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Follow along as Duke University head men’s lacrosse coach John Danowski breaks down effective face-off strategies and ground ball tactics. Then watch as Coach Danowski takes to the field and leads his squad through several live ground ball drills that have become staples of the Blue Devil program.
Face-Off Strategies & Key Tactics
When we face off, the ultimate goal is to pick up the ball. We don’t care who gets credit, we simply want to pick it up and get possession. We can do so effectively by incorporating the following strategies:
The first thing we want to work on is boxing out. This is all about getting inside position, running hip to hip, and then hopefully coming up with the ball. The goal here is to keep our opposing wing player off our draw man to give him a chance to be successful. It’s also about trying to put ourselves in the best position to pick up a ground ball. It’s a simple concept where your body is in between the ball and your defender, but also one that’s very important.
Next, Duke lacrosse players (especially short sticks) are taught to switch hands. Make sure your players can pick up the ball with the right and left hands, which allows them to get inside position no matter what. When the ball is on the ground, it’s key that our short sticks read the situation, feel where the defender is, and then when he goes to pick it up, his body is immediately between the ball and opposing player. While Coach Danowski doesn’t teach the long poles to switch hands (as it’s tougher), if your kids can do it, they should do it.
When it comes to draw play, you can push the ball forward, clamp it, throw it behind to yourself, plus a variety of different techniques, but these are tactics to practice skeleton. At Duke, every player will practice this, regardless of position. That even includes goalies and defenders. It’s important that each person gets a feel for what the draw men are trying to accomplish.
This is a technique where attackmen must wait for the ball to cross the restraining line before they can go pick it up. For example, you might have to lift at the box and let the ball go past. Start by getting a wide base and solid body positioning. If the ball comes your way like this once a game and you can still get possession in the offensive box, that just might turn the game one way or another, especially if it’s close.
Drill 1 – For this first drill, players will run through the ground ball from the wing. One at a time, players will scoop it up and then dish it off. The goal here is to simulate getting off the wing and flying to the ball as hard as you can. Pick your head up and move it fast.
Drill 2 – With this one, two players will go at a time. One player will pick up the ground ball and then quickly dish off to a teammate who’s running in stride providing help and an outlet. The ground ball could be on either your left or right side (forcing you to use both hands effectively).
Drill 3 – Next up, the draw men will come down over the ball at their own pace. Push it forward and then go get it. While a certain number of players will do face-offs in game action, everyone needs to learn different technique for picking up ground balls. Remember to get low and bend over, concentrate, and go get it.
Coaching Points: These drills are incredibly important to what the Duke lacrosse team tries to accomplish every year. In fact, these three are some of the first drills the team starts with in the fall and spring practices.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD ”Aggressive Ground Ball Play” with John Danowski. To check out more skill development videos, simply visit our extensive lacrosse library.