Player-to-coach ratio is a topic in lacrosse that many parents and programs put a huge emphasis on. While having many coaches is a good thing, it is more important to have quality coaches.
A good lacrosse coach is able to design a practice/camp/clinic plan that keeps players moving most of the time. There is always going to be some time at practice that is purely for listening and learning, but the best coaches are able to connect with their players very quickly and keep their players moving and learning at the same time.
At the youth (elementary) level, 1-2 coaches is ideal for a team of 16-20 players. Practices can be broken down into three or four segments with warm-up/skills, 2v1, 3v2/lacrosse IQ, then actually playing the game. If a coach is not spending time at practice actually playing the game, the players will not be prepared to compete.
As the player gets older(middle school) and more talented, 1-2 coaches is still ideal. Practices can be broken down into three or four segments with more complex skill development, small sided games like 2v2, 3v2, 3v3, 4v3, offensive and defensive strategy/clearing/transition, then playing full field scrimmages.
At the High school level with 20-30 players, 1-2 coaches work, but 2-3 coaches is ideal. Practices should consist of fast paced stickwork/ground ball drills, offensive and defensive split skill/strategy work (goalie and FO should be a part of this time), small sided build up drills/3v2,3v3,4v3,4v4,5v4,5v5,6v5,6v6 (also known as the numbers drill), and finally live gameplay.
At the college level, the practice structure doesn’t change much, but it is longer and faster paced. However, there is more nuance taught at practice like the substitution game, identifying defenses and offenses, and what to do in certain situations. Many colleges operate with 2-3 coaches effectively.
It is important to highlight that for high level lacrosse games, teams need a head coach to manage the game as a whole, an offensive and defensive coordinator (sometimes is the head coach) and a coach to manage the substitution box. There might even be a Goalie or Face Off coach on staff. But, three coaches is more than enough.
With the growing number of kids playing the game, our emphasis on the player-to-coach ratio needs to diminish because ONE quality coach is going to make more of an impact than 3-4 coaches that don’t know anything about how the sport is played and how to develop players. If you are a youth coach, do your own research, come to practice with a plan. You can be a great coach even if you’ve never played the game. Reach out to coaches that have extensive experience, you’d be surprised how much they are willing to help!