Coach Colbeck Takes Us To School

Coach Colbeck Takes Us To School

Coach Colbeck Takes Us To School

Coach Colbeck Takes Us To School Let's start with transition. What are you looking to get out of your players in transition offense. What kinds of breaks are most common and how do practice unsettled situations ---- what is your favorite drill?

Coach Colbeck: Believe it or not, most times the ball crosses the midline there is an opportunity to create unsettled situations. The classic 4v3 is somewhat rare over the course of an entire game, but 5v4's and 6v5's happen almost every time the ball goes from defense to offense. The team getting back in the hole often times creates those 6v5s for you by either substituting or not defending the break 'inside - out'.

The first step is to have your attackman understand tempo and recognize those "slow break" opportunities. They need to be conscious of how long we have been defending and whether or not we need to settle down and sub our guys off as well. Communication is the key here. Most times when we do like the situation and are pushing the ball up the field, we will try to get it down the side and behind to start. A few of our better middies have the green light to get the ball back and dodge during transition, but the majority of the time we will get the ball to X (behind the goal). Unless we have a clear advantage or can shorten the numbers down to a 4v3, we will also avoid passing the ball east -> west in transition . By going down field, we can afford to mishandle and still get a chance to recover it before it goes out of bounds.

Most defenses will not pressure behind the cage when they are down a man so our man at X should have some time and space to see the field, make good decisions and proceed. Also by getting the ball behind, we have forced the defense to turn ( most defenses will see the ball in transition) thus creating off-ball cutting opportunities. Everyone else, whether it be a 6v5 or 5v4 should be in front of the goal and in scoring position. With the ball behind and everyone else out front, we simply go through some basic cuts trying to breakdown the defensive box for inside offball shots, create skipping lanes for our out top shooters. If the defense holds, we can create some good shots by drawing the 2 on 1 on the corner. It is important that even when we are cutting, we keep some balance. We need to stay spaced so that the no single defender can cover two of our players and so we can see with ease where our open man is. If nothing should develop, we have the ball in a good spot to settle things, make any necessary substitutions and begin our settled offense.

Drills- We spend a considerable amount of time each week working on our transition game. Whether it be simple skeleton breaks to work on our positioning, cuts and stickwork or live work. My favorite transition drill begins with a midline groundball to a 6v5 or 5v4.

1. Three blue attackman covered by three white defenders in one end. The reverse in the other end of the field.

2. On one face-off hash mark you will have two lines of white middies and one line of blue middies. Across the field on the other face off hash, you will have two lines of blue middies and one line of white middies.

3. The coach stands in the middle of the field at the face off X. He rolls a ball towards one side creating a two on one groundball battle. If for example, the two blue middies win the battle, they will push the ball towards their respective end for a five on four break.(often times, they can beat the white middie in for a 4v 3). If the white middie, wins the GB battle, the two white middies from the other lines across the field enter the drill and you have a six on five going in the white direction.

We usually ride this drill out after a shot, but that step comes later. This drill creates a great way for us to work on GB's(groundballs), wing play, our transition patterns from realistic game situations and also making sure our attackmen recognize the different unsettled situations and get to their appropriate spots. Move to settled situations. How would you attack a man-to-man defense that slides from the crease? What are the keys to breaking this defense down? Where do you get your shots from?

Coach Colbeck: You could probably spend days on the topic, but I will try to condense my opinions into a few keys. First and foremost, your team needs to understand the importance of being incredibly unselfish. It is rare that your initial dodger will ever finish the play with a shot vs a good, crease sliding team. One of the mantras of that type of defense is 'we do not get beat by dodgers'. With that in mind, we know that rapid ball movement and unselfishness will be of utmost importance to our success. Your players need to think in terms of 'second assists'.

Next we need to understand the weak spots of the defense. If they are going to quickly support the dodger, somebody must be left open. The temptation is to just dump it inside and sometimes that works, but against the better teams the inside is usually going to be covered up during that initial move to the cage. So where is the open guy? Most times, he will be diagonal from the original dodger. Essentially, the farthest defender from ball is free to help cover up the inside as his teammate slides from the crease. That means the man he is covering on the diagonal is open. How do we take advantage of this? When we are dodging from behind we could think about driving to the corner, drawing a double and skipping the ball through to the high diagonal shooter. Hopefully, this shooter has found his way into the soft spot and has his hands back ready to shoot. This concept is simple enough, but it is a tough feed under the pressure of a double team and the ball has a good chance of getting knocked down. We would prefer the ball to move at least two passes from the original dodger and then dodge again. By doing so we have drawn the defense out of the inside and pulled them far away from where we really want to go with the ball, to our next dodger, diagonal from our initial ball carrier. If the defense is slow to react, we will have one man to beat for a shot. A good defense might be able to get that second slide to the new dodger, but they will have a tough time covering back up the inside with new help after their initial slide. Consequently, when we are re-dodging, we are looking for off-ball cuts and feeding opportunities. It sounds a little confusing, but it is really quite simple.

Another concept to keep in mind is popping your inside offensive player to the perimeter as you dodge and reversing the ball towards him. By doing so, we can hopefully create a numbers advantage on the perimeter and clear out the inside. With no one left defensively on the inside, we will force them into some "near man" slides and if we keep our head up and the ball moving we should have some decent looks at the cage.

Keys: There are a thousand ways to skin a cat, but a few things should remain pretty consistent.

1. Whatever formation you choose to attack out of you need to stay spread and balanced. (my favorite formations vs this defense would be a 1-4-1, 1-3-2 motion and 2-3-1. Our balance will let us quickly spin the ball to the soft spots so we can reattack after the initial slide. A balanced field also gives us the chance to really get the ball moving making the defense constantly turn, creating off-ball opportunities and forcing the defense to readjust where their support for the inside will come from.

Being spread out makes the defensive slide longer thus dragging them farther away from the play. The more distance they have to travel, the less likely they will be able to recover back and help again. The ball should be able to move faster than their legs. We also want to avoid letting the defense cheat by covering two players with one.

2.Dodge out of ball movement. Try to avoid those stagnant situations where the defense has a chance to get completely set with their first slide, second and so on.

3. Patience. We are looking for layups and solid 8-10 yard shots, not the first opportunity. If we are patient , dodge then move it two or three times, re-dodge, move it, dodge again, work off-ball, hopefully we can break the defense down. Same question for man-to-man sliding from the adjacents and a zone defense?

We have used a lot of motion type offenses particularly out of a 1-3-2 from behind, but one disadvantage to all of that constant motion is trouble with adjacent slides. When your adjacent offensive player clears through for a dodger and his man leaves to double, often times you simply leave the ball carrier hung out to dry. Motion can work, but your players "two away" from the ball really need to hustle to become an outlet. In some ways you treat adjacent slides much the same as you would a zone defense (most zones are based on the principle of supporting from the adjacents). Vs both an adjacent sliding defense and a zone, we prefer the 1-4-1 set. Our four perimeter players have to really work in order for us to stay spread and extend the defense, but with only four defenders involved in the sliding scheme it will be easy for us to draw and see where to move the ball next. Once we get those four defenders rotating to us, we can keep the ball moving quickly and work for some good room and time shots.

Out of our 1-4 set vs both an adjacent defense and a zone we might initiate a dodge from the wing or up top. We give that dodger plenty of room and since we know the help will mostly likely come from the adjacent defender, our next offensive player will position himself in a spot where he can be a threat, but also receive the dump pass after the slide. We keep the ball moving through our three other perimeter players in the opposite direction of their defensive rotation. Since we are spread out enough to make their slides long, it is doubtful that they can recover and keep up with the pace of the ball. Hopefully, we can rotate them into a 2 on 1 situation on the perimeter. It is at this moment that some defenses are tempted to come out of the inside to cover their short numbers on the perimeter. Now we look inside and hopefully our two inside players are separate enough so that they cannot be covered by the single remaining inside defender. Hopefully, we have an opportunity for a layup.

There are some differences between how we might attack a zone and an adjacent defense, but the basic concepts are very similar. Remember, you must dodge vs both defenses to draw. It is important to keep in mind that an adjacent sliding defense is still a man to man and your defenders are covering a specific man. In a zone defense, defenders do not have specific assignments, they cover more of an area. Vs. a zone we might think about dragging the ball from an area, replacing that player with someone from the inside and throwing back to that area. Often times, this is a great way to get the zone rotating, but does not necessarily work vs adjacents slides because when you pop someone from the inside, he will still be covered. We will also open up the zone by moving to a circle formation and forcing them into 'near man' slides. Again, there are a thousand ways to skin a cat, but some basic fundamentals will always apply. How do you feel about setting picks for the man with the ball?

Coach Colbeck: When done well and in the right places on the field, picks for the ball carrier can really cause a lot of defensive confusion. The upside to picks are that you can gain a step or two from actually tangling up the defensemen or through a defensive communication mistake whether or not they will switch or get through. By creating a successful picking situation you also can simplify the field. By that I mean, say you have a two man picking game behind and you gain a step and draw a third defender to slide from the inside, now you simply have a four vs three out front. That makes it a lot easier to find the open man. If you saw Syracuse play last year, you may have noticed Liam Banks and Ryan Powell doing a great job at times working the two man picking game behind.

The downside of picking for the ball carrier may come in the form of being jumped. If you set picks in areas of the field that are not threatening for a defense, they can take a relatively risk free chance to jump and double the ball. We have not relied too heavily on the picking game in an attempt to create more space for our dodgers. There is definitely a time and a place for it, but it is not something we base our offense on. One more liability of the picking game can be a lack of communication between the two offensive players. The ballhandler can become uncertain as to whether or not his partner in the two man game wants to set a pick or if he wants the ball. A possible solution could be communicating with your stick position. For example, if I want to set a pick for someone, I will carry my stick to the inside. If I want the ball, I will carry my stick to the outside. What are the characteristics of a quality shot and classify a poor shot?

Coach Colbeck: Obviously, the best shots are the ones that go in. I am sure we have all seen a game or two when we have cringed or screamed "NO" as a player is winding up and then cheered when the ball hits the back of the net. The bottom line is you have to shoot to score and score to win, but a bad shot is absolutely the same as a turnover. You are not going to score every time (30% might make you an All-American), but a good shot is one that has a realistic chance of going in. A few things to consider: Distance from the goal- for most good players I would say ten or twelve yards is a realistic striking distance. Angle- We want to always be conscious of maximizing our angle. Can we see net? Do I have a choice of places to aim, thus making it tough on the goalie. Angle and distance should be related: the farther you are from the goal, the more angle you should require of yourself. Pressure- Can I get my hands free? Do I have room and time to get something on my outside shot. Obviously, we want to avoid long distance shots with defenders draped all over us or shooting through a double team. Inside, quickness and accuracy count so if we can get it off to a good spot, great. Ability - not just the shooter's ability, but the ability of the goalie. Everyone's skill level is different and we should recognize strengths and weaknesses. While I might not be able to put it past a wooden goalie from outside of five yards, Mike Springer, Hanley Holcomb, AJ Haugen, David Curry and the like are downright dangerous from fifteen. We should also acknowledge the ability of the goaltender. A shot outside of fifteen yards on someone like Sal LoCasio does not have much of a chance. Time and place in the game- We should also recognize the importance of the game situation. Are we up a goal with 20 seconds to play? Are we down a goal, extra man with a chance to work for a layup? We should always keep working for the best shot, not always the first shot. With the advent of the offset and ever narrowing head designs with deep bags, have we seen the end of the pure feeder in your opinion?

Coach Colbeck: I sure hope not. I don't think the offset has hurt the feeding game of those really special players at the college, pro and club levels, but I would agree that the average player will find a diminished capacity to make that quick, short pass consistently into the box area with a bagged out offset head. Just take a look at a couple of the best passers in the college game last year and you will see that the offset did not have an adverse effect on their assist totals. Ryan Powell, who led the nation in assists with 52, I believe, chose an offset. Dan Denihan had 40 assists and although I may be a bit biased, I think Conor Gill and Drew McKnight were also two of the game's finest assist men and I know they both used offset heads.

The problem players experience with the offset comes more out of how guys are stringing them rather than the head design itself. If you know the ball already sits lower in your stick, you must concede that you cannot have a bag and a whip and still throw the ball efficiently. As a coach, we also experience players coming from high school to the next level with a misconceived or inflated impression of their stick skills. Often times, better players will be able to excel at the high school level due in part to just being a better athlete. If they have an offset, a deep bag, and can outrun most everyone, some players will not have to develop their stick skills. The ball rarely gets dislodged and they really only get rid of it when they want to shoot. At the college level, when speed alone can't always get you through and defenders double with the body, you need to be able to move the ball quickly, accurately and efficiently. When the game is played at a faster pace and the difference between a successful feed and a turnover becomes inches, accuracy is essential. This passing ability is sometimes overlooked at some levels and covered up by the ball-holding capability of the offset.

All in all, I think the argument can be made either way regarding the effect of the offset head. There are some terrific feeders who can use the technology (as mentioned above) and there are also some outstanding feeders like Liam Banks, the Lowe Brothers, Tim Whiteley and John Hess who prefer an old school style stick. I don't think the offset is for everyone and I personally believe that you need to weigh its ball control capabilities vs. a lessened ability to pass quickly. I would recommend that younger players assemble a stick with the fundamentals in mind. A stick that can pass first. What is your favorite formation for man-up and and how does it work? Are you an X's and O's kind of coach or do you allow your players to improvise?

Coach Colbeck: I am a fan of all sorts of formations, but if pressed for my favorite I would have to say the 1-3-2 starting from behind. We were 42% last year and I venture to guess that on more than half of our 53 opportunities, we simply played out of a 1-3-2 set. I like the 1-3-2 because it places five shooters in front and it has the ability to spread the defense out. It also allows you to put a lot of pressure on the those low corner defenders. I also like the 1-4-1 if you have two guys willing to work hard inside, but it can be easily pressed on the perimeter and does not make a defense really have to extend. With the 1-3-2, if you understand all of the ways teams will defend that formation, it should be tough to stop.

We spend some practice time early in the year teaching our EMO groups how defenses work. On most basic levels, there are only a few ways to defend the 1-3-2 during man-down situations. You can do a five-man rotation (hard or soft), four-man rotation (locking the inside player with a box around him), four-man rotation with a twisted box (lock inside, pressure at X and the corners and splitting away from the ball), four man that just holds or just a simple shut-off. If your EMO group can recognize and understand how each defense works then hopefully they will know where their open looks might be.

Regardless of the defense we are facing, we want to concentrate our efforts on the wings when we are in the 1-3-2 set. Versus a rotating defense whether it is a five man or a four man, we want to draw up on the wings and try to pull the base defender up with us. If we can accomplish this then throw the ball back to a following player at X, we will hopefully have started their defensive rotation. With the defense rotating and the ball at X we try to find the open man. Most times it will be on the backside, either the high diagonal man or the cross crease man. Our inside man is also always coming to the ball, but trying to stay between the crease tangents as not to crowd anyone else. Keep in mind that he will be open more vs a five man, but needs to keep working even when shut in the four man to clear skip lanes. If we cannot skip the ball through to the high shooter, dump inside or hit the cross crease player we will keep the ball moving opposite the defense?s rotation. This means the backside wing can rotate behind to receive the ball and look for a step down shooter from up top or just keep the ball hot. Everyone is stepping in ready to shoot or move it one more. When the defense is really flying around and trying to extend, we also think about skips from wing to wing and out front to wing. When faced with a defense that simply holds and refuses to rotate, you will find some success by again pushing the corner and looking to develop that two on one with your man at X and your wing shooter.

As far as X's and O's vs. improvising, I think you need a mix of both. I really think you need to be prepared to run some set plays or formation changes with specific looks, but also allow your players some freedom within the framework of what you are trying to accomplish. I am more inclined to run a play during a minute foul and stick with more straightforward things for thirty second fouls. Most of all I think your players need a sound understanding of a few simple concepts and understand why certain things are open rather than mindlessly going through a play. In the end, your players have to be confident that they can handle anything they might see defensively. Defenses can always disrupt or take away even the best designed play(ie, shut offs, rotating shut offs, etc), but five defenders will have a much tougher time stopping six skilled players with a great collective understanding of extra-man offense.

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Stud Player
    by (#5226) on 12/17/00 @9:50AM
Don't let coach Colbeck fool you, he was a stud player and a darn good one at that.
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from the i'm talking about nothing department
    by (#5306) on 12/28/00 @9:08PM
that was a very impressive lesson Colbeck taught us there. I think that everyone should be informed by it. I'll tell your Colbeck is a lacross guhru, the dolly lama of lax baby. He is the ghandi of goal scoring. but anyway i like to ramble my ass off and talk bull #$)&#&*$^(your welcome mr. in my responses because well usually they're so short but i felt like writing a lot this time about nothing because if your write a lot then the moron who is reading this right now has to read a lot and exercize they're moronic brain.....cause they're so friken genuinely bovine as far as brains go. Oh and if you are still reading this then i suggest you stop reading because the response is only going to get more insulting torwards you(the reader) and i guess more boring for you. au revoir
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    by (#4078) on 1/02/01 @3:54PM
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    by (#4753) on 1/03/01 @8:10PM
anyone with an IQ higher than a dustball knows that its guru and not guhru, and dali lama not dolly lama. so check your own intelligence before insulting others.
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Slingin the mud
    by (#85) on 1/08/01 @11:08AM
Before you start slinging the mud, check your own ego at the counter. It's "Dalai Lama," but thats a technicality. We all hit that send button pretty fast, so its no big deal, but I would avoid calling others out if you are hanging out there too!

PS: Wasn't the prespective that Coach Colbeck gave on offensive patterns enlightening? Kinda makes the whole correct spelling thing rather null, too!
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(no subject)
    by (#5582) on 1/17/01 @7:50PM
You're an idiot!!!
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Take note
    by (#5414) on 1/05/01 @10:04AM
Excellent advice and perspective. One could hardly believe that Colbecks own play was once considered "cutesy".....

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    by (#5670) on 1/30/01 @8:14PM
Excellent article, would've liked to see some x's and o's, especially man-up.
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