In our last blog article we mentioned plays and why it is rarely worth to spent time practicing them. In this article we want to introduce a concept we call „scripting“. This will most likely heavily overlap with what a lot of people see as a little play.
But first we want to thank Kuni for his great comment on our article about plays.
„One big thing is because they assume a certain level of play both from the attack and the defense."
This is a very important aspect you need to consider when teaching players the game at our level. From a theory point you assume the opponent does his job well and you try to teach players how to counter that and what to look for.
We ran into this problem with our team last year as well. We are very lucky to have a hardworking group of players in Stuttgart. They work hard on improving themselves and executing the things we want them to do (sometimes so hard that it hinders their game). We were working on skip-lanes / through passes a lot and one objective for the game was to look for those. In the game the „cold guy“ from the opposing team never went in all the way to the crease to help out there. Most of the time he was just standing near his guy, so there was never a skip-lane open. Therefore the crease would have been wide open, if we drew a slide. Point is always start with the easy things and see if they are working or not, before you move on to more advanced concepts. You want to teach your players sets of options that evolve after one another.
With scripting you can create certain situations in a game like scenario and have your players react to the same initial situation that evolves slightly different each time. This will teach them to look for options and make decisions on the field.
But before we dive deeper into the topic of „scripting“, we will take a step back and go over basics.
Basics and where they fall short
We will go over basic focused drills in practice shortly and where they excel and where they come in short. The biggest advantage is repetition. You can get a very high amount of reps in those drills. You learn sports through repetition (See excursion below and I am sorry to all the students who play lacrosse and just want to understand it – if you can execute skills perfectly after someone explained it to you, please play football or another high paying sport and donate 10% of your salary to the growth of lacrosse).
The second big advantage is that basics always work and can be used in any team, playing any offense set. You can take a relatively new guy with proper basics and have him play well with experienced players. Our basics focused approach in Stuttgart allows us to practice with both teams together most of the time.
Where basics fall short?
- Self confidence for all players – to learn and improve as a team, everybody needs to improve. Therefor they need the self-confidence to initiate dodges, shoot on the goal, and so on. They have to be comfortable with making mistakes and failing, so they can learn and improve. If you have a team with a huge spread in the skill level you need to address that otherwise young players will give the ball to experienced players all the time (practice and games) and they don’t improve.
- Structure to initiate offense – Basics tell you how to perform individual components perfectly but they do not help you when you need to make a decision, whether to pass the ball or to dodge your man. Here a pre-structure such as plays can help the player to make the decision to initiate offense. But as we have discussed earlier in this blog. Plays can hinder the development of your players. This predicament can be solved by scripting which we will explain in this article.
- Self Motivation – Basics are great they help everybody, all experienced players will tell you how important they are. New players want to experience the sport and have fun that is what ultimately motivates them to come back. In order to have motivated players that practice the basics you need them to have fun, they also need to know what they need these basics for. When they think they have mastered “groundballs” but in a game situation they will quickly see that they still have to work on them. They need to fail in order to get back to the basics.
Excursion: How do we learn?
First we want to show you that learning always happens in the same steps according to Maslow`s four step learning model.
First stage: unconscious incompetence – players do not know that they are doing something wrong, then they need to be shown or told that they do it wrong which brings them to the second stage: conscious incompetence. They know it is wrong but they still do it wrong. After a certain amount of repetition they start to do it right when they focus on it. Which marks the third stage: conscious competence. After a lot more repetition and practice they will not have to focus on it anymore and they will do it right without even thinking about it. They have mastered the skill and it is second nature. This is the point where you want to bring your players. Knowing in which stage the majority of your players is for certain skills, can help you pick or design the right drills for practice and give your players good advice how to improve.
What is scripting and what is the goal of it?
The difference between a little play and what we call scripting lies in the focus when you practice it. The focus is that we want them to have fun while still practicing our desired skills as often as possible. It is „partially” free scrimmaging. One of the coaches at the U.S. Lacrosse Level 1 course used a similar thing with his team, which he called EDP (Execution Dependent Playtime). At the end of practice the team had EDP, which meant 6 on 6 or 10 on 10 scrimmaging as long as they executed certain things that were worked on earlier in practice. If not they went back to do more work on the basics.
When you use scripting as a tool during practice. It is like taking the “training wheels” of the bike of a small child. It will immediately feel the rush, get scared, forget most of the stuff you told him and it will fall. But it also will get up, remember and try again because it was so much fun. Ultimately you want to give some detailed and easy instructions which it can grasp under this storm of influences. This is what scripting is about, we want to let them ride the bike (play freely) in order to become independent (good decision makers) but we also we want to give them the chance to repeat the basics as often as possible (give them some restrictions). So we can practice passing, groundballs and shooting but at some point you need to let them do these things in real situations. We create and emphasize these situations by scripting them into 6 on 6 or 10 on 10 scrimmages. You will not send the child down the steepest hill you can find (the hardest situations), you will give them some restrictions like “learning rules” (Initiate on every 3rd pass, start out of transition with an entry pass, move the ball over X, etc). With these rules they can play 6 on 6 as they want and have some fun, while you can still work on specific elements of the game. They need to work on in order to keep their fun.
Biggest benefit is that they have to make a decision after the initial action for themselves and can’t just run through a certain play. With the initial action being scripted into the 6 on 6, you get a lot more reps and have different people doing it. This addresses the self-confidence problem, because players can not pass the responsibility on to someone more experienced. If the script says the top right guy dodges his man, once he gets the ball, he has to do it, no matter who he is (we actually also did that in a game to initiate offense). This way everybody gets the chance to make mistakes, fail and learn from those experiences to make a better decision the next time. With only the initial action being set in stone, there are a lot of options how the whole situation evolves and the players have to make decisions in a game-like situation. We teach our players certain reaction that they can use as kind of safety valves, so when they do not know which decision to make, they have a certain thing to fall back to. It is not shoot at the cage and hope you miss by far with backup or the goalie wasn’t paying attention :-).
We will go over examples for scripting and some general lacrosse concepts to teach and build into scripted situations in one of our next blog articles.
So what we called „scripting“ or execution dependent playtime is a great tool to give your players some structure, have them work on certain things you want to practice and let them play at the same time. Because every player just wants to play 6 on 6 and this gives you the chance as coach to have a theme through your whole practice session and force all the players to practice the things they worked on earlier in practice to execute in a live drill. This works much better than telling them to do the things they worked on earlier once it is playtime they usually fall back into their old habits and do what they are best.