tryout day, you’ll know exactly what to do when this drill pops up.
5.) 1v1 Dodging
After this, your lacrosse coach will likely want to get an idea of everyone’s one-on-one capabilities. So much of lacrosse has to do with taking advantage of individual matchups on the field. Ball carriers need to beat their man to make plays on offense, while defensemen need to place adequate pressure on their man to generate turnovers.
The 1v1 dodging drill puts this skill on full display. Generally, the dodges originate from four different corners of the field in this drill, as these are the most popular places where players like to start their dodges in game. The exact locations of these four corners are depicted in the diagram below.
If you’re an attackman, the origin of your dodge will come from the bottom two corners and you’ll be matched up against a long stick defenseman. If you’re a midfielder, the origin of your dodge will come from the top two corners and you’ll be matched up against a mix of short stick defenders and long stick defenders.
The point of this drill is simple. If you’re a dodger, get past your defender and score. If you’re a defender, stop the dodger from scoring.
How to Prepare for It
If you’re an attackman or a midfielder, the best way to develop your dodging skills is to go to your local lacrosse field and practice dummy dodging.
You should have a repertoire of dodges at your disposal to use in these one-on-one matchups. Personally, I would employ a variation of the split dodge, roll dodge, and bull dodge. Explore what sort of moves work best for you and work on the dodging footwork until it’s second nature to you.
You can find more information on the the different methods of juking past defenders by visiting my article Lacrosse Dodging: 6 Ways to Get Past Defenders in Lacrosse.
As a defender, you need to be quick on your feet to keep up with these shifty dodgers. The most effective way to develop quick feet is to implement a training regimen involving the agility ladder and the jump rope. This way, you’ll be more than able to stay in front of dodgers with short, choppy steps.
It would be ideal if you could practice 1v1 dodging with a friend. These 1v1 repetitions will allow you to discover how to throw checks with the utmost precision and timing to effectively strip your opponents of possession.
6.) Wall Ball Test
If there’s a wall nearby that’s conducive to wall ball, your coach will likely conduct a wall ball test at some point during the tryout.
First, every player at the tryout will go to a spot on the wall. Depending on how much room is available, the coach may only take a few players at a time to perform this test.
From here, each player will have to perform a series of different throws. An example of what this series might look like is included below.
|Type of Throw||Repetitions|
|Standard Overhand Right||10|
|Standard Overhand Left||10|
|Throw w/ Right, Catch w/ Left||10|
|Throw w/ Left, Catch w/ Right||10|
These types of throws and amount of repetitions per throw will vary from coach to coach depending on their preferences. Regardless, the players performing this test will have to go through each of these throws and reach the allotted amount of repetitions. Typically, there will be a separate counter for each player doing the test to ensure validity.
The coach will have a timer in their hands. As soon as the whistle is blown, their timer will start. The goal of the wall ball test is to get through all the throwing repetitions as quickly as possible. The faster your time is, the better.
How to Prepare for It
The best way to prepare for this drill is—as you’ve probably guessed already—playing wall ball. I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but it truly is the most effective practice strategy to improve your stick skills.
With every wall ball session, you should have a specific goal in mind for the day. Going through the motions and practicing the same old throws at a lackluster pace will not help you to improve. You need to push the envelope by experimenting with unconventional throws that you’re uncomfortable with. Mastering the fundamentals of throwing with your right and left takes precedence, but don’t be afraid to progress from there once you’re ready.
If you have a hard time finding inspiration for different types of wall ball throws, watch the video below. Pro lacrosse player takes you step-by-step through his entire wall ball routine. He’ll offer you plenty of ideas to work with.
As a side note, remember it’s impossible to build up your stick skills in a day. If you’re serious about doing your best during tryouts, you need to hit the wall weeks in advance, not just the night before.
This is the part of tryouts that all players look forward to… the scrimmage. Towards the end of the tryout, the coach will split you off into scrimmage teams. Every individual team will have a chance to take the field at one point or another so that everyone has a fair chance to showcase their skills.
The length of time each team takes the field will vary depending on what your coach likes to do. For example, your coach may implement a King of the Hill system, where the winning team stays to take on new challengers.
Whatever the stipulations, it’s important that you take advantage of this scrimmage time and show the coaches what you’re capable of. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that you should try to be a hero every play. It means that you should attempt to make the right play with each and every possession.
For example, if you have the ball and dodge past your defender, you should look to move the ball to an open teammate in the event that you draw a help defender. Playing selfish in this situation and attempting a low percentage shot will do more harm than good.
How to Prepare for It
To prepare, you should gather up as much game experience under your belt as possible. If there’s a local lacrosse league nearby where you could get some real game experience, sign up! It doesn’t matter if it’s field lacrosse or box lacrosse, any type of game experience will help.
If this isn’t a possibility, I highly recommend you watch as many lacrosse games as you can. There’s a vast selection of archived lacrosse games available on the web. The other day, I was scrolling through YouTube and found that there were full length games posted.
By taking the time to watch through these games, you’ll get intimately familiar with how the game of lacrosse works. The only way to effectively build up your lacrosse IQ is to expose yourself to lacrosse as much as possible. Come scrimmage time, you’ll know exactly what to do in specific game circumstances because you’ve seen it over and over again on film.
You’ll likely wrap up the tryout with conditioning. Although this portion of the tryout is unpopular among the players, it’s necessary.
Lacrosse is a sport that demands a considerable amount of cardiovascular fitness from its players. The only real exception here is the goalie and even they have to venture out of the net every once in a while. Without endurance, you won’t be able to keep up with the rest of the players on the field, even if you have the most raw talent.
For this reason, coaches want to see which players have the most gas left in the tank at the end of tryouts. Players with superior stamina will have a big leg up on players that are out of shape. Although conditioning is something that can be improved upon, it’s more convenient for the coach to put together a roster where endurance is not a major issue.
How to Prepare for It
To stand out during this portion of tryouts, you need to partake in a consistent running regimen that’s specifically catered to lacrosse.
Most sports exclusively emphasize either speed or endurance. With lacrosse, you’re going to need both. On the field, you’ll have to run long distances and periodically kick it up a notch to top speed.
For instance, you may be transitioning from the offensive end to the defensive end, when suddenly the ball pops loose on the ground. No matter how tired you are, you should still be sprinting toward that ground ball and fighting vigorously for possession.
The best way to lay a firm foundation for superior speed and endurance is to commit to a high intensity interval training (HIIT) running program. Do a quick search online and you’ll find a wide variety of these programs to choose from. Just make sure that you stick to it once you pick one out.
However, if you want a simple HIIT running program to start out, I included a very basic one below.
|30 seconds||Full Sprint|
|2 minutes||Brisk Jog|
Do this consistently and you’ll be light years ahead of the competition. Not many other players at the tryout are willing to go these extreme lengths.
The Bottom Line
All of the items above are a basic rundown of what you should expect to do during tryouts. Your coach may stray off this program a little bit, but most coaches incorporate some form of these activities.
Even if your coach does decide to go an unorthodox route, you’ll be far better equipped to handle these portions of the tryout if you incorporate several of the preparation tips described earlier. Just know that your ability to make your lacrosse team is not determined by your efforts the days leading up to tryouts. It’s determined by your efforts, or lack thereof, weeks in advance to ensure that you’ve done everything within your power to make the team. Best of luck!