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Back to Basics: Face-Off Strategies and Essential Ground Ball Drills

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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:

Boxing Out

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.

Switching Hands

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.

Draw Play

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.

Box Play

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.

 

Live Drills

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




Back to Basics: Tips to Win the Ground Ball Battle

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The ground ball game is a critical aspect of lacrosse. By scooping up more ground balls than your opponent, you’ll retain more possessions, which also translates to increased scoring opportunities. Plus, you never know which ground ball can turn a game or create pivotal momentum in your favor.

Follow along as Duke head men’s lacrosse coach John Danowski discusses the importance of ground balls, provides key tips for winning the ground ball battle, and even highlights an effective drill for practice. Look to give your squad an edge this season by implementing these proven strategies.

Ground Balls: A Brief Overview

Besides the goals for and goals against statistic, ground balls are the second most important stat that Duke follows. In 2010, the team played 20 games and produced a 16-4 overall record. But in the GB war, their record was 18-1-1. The squad places a tremendous value on ground balls starting on Day 1, and it shows.

So why exactly are ground balls so important? Well, because the ball is on the ground quite a lot, whether it’s at the X or on the offensive and defensive ends. Therefore, look to create a mindset that you want to chase groundballs. Why? Because we know that we won’t pick up every one. So develop a mental state that you will go after and fight for every ground ball that you can.

The ultimate goal here is to pick up more GB’s than your opponent. Remember, you never know which ground ball can turn a game, create momentum, or defeat another team.

Effort

The first key to winning the ground ball war is effort. At Duke, the coaches never yell at a player for missing a GB. They know the players want to get the ball. However, the coaches will get on them for not giving effort on a ground ball. If you don’t pick it up the first time, then pick it up the second time.

With effort, there’s a certain amount of discipline and structure that we demand in order for us to be successful. A big part of that is picking up ground balls with TWO HANDS. This is playing the percentages. We also don’t want to be undisciplined. When you go after a GB with two hands, determination, and great effort, the majority of the time you will be successful more often than not. At a Duke practice, if a player scoops with one hands, they are immediately on the end line. This is usually quite effective.

 

Ground Ball Phases

We divide ground balls into three phases.

Phase 1: Face-Off Play — It’s a lot different going after GB’s in this phase than in the offensive or defensive zones. Duke will drill it differently with X guys, wing players, and other looks. We look at this as a team event. There are generally eight ways to win a faceoff and many of them are about chasing groundballs.

Phase 2: Offensive End — As soon as you cross that line, it doesn’t matter your position or which hand you have the stick in, you are now an offensive player. We look at the ball on the ground in the offensive end differently than we do in the defensive end.

Phase 3: Defensive End

Tip:  Early in the year, drill everything to give you success. Teach everything skeleton, meaning no contact. Teach the fundamental elements first, and then try to do it live. Hopefully everything carries over.

 

Drill Work

This clip focuses on action between the lines and where we want to recognize a situation. This drill works on draw play and wing play together. The role of the wings are so vital to enable your draw guys to be successful.

Right here, players are concentrating on boxing out on the wings, coordination between the draw guys and the wing players, the ability to feel the defenders, handling the ball under pressure, and getting as many reps as possible, plus spacing, angles, and a little draw technique.

 

The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Aggressive Ground Ball Play” with John Danowski. To check out more skill development videos, head over to our lacrosse library. Got any other ground ball tips to share? What strategies and tactics do you find most effective with your team?




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