Scrimmage – don’t plan to win

Ok maybe you can win a scrimmage, but “winning” as in most points on the board isn’t the point. The first scrimmage is exciting and frustrating at the same time. It is great for the kids to get out and play against another colored jersey, but often you aren’t quite ready for everything when the first scrimmage hits. You’ve often installed 50-75% of your offense, defense, and transition. So you are bound to get caught on that one thing you didn’t get a chance to do repeatedly yet, and that’s ok. Without a plan and some goals, you may walk away from the scrimmage feeling a little empty and like you wasted time. Don’t prepare for a scrimmage with the goal of winning the game, plan to win the season. Below are three goals I recommend you accomplish.

Starters First

Scrimmages are your dress rehearsal so you need to treat it like one. Your starters need to get their time so they can begin the gameday gelling process. Practice can get you so far, but when its gameday the pressure ramps up and your players may play a little different. I like to play my starters at scrimmages for at least 50% of the game. The remainder of the game I’ll focus on my depth. Who may be that extra attackman, middie, or D-pole we may need if we run into injuries. Who knows maybe they’ll surprise you.


Scrimmages give you a great chance to test player pairings without much penalty. I may mix and match personnel to see if certain things click better than others. The first midfield line personnel may swap from quarter 1 to quarter 2, but they are all middies I would consider to be starters or fighting for a starting spot. I also like scrimmages to test quickhitter plays or maybe crazy offensive schemes just to see how everyone responds. You never know when you will need something down the road, a la “Philly Special“. (Sorry, not sorry)

Special situations

The most obvious one here is your man-up and man-down units. If this situation occurs in the game, I will get those units on the field. Or at least the players in those units even though by first scrimmage I typically haven’t put much in yet. I also like to put starter in for the first 2 minutes after halftime. I need them to practice the halftime break and then be able to turn that switch on again when the whistle blows for the 2nd half. Another scenario would be the last 2 minutes. It’s good to see which players are comfortable killing clock and which ones struggle in those critical moments. You will need players that can kill clock at some point.

Scrimmages are great as long as you have a plan. I never cared about the score, I really don’t think it has any value in scrimmages. I want to leave the field feeling more confident in knowing who my best players are, who works best as a unit, and what areas we may need to sure up (GB’s, passing, communication, special situations, etc).

Other quick tips:

  • Change pinney’s so numbers don’t match real gameday numbers
  • Keep real stats so your managers get practice and you can help them now and not during the season
  • Don’t let your starting goalie get shelled – if this team is too good for your defense you don’t want to crush your goalie’s confidence (maybe half game or less)
  • Video tape the game of course for film review
  • Try not to play teams in your conference, but aim for teams that will make your play elevate
  • All players on sideline are supporting team on the field, that includes you starters that are out too. Those players will be supporting you all season long.
  • Keep it fun, don’t get livid in scrimmages. Your team will make mistakes, that is why you are having a scrimmage to correct them now.

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