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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.
Team captains and leaders are extremely influential to any sports team – both positively and negatively. With renowned sports psychology expert Greg Dale as your guide, learn about a variety of coaching strategies you can implement when it comes to maximizing your squad’s leadership potential, chemistry, and overall success.
Give and Take of Respect
Start by giving your team leaders some genuine face time. It’s quite common for team leaders to struggle with areas like respect, so we have to help develop them. One way is to spend time with them. Start by taking the minutes at the beginning of the season to talk about the idea of who you are and what your expectations are.
For example, what are your core values in your life? Who are your influences and why? Talk about the most positive leaders in your life. You can even give examples of bad influences and how they also developed you.
Also, lay out your expectations for your team. In other words, what do you expect from your leaders? How can they help you develop this team into the best team it can be? However, if you don’t spend time on these things, the captains are left guessing. If they understand where you are coming from, they are much more likely to become that extension of you.
Leadership: How to Be Liked and Respected
It’s typically very important for team leaders to have credibility with their teammates. However, this idea of being a leader; there’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with that.
So how exactly do you establish, lose, and maintain credibility? Well, you are only as effective as the credibility you have with the people you are trying to lead.
This concept all starts with respect. Start by highlighting the bond between respect and credibility. Ask your team leaders, “Can you demand that your teammates respect you?” Well they can remand that the athletes line up a certain way in warm-ups, but in terms of them respecting their leaders as their leaders, that’s something you must earn. Respect is earned. From day one, the leaders of your team need to be thinking about what they need to do to earn respect this year.
Meanwhile, there’s also an interesting dynamic of being liked AND being respected. This can often be a source of conflict. For Dale, the best leaders he’s been around have both the respect and the likeability. However, being liked isn’t essential. Obviously, if you have to sacrifice something, it’s going to be the like part of it. But the kids must understand that they won’t always be liked by everyone.
They can be a likeable person and should be, but those two things will come into direct conflict. If you don’t spend time on this with them, they will struggle with the concept. For most kids, it’s important they are liked.
***For more tips on choosing team captains and ways to develop strong leaders, check out this feature from 2011.***
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD The Coach’s Guide to Developing Great Team Captains featuring Greg Dale. To check out additional videos focusing on team development concepts, click here.
The Tufts men’s lacrosse program is built upon its high-tempo attack and rapid-fire transition game. The “Mini Game Series” is just one of many different drills that the Jumbos rely on to prepare for game situations. Follow along with Tufts head coach Mike Daly as he breaks down the drill and analyzes the action on the field. Also one of the program’s favorite drills, the game series is easy to implement and will add a competitive edge to your practices.
Mini Game Series
The entire squad is broken up into eight teams that compete throughout the semester in 4-on-4 mini games. The field is shrunk and set up sideline to sideline. Play begins with a faceoff and after that, players are off to the races. Look to play 5, 7, or 10-minute games. It’s a continuous drill, so look to substitute players throughout to maintain that high level of intensity.
Why it’s effective: The drill emphasizes tempo, defensive ball handling, playing offense in game situations, among many others. This is also a terrific quick action drill that requires you to think on your feet, gives you a ton of possessions, and replicates game situations.
Tips: After goals are scored, the other team immediately gets the ball and goes right back into attack mode. Maintain a fast pace at all times. Also, keep the action 4-on-4 the entire time, like so many of your breaks in real games.
Check out another up-tempo lacrosse drill in the Tufts practice plan called the Add It Up Drill.
The clips above can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD ”Transition Drills for Building an Up-Tempo Offense” with Mike Daly. To view more offensive videos in our lacrosse library, click here.
Towson University lacrosse coach Tony Seaman considers the 4 v 4 set to be very effective for game planning. This formation enables coaches to be flexible with personnel and creates a variety of game-like situations. This week Coach Seaman demonstrates “Picks Up Top” via whiteboard diagrams and live simulations.
Picks Up Top – Whiteboard Overview
The Set-up: Start by putting two middies up top (players 1 and 2), one on the crease (player 3), and one behind (player 4). On this play, we will pick from up top and learn how to execute it offensively and defensively.
The Action: Player 1 has the ball and throws across to 2. He then runs across and picks player 6 (or 2’s defender) so that 6 runs into the pick. Meanwhile, player 2 comes off the pick and gets an edge. He can now go in and shoot or has player 3 on the crease as an option. Also, he has player 4 coming across one side of the net or the other as an outlet.
Defensive Strategy: Defensively, it becomes important for player 5 to tell 6 that he is getting picked. Stress this to your players. Tell player 5 to step back so that 6 can come through. Also, upon pick recognition, player 6 can step out and force player 2 to go the opposite way and not down the alley.
On the Field
Coaching Point: It’s very important when setting the pick to make sure the picker gets down below where the defender wants to go so he can pick him off.
Check out three more picks plays with Tony Seaman, including picks behind and the pick and roll.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “The Best Drill in Lacrosse: 4 v 4” featuring Towson head coach Tony Seaman. For more videos featuring Coach Seaman and Towson lacrosse, click here.
In the latest edition of All-Access, we take you back to Durham, North Carolina for an exclusive look inside a Duke men’s lacrosse practice. Watch as head coach John Danowski leads his 2010 NCAA Championship team through a number of 1-on-1′s and other individual drills.
In this first drill, midfielders and defenders are working on the different angles of catching the ball. Players will break out over their shoulder right-handed. This drill replicates those game situations when you are defending the paint and are getting out on the transition break. Players must be able to turn and get up field as quickly as possible. The key: You want to be able to catch the ball on an angle you don’t handcuff yourself.
In review, the midfielders and defenders break out on an angle, turn their shoulder, and catch a pass while on the run. Meanwhile, a defender runs with them down the center and serves as an outlet in the middle of the field.
Two Down the Field
Players work in pairs and run down the length of the field passing back and forth to each other. Players must maintain proper spacing and run the entire time. If you throw it away, it’s okay, just stay with your teammate to retrieve it. Players should go down three times. Says Coach Danowski on this fundamentals and conditioning drill, “Go fast and do it right!”
Scrappin’ Exchanges Drill
In this live 1-on-1 drill, coaches will give players a secret signal about his approach. The defender must approach his opponent well and not let him get the ball. Meanwhile, the goal for the offensive player is to get the ball. Essentially, offensive players must work their tails off to get open and receive the pass while being defended in a 1-on-1 situation.