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the game

X's and O's

EMO Philosophy

Special teams can win or lose games, so developing an effective, efficient and smart man-up unit is of paramount importance for a team. I spoke to half a dozen DI coaches, and the overriding theme is "keep things simple while teaching players how to read a defense." Army's Joe Alberici, who as a young coach was a self-proclaimed "play guy," now emphasizes teaching the fundamental concepts of successful units, which he goes on to say are, "passing, shooting and communication." [01: PERSONNEL] Look for a combination of intelligence, finishing and passing skills, as well as strong leadership traits. Marc Van Arsdale, Virginia's longtime offensive coordinator, emphasizes that he looks for guys who are the best passers, even before the best shooters. Coaches also need to identify an X attackman, a lefty and an inside finisher. The inside guy plays a pivotal role in keeping the defense honest. You need a versatile player who can read where to be, handle a tight pass and either shoot or feed from the inside; a good crease guy can expose any fiveman defensive rotation. [02: SKILLS] A "sidewinder" is a back-pedalling wind-up in which a player is in a triple-threat position but is backpedaling toward his natural side, dragging defenders out of position. An example of this would be a top righty shooter dragging his man low, then zipping it to the top center man, who should have a better look at the crease with the righty dragging a defenseman out and away from the action. The windup stance is critical to effective man-up play. In your windup or triple-threat position, you're able to shoot, feed, dodge and -- maybe most importantly -- fake passes and shots. Your windup is actually a fake shot, but adding subtle pass fakes can create seams the same way quarterbacks pump fake to freeze safeties. Five-on-fours, three-on-twos and two-on-ones are great drills to develop

Scoring with an extra man on the field may seem like an easy proposition, but's Jamie Munro explains why it's not always as simple as 1-2-3.

sidewinder skills; UMBC's Don Zimmerman also recommends shot-like passing drills, where perimeter players throw hard skip passes. [03: THE DEFAULT SET] The coaches I spoke to choose their default sets based on their personnel but emphasize the importance of always ending up in the default set. The most popular default sets are the 3-3 and the 2-3-1, also known as a "drop down 3-3." Coaches want to focus on sets that complement their players; a strong dodging passer would work best out of a 1-3-2, whereas a strong shooter/feeder may work best in a 3-3 because he can freeze the defense with a windup, then feed or shoot based on the reaction. When I was at Denver we'd work on all of the sets, which are helpful for offenses and defenses. Regardless of what set the offense uses, your defense will face almost every variation throughout the season. As a season goes on, starting out in other formations and rolling into your default set can provide just enough confusion and movement to help your team get the looks it's used to. The 1-4-1 is a popular starting set because the coach knows the defense will be in a diamond and has to adjust to any other set. At DU, our default set was a 3-3. We had answers for whatever the defense would throw at us. If they played a fiveman rotation, we'd work it inside for wall passes. If they shut the crease, we could roll off into a sideways 3-3 and slip him back inside, or run a "twist." [04: OPTIONS IN THE DEFAULT] The twist is a look I stole from Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan. Out of a 3-3, a corner midfielder carries to the middle while the top center midfielder cycles underneath him and fills the spot he vacated. This makes it tough on a four-man rotation; there will be two guys tied up with the twist and one man shutting the crease, which leaves the other two trying to cover the other three corners of the 3-3. If a player is shut, pull him away from the action and play 5-on-4. If a team played soft, we could use a little trickery with a fake flip between the center man and shooter; this would draw the defense out.




[05: GET IT INSIDE] Having an inside presence is critical to effective man-up offense. Any defense that plays a fiveman rotation is going to share crease responsibility, which means there will be looks inside. At Denver we'd run the offense through that player, who was often the most skilled. "Wall pass" was our term for getting the ball inside to the crease guy, who'd then redirect the ball back to the perimeter, countering a collapsing defense. We'd get a great scoring opportunity because the defense has to scramble to get back to the perimeter. Jamie Munro is the founder of and a former head coach at the University of Denver. For more from Jamie on EMO Philosophy, go to or shoot him an e-mail at [email protected]




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