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In our recent interview with Lynchburg head coach Steve Koudelka, he reminded me of a great drill that I know. Hank Janczyk, head coach at Gettysburg, runs it as well. The Hippo Drill will focus your players on quick passing fundamentals and at the same time add a lot more fun to practices every once and a while.
How we recommend you might set up the Hippo Drill really will depend on the skill set or the ages of your players. With a high school team with pretty good skills, the drill is set up full field 10v10. With younger players, you may move the cages to the restraining line and allow the kids to play 7v7, with two attack players and two long stick defenders. In this Hippo scrimmage all the rules apply, with 20 seconds to clear and 10 seconds to get in the box.
Next, break your players up into two distinct teams. You have a lot of choices here, for example, one with defenders and all middies playing a team of defense and all attack players. Or you might possibly divide the team between freshmen and seniors versus sophomores and juniors. However you do it, find a way to make it fun for the players.
We will start with a face-off (it's always good to find a way to integrate face-off scenarios into a drill). Once one team gains possession, the Hippo Drill rules come into play. A player can run with the ball only for three to five seconds (coaches must set the rules in advance), then the player must pass the ball to a teammate. This forces players to adjust the way they play as a team and focus on quick passes.
If the player with the ball fails to pass in three to five seconds, the coach blows the whistle immediately, the player with the ball has to drop it on the whistle wherever he is on the field, and the other team quickly picks up the ball, and we go the other way. And the same Hippo rules apply to that team.
Following a score, we can either have it set up for the goalie to bang out a clearing pass to breaking players or start with a face-off again. I like the face-offs, just for the reps.
Please remember too that it is critical to quickly rotate players on and off the field, and we can have fun with that as well. For example, you might call out the substitutions even as the ball is moving down the field.
1. Every player must look up to move the ball immediately.
2. All players without the ball must be aware of where the ball is at all times.
3. Reinforces players moving and cutting to get open.
4. Opens an immediate transition going the other way.
5. Reinforces playing fast.
6. Players love the drill and have a blast.
I have used the drill to loosen players up during one of those practices we all have occasionally when nothing goes right. And I have used the drill to reward the kids and let them have fun, while focusing on fast play, towards the end of a tough workout where they have practiced especially hard.
Some coaches like to run this drill by playing a game or competition to five or eight goals, which always works well. I like to run two halves, maybe four minutes each, with a one-minute halftime. In the second half of the Hippo scrimmage, we count down the time, three minutes, two minutes, one minute left. We count down the last 45 seconds to create a sense of urgency and more importantly to give players a better sense of how much time 10 or 20 seconds really is.
You have to keep score. As with almost all of our drills, we want to step up the intensity here by adding a real element of competition. The reward for winning might be cheering the others as they do sprints or shuttle runs. But the winning prize I have had the most success with is which team has to collect the balls after practice, and they need to collect all the balls in three minutes or run two sprints before collecting the balance of the balls.
Variations can also be added. For example, if the team in white pennies loses possession by failing to make a pass in five seconds, the offensive player rolls the ball out of bounds, and the coach rolls a ball to a player on the other team at some other location anywhere on the field. Now we have ground ball and field recognition scenarios added to the Hippo Drill.
Another variation that can help game situations is that once the ball is in the box, it always needs to stay in the box, or the offensive team loses possession. Have some fun by varying the format, and focus on looking up and moving the ball.