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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




All-Access Duke Men’s Lacrosse: 1-on-1’s and other Individual Drills

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2013

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.

Angles

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.

The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD Duke Lacrosse Practice All Access – Volume I. To check out our entire All-Access catalog, click here.




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?




New Lacrosse DVDs featuring John Danowski!

By nate.landas - Last updated: Friday, February 24, 2012

We have just released a new Lacrosse DVD featuring John Danowski and the Duke University coaching staff and team.  He was the 2007 ACC Coach of the Year and led the team to a National Championship in 2010.  The title of this Lacrosse DVD is:

Mastering the Clearing Game

  • Learn philosophies and fundamentals of the highly successful Duke clearing scheme
  • Dictate the speed of the game to your opponents through this multidimensional clearing scheme
  • Develop roles and responsibilities for each player involved in the Clears
  • Learn individual and team drills that teach and reinforce the correct clearing techniques for all players (goalies, defensemen, midfielders and Attack)
  • If you are interested in more products featuring John Danowski, check out the titles below:

    Developing & Perfecting Stick Skills
    Aggressive Ground Ball Play
    All-Access Duke Lacrosse, Volume I: One-on-One and Team Drills
    All-Access Duke Lacrosse, Volume II: Individual Skills and Full Field Drills
    Becoming a Champion: The Defenseman
    Becoming a Champion: The Attackman
    Becoming a Champion: The Midfielder
    Speed, Agility & Strength Training for Championship Lacrosse




    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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