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Archives by Tag 'Athlete Instruction'

Improving On-Ball Defense: The Retreat Drill

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Expanding on techniques executed in the Address Drill, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala demonstrates the highly effective Retreat Drill. This particular drill teaches defenders how to handle that initial move by an offensive player and ways to eliminate flat feet.

Follow along as Coach Pietramala reveals how to implement the proper techniques, movements and strategies involved. The drill is a must for lacrosse teams at every level. It’s also an effective defensive tool used by Johns Hopkins on a frequent basis.

Drill Breakdown

After learning how to properly address the ball, this is the next step in the progression. It’s all about how to take that initial move by the offensive player and remain in a position to be effective defensively. It also continues to work on techniques covered in the Address Drill as well.

The drill starts with one player at a time behind the net and facing toward the endline (and with his/her back toward the goal). At the whistle, the player addressing the coach will retreat back a few steps, move forward again (following the coach’s signals), move back, and then forward, and then back again.

The participating player should follow the signals delivered by the coach to figure out when to retreat and address.

Signals: Putting the hand down means to stop and break down, pointing the hand backwards means to retreat, and pointing outward means to come back in and address the ball.


Avoiding Flat Feet

This drill really focuses on retreating or giving ground. Any time that an offensive player makes a move at a defender, we believe the first thing we need to do is retreat backwards with our stick in front of us and with a six-foot cushion. This enables the defender to handle any initial offensive move.

Too often, defenders are caught flat-footed when an offensive player makes a move. When flat-footed, they can’t retreat. Therefore, we’re making sure with this drill that we don’t get beat by the initial move.


Drill at Full Speed

Be sure to watch the feet and stick positioning here. When each defender comes out, they will immediately try to take away the offensive player’s right hand. Players should focus on picking their feet up and running backwards and not dragging the feet when backpedaling. You can also get the goalie involved and communicating with each defender on what’s expected and where to go.

Also, make sure that you conduct the drill on the left side of the cage. Nothing changes here. Rather than having our left foot forward, we will reverse that because we are taking away the left side of the goal. So it’s the right foot forward and left foot back.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Developing On-Ball Defenders Behind the Net” with Dave Pietramala. To check out more defensive-oriented videos in our lacrosse library, simply click here.

Gary Gait: Key Drills and Techniques to Grasp Basic Shooting Mechanics

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In this week’s player development feature, learn basic shooting mechanics and key shooting drills from one of the game’s greatest players. With Gary Gait as your guide, you’ll find out how to properly isolate the hands and arms, develop release points, improve accuracy, and get important tips for generating power.

Isolating the Hands and Arms

Shooting in lacrosse is certainly more complex than just throwing the ball on net. We’ll begin with a basic shot and how it involves body mechanics.

The best shooters in lacrosse all have the ability to get shots off and put it in any place or direction they want no matter what their body does. This comes from isolation and the ability to throw the ball no matter where the body is.

To start, square up your feet towards the goal and then get the right mechanics on the hands and the arms. As for your grip on the stick, grip it at the base of your fingers and not in the palms. This allows you to get more follow through and movement on the stick. Also, slide that top hand down the stick a bit.

Now we want to get the arms in the best position so we can get the most out of them. Extend the bottom arm so you can get a long pull. Flatten the top arm so you can get a nice push. Don’t get the stick at an angle where the pull is much shorter and where the push is shorter. Instead, position your arms in a way that maximizes their potential power.


Now, let’s focus on turning the feet and changing the position of our body. We still want to practice getting good use of the hands and arms here. Now point your feet to the sideline and keep them square. Shoot the ball and come across with the stick and focus on that same quickness. Your feet should be still. All we’re doing here is shooting stationary on the goal. Get lots of reps and explode through the movement.

Finish by reversing sides. Get the stick up and get a good pull and good push.

Developing Release Points

The next step is developing release points. Release points come from how much you pull and how much you push, plus when you pull and push.

For example, if you start from the same position every time, you can push and pull from here and get the ball to stay high. You can also develop a different release point by delaying the pull and the push. As you start the motion, drag the stick a little, then pull and push. It looks the same from the starting position, but now you can release the ball low.

We can also incorporate some side-to-side action. To aim side-to-side, pull the stick across the body as you make your push-pull movement. While this makes a natural upper body turn, it also makes your stick travel on a diagonal. From this same position and with the slightest adjustment with the hands and the push/pull, it will really change where the ball releases. Now you can hit the right corner, the left corner, the mid-left, the mid-right, bottom left and bottom right.

Before, we were facing the goal, now we can adjust our body (turn it to the side) and go through the same motions and shoot it at all areas of the goal. Move the ball around the goal and keep your body in the same position. Then turn the other way (from right to left, or vice versa).


Accuracy and Power

Next, it’s about focusing on accuracy. Accuracy comes from practice. Simply get out there and practice over and over again trying to hit the same spot. You’ll develop consistency and accuracy this way.

After accuracy comes power, which derives from the body, driving through the legs, the hips and up through the body. The power then travels up through the hands, and you finish by being able to control where the shot goes using your hands and arms, how much you push and pull, and when you push and pull.

With power, line up facing the sideline and bring the stick back to generate speed with the stick. Turn your body to see over your shoulder. Drive your leg down, turn your hips through, keep your stick back, and come all the way through while twisting the body. Now we’re back into the position of how much I push and pull determines where the ball releases. So step, drive, shoot and get a really hard shot on cage.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion Lacrosse Player with Gary Gait: Shooting Techniques and Drills.” To check out more videos featuring shooting drills and instruction, visit our lacrosse library.

Essential Goaltending Tips and Effective Stepping Drills

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A major part of a goaltender’s success stems from the first step. Developing that initial step will enable you to get to balls quicker, develop better range, and ultimately contribute towards improved performances.

This week, North Carolina women’s lacrosse coach Phil Barnes reveals his top overall goaltending keys before leading you through effective stepping drills for warm-ups and practice. These easy-to-implement drills will train the stick and the feet to get to the seven defensive areas of the cage and go a long way towards developing overall goaltending skills.

Goalkeeping Keys

1) Technique — Your number one priority as a goalie is to stop the ball. If a goalie has has good technique, they will be able to do that. Remember, there’s only so many movements to make, so the variables are not the same as a defender or attacker. In the end, technique is what will put a goalie over the top.

2) Hand-eye Coordination and Intelligence — If a goalie has above average hand-eye coordination, they can probably do everything you want them to do from a technique standpoint.

3) Mental Toughness — Goalies will see a lot of shots and the ball will go in. There is responsibility around this. If a goalie isn’t mentally tough, you may want to find a different one. You may end up working more on the mental side than the physical side of things.


We’re looking to improve that first step to the ball so you can get there quicker. The following stepping warm-up drills train the stick and feet to get to the seven defensive save areas. It also focuses on a quick and clean stick turnover.

There are tons of different theories on how you should lead warm-up drills for stepping. For Coach Barnes, it starts with the first step/lead step/attack step. The second step is something that occurs naturally. Therefore, our first concern is how quick is that first step to the ball. If the first step is slow, you will never get to the ball regardless of how quick you get your second step there.

7 Save Areas: High right, high left, middle right, middle left, low right, low left, and between the legs.


Stick Side Low — Players should assume ready positioning and then repeatedly make stick-side low movements using their first step. No saves or balls are used in these drills. Every fourth rep, have the players step with two steps (so they keep that habit of bringing the second foot).

Key: Look for quick and clean turnover here. Also, remember the stick and first step hit the ground at the same time.

Non-Stick Side Low — Put an emphasis on the stick and first step getting there at the same exact time. Notice players hold the save positioning for a few seconds so they can get that muscle memory in there (about three seconds). Mix up the reps every time you run this drill (anywhere between 6 and 20 reps).

Going High — Keep in mind that the first step is always the same for any save. Nothing changes.


Stick Side High — Concentrate on raising the stick up high. If you tilt the stick back, the ball may go over your stick.

Non-Stick Side High — Here, we’ll implement the “Windshield Wiper” technique. Using the wrists, arms, and shoulders, drive them all together. Keep the stick straight so you don’t lose your angle to the ball. On every fourth rep, continue to step with two feet.

Stick Side Mid — We’re using the exact same motion here as we do going for low saves. We’re looking for a complete stick turnover in order to translate to a low save technique.

Non Stick Side Mid – Don’t forget to keep that same distance between your chest and the stick.

Typically, this warm-up drill will go for five minutes. Look to go for about 8-15 reps, maybe 21 per practice. Remember, technique is what separates good keepers from average ones and you can fall back on it time and time again.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Progressive Skill Development Warm-Up for Goalies” featuring Phil Barnes. To check out more videos highlighting goalie skills and drills, click here.

All Access UConn Women’s Basketball: Ball Handling and Fast Break Drills

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In this week’s edition of All Access, we take you back to Storrs, Connecticut for an exclusive look at a University of Connecticut women’s basketball practice. Watch as head coach Geno Auriemma walks through several team drills for you and details specific roles, player movements, overall strategies, and general tips.

Layup Drill and Fast Breaks

This first layup drill starts with three lines on the baseline and the ball in the middle. Initially, there’s a full-speed dribble to the opposite foulline. Then, the players immediately turn around and come back and get a layup. The ball handler should push the ball out in front each time. Players should also keep their heads up. When coming back, the middle player hits a wing player for the layup in stride.

With fast breaks, the players focus on different 3-Man Weaves starting at half court. The drill — which incorporates layups, pull-up jumpers, and five-footers using the glass — serves as a terrific warm-up drill.


Passing and Shooting Drills

For this passing drill, two players at a time will get down in a defensive stance, both on opposite sides of the paint starting at the baseline. Each pair will stay in their defensive stance all the way down the floor while catching and passing continuously. Players should stay in their defensive stance the entire time until the end. Once the first team hits the foul line, the next group starts.

Next, the team moves to a popular shooting drill. Two players will work with each other at one basket. Players should get their own rebound and make good passes to their teammate. The first team to make 10 shots at five baskets wins. Players count their made shots out loud. Shots are taken from the foul line, elbows, and just inside the key.


Ball Handling

Finally, in this particular ball handling session, UConn guards are working on dribbling down at one end of the floor. It’s a half-court drill where each player has a ball and goes up and back in a 1-on-0 situation. Players work on hesitation dribbling, stop and go’s, crossovers, and more — with both hands. Eventually, the guards move into drills against stationary defenders while incorporating layups.

Meanwhile, post players are on the other end of the floor working on low post positioning, entry passes, and moves in the paint with a defender on their back.

According to Auriemma, there’s only so much time during the middle of the season that you can devote to ball handling, but hopefully everything you do leads into it and incorporates it. The preseason and postseason are the optimal times to really work on your team ball handling.


The previous clips can be seen in Championship Productions’ DVD “All-Access Practice with Geno Auriemma.” To check out more videos featuring Coach Auriemma, click here.

All Access Duke Lacrosse: Transition Drills and Defending Behind the Cage

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In the latest edition of All-Access, we take you to Durham, North Carolina for an exclusive look at a Duke men’s lacrosse practice. Watch as head coach John Danowski leads his squad through a number of shooting and ball handling drills.

This exclusive access gives you a glimpse of how an elite Division I program prepares on a daily basis. Be sure to pick up some new tips, drills, and overall concepts so that you can implement them with your squad.

Execution Drill: Fire

Any time that we turn the ball over anywhere on the field and we are scattered, and someone yells “Fire”, that means we sprint and defend the paint. This drill starts with a loose ball in the defensive zone before the defense breaks out to midfield looking to push it up field on the transition break.

The defender moves it to the nearest middie and it transitions into three middies breaking up the field into the offensive zone. Then at the sound of the whistle and the call FIRE, the middies sprint back down field towards the defensive zone and they must defend the paint and find the ball. It’s a continuous drill. Once the three middies come back and finish defending the paint, they move the ball back up the other way, and new players rotate in from there.


Defending Behind the Cage

The next drill is a one-on-one drill. When behind the cage, we trail to the X ( the midpoint directly behind the cage). The defender will do whatever he can to keep the offensive player toward the X.

The first rule here is don’t get beat top side. For defenders, you want your stick in your left hand. Here’s why: It helps as a deterrent, you are a little bit stronger, and it reminds you of what you are trying to do. If the offensive player crosses the X and tries to go top side, you have the advantage of being able to run through the crease.

In this spot, it’s okay to be behind your man. If he takes another step towards top side, the defender will change hands and this will remind him of what his job is. The offensive guy can’t score a goal back there at X. He can feed, but your teammates will do their part. Remember the ultimate goal here: Stop the dodger from scoring a goal.

Defensive Tips and Drill Techniques

You need a lower center of gravity. When you stand up tall, you are not as quick or fast. However, when you lower your center of gravity, you are quicker. Defensively, we also want to be athletic, but make sure that you don’t lunge.

In the drill, we’ll first go right-handed and one time left-handed – at HALF SPEED. The key here is trying to understand what we’re trying to accomplish. Remember, don’t get beat top side.


Now, one player at a time, the players make their defensive movements behind the cage going 1-on-0 — at FULL SPEED. After this, players will go full speed in a 1-on-1 situation looking to keep their offensive counterparts around the X.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “All Access Duke Lacrosse Practice, Volume I: One-on-One and Team Drills.” To check out more videos in our All Access library, click here.


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