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In this week’s edition of All Access, we take you back to Durham, North Carolina for a behind-the-scenes look at a Duke University men’s lacrosse practice. Watch as head coach John Danowski leads his squad through a number of competitive drills, including ball handling, full field transition, and 4 v 4 half field drills.
This first ball handling drill focuses on defenders only with no opposition. Players work on handling the ball in their typical positions and look to spread out in their own defensive end. The goal is to mimic typical passing situations in your own zone, improve on passing and catching (especially long outlets), and move the ball efficiently up the field.
Passes go from the goalie to each of the defenders and then up to the nearest midfielders around the midfield line. The drill forces players to change directions, make quick decisions, and work on key fundamentals such as catching, footwork, and passing. Notice that players are always moving with the ball and that quick, seamless transitions are made between groups.
The following transition drill starts with the coach rolling out a ground ball to the face-off players at midfield. The players fight for possession and the team that comes up with the ball transitions to offense.
A three second rule is implemented in the drill to promote quick decision-making, solid ball movement, and constant attacking at a rapid pace. If a player holds possession for more than three seconds, a whistle is called and that player must drop the ball at that spot. The closest player picks up the ball immediately (AKA a “free scholarship”) and starts up play for his side.
For this 4-on-4 half field drill, the team is now split into two groups, a white team and a black team. Each side takes turns going on offense. The goals are simple. The defense must make stops and offense must score goals.
Teams can tally a point by scoring. It’s a two-ball drill for each set of groups, meaning there’s two main possessions for each rotation. The balls initiate once behind the net and then once from up top. You can get two points for each group of four guys out on the field. Meanwhile, the defense needs to clear cleanly to get out of the drill.
This is a terrific team-wide drill that promotes competition while focusing on half field skills.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “All Access Duke Lacrosse Practice: Individual Skills & Full Field Drills – Volume II” with John Danowski. To check out more videos in our All Access collection, simply head over to our lacrosse library.
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.
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.
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.
One way to build a great team defense is to have a group of excellent all-around defenders. By teaching and enforcing vital individual skills, coaches can build a complete team of defenders and ultimately, put together a formidable defensive unit that will pay dividends for the program.
An all-around defender is skilled, aware, has a high IQ, has pride in his approach, is fundamentally sound on technique, takes pride in his team position, and can react properly to specific situations (like recognizing a pick or making a slide, etc.).
This week’s feature will be geared towards the key skill work aspects that a defender needs to be proficient in to become elite at his/her position. According to Chris Gabrielli, assistant coach at Duke University, defenders must be good at picking up ground balls off the ground, receiving the ball over their shoulder, and passing quickly.
Scooping Through the Ball
This drill helps players scoop up ground balls and distribute to a teammate quickly. It features two feeders and one “scooper.” One at a time, the feeders will toss out a ground ball toward the scooper. The player will then pick up the ball and pass it back to the feeder on the opposite side. That same feeder will then toss a ground ball out towards the player in the middle, and the drill continues like before. Simulate the drill with the right hand AND left hand before rotating through players.
Key: The scooper should always quickly pick the ground ball up and move it fast. Remember to snap the chin up and then find the next open guy to move the ball fast. The less the ball is in the stick, the better.
Catching the Ball Over the Shoulder
This drill is similar to the first one above, but now players will catch the ball over their shoulder, which happens quite often when defenders receive a pass from their goalie. The player should give the passer a target out in front every time and catch the ball with their hips pointing toward the direction they are headed. Remember, each participant should practice the drill with their right and left hand.
Now, instead of ground balls or over the shoulder passes, players will work on quick, hard passes. Players will cut quickly to the ball before turning and finding the open man and moving it quickly. Aim to keep the hands up high before throwing the ball hard back to the feeders and be sure to spend time with both the strong and weak hands, too.
Over the Shoulder Drill With Goalie
Here, we’ll have a goalie in the cage with a ball and then a line of players on the right crease area. One at a time, players will run forward and away from the cage before receiving a pass from the goalie over the shoulder. Remember, try to have the pass so that the player doesn’t have to reach back to get it. This will only slow him down and make for a shaky clearing attempt.
Change of Possession
A change of possession can happen by picking up a ground ball, making a save, knocking down a pass, or picking-off a pass. When the defense has the ball and we pick it up off the ground on a change of possession, the defense now has an extra player (7 vs. 6 with the goalie now in the equation) and an advantage. If we have proper spacing and use proper skill work, we should be able to clear the ball every time.
To get that extra spacing, we need to simply run to empty areas on the field, like toward the end line, sideline or just up the field. They key here is to spread out the riding team.
Running to Space
Here we will emphasize picking up a ground ball and then running to space (the area in front of the cage is vulnerable). The coach will toss out a ball parallel to the cage. Meanwhile, one at a time, players will then run out and pick it up before running toward the end line or sideline to create space.
Banana Out Move
This drill focuses on the “banana out” movement to get open and clear the ball. The player’s vision should always be on the goalie with stick low to the ground. Once outside the box, the player can back pedal with his butt toward the sideline, which will help spread out the riding team. After making the banana move, the player will receive a pass and then move to space.
The previous drills can be found in the Championship Productions DVD “Becoming a Champion: The Defenseman” featuring Chris Gabrielli and Duke Lacrosse. Check out the complete Becoming a Champion Series, which also includes breakdowns for midfielders and attackers.