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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.

Best of Coaches Corner: Drills of the Year

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, learn more than a dozen top lacrosse drills submitted by some of the nation’s most renowned NCAA coaches. From the likes of NCAA Champions John Danowski, Bill Tierney and Jim Berkman, the coaches dish out their personal favorites, plus a few player preferences, as well. The drills were compiled from Coaches Corner Q&A’s over the 2010-2011 season. Be sure to read through and see if you can pick up some new drills for your practices this season.

Ohio State Coach Nick Myers:

“It’s hard to pinpoint one, but I like doing some of the simpler drills that break down our overall scheme — like 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 drills that are controlled. By doing these drills, we get to work on dodging, off-ball play, communication, ball movement and even spacing. They allow players to add-lib and be decision-makers on the field, whether it’s dodging, sliding or recovering. Plus, it teaches a lot of the fundamentals and basics that are important to work on frequently.”

Tufts Coach Mike Daly:

My favorite drill is Mechanics Progression, which deals with your elbows, shoulders and hands and really focuses on the fundamentals of the game. If you can’t catch and throw, you can’t do anything in this game. There’s nothing more important than that. It may be mundane to our players, but it’s absolutely the cornerstone of our program.”

Salisbury Coach Jim Berkman:

“It’s not brain surgery here, but we like to put people in tight spaces, especially around the goal. We’ll go 3-on-2, 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 a lot, not necessarily 40-yard sprints, but around the goal and look to move the ball under pressure and make good decisions. It teaches the guys how to protect and stick handle and make quick passes in tight spaces. It’s teaches defenses how to slide and rotate and I think it makes them better overall when it comes to on the field during a game.”

Brown Coach Lars Tiffany:

“My favorite is the General Drill. It’s a 1-on-1 drill and there’s an off-ball defenseman and an off-ball offensive player. Imagine you have a feeder who’s not in the drill standing at the goal line extended to the goalie’s left and about 10 yards wide. He’ll throw a ball to the top center or right to an offensive player standing 14-15 yards from the goal and the defenseman is at the top of the crease. They are both waiting for the pass and when the ball is passed, it’s live. They have to play 1-on-1 now.

The offensive player looks to gets the ball in a wind-up position, catching it in his shooting stance and hopefully only has two steps to a shot. And now it’s decision-making time. Do I have to dodge? Can I just rip it? How should I stand off-ball, move off-ball and make a move? We can do lots of variations of this too, anything to re-create a defense that has sagged in on the backside and the ball is redirected and we are forced to create.”

Click here to check out a full breakdown of the general drill (with video) in a previous edition of Inside the Crease. Also, check out Coach Tiffany’s DVD “Man-Down Defense: A Catalog of Drills.”

Denver Coach Bill Tierney:

Well it goes back to the concept that defense wins titles. My favorite drills are ones that put the offense at an advantage and the defense at a disadvantage. One is a 7-on-6 drill where we insert another player into it after a 6-on-6 situation and we work on slides and rotations. There’s also the 656 drill, where the offense is out-manning the defense 6-on-5 until the defender gets back into play, and this simulates a slide technique.

Then there’s the red-white drill. We go up and down 5 vs. 4 and can add a man and make it 6 vs. 5 drill. It’s great for transition play, ball movement and skill development for offensive players. There’s also survival drills like 2-on-2 perimeter drills where we force the ball inside so that two defenders have to communicate and switch. The bottom line is that we like to run drills that will simulate what we do in the game.”

Duke Coach John Danowski:

“It’s called the Shoot as Hard as You Can Drill. It’s an offensive drill and we use it during pre-game warm-ups and even run it three or four days a week in practice. We get the guys right out in front of the cage and we teach them how to shoot as hard as they can without worrying about where the ball goes. We try to get in a lot of reps, focus on keeping your hands back, your momentum going towards the shot and having the players fall into the crease.”

Former Towson Coach Tony Seaman:

“We really love 4-on-4 drills. It gives us three slides in defensive packages. We can move people around and simulate our offense pretty well with four people and the kids get a feel for where they belong. Plus, we can work on spacing, picking off the ball and defensively who will be the first, second and third slide. We can get so much done and there’s less people to worry about and look at on a daily basis.”

Player Favorites

John Danowski, Duke University:

“It’s called the Scrapping Drill. We run it at the beginning or end of practice with the emphasis on picking up ground balls and keeping focused while under pressure. We’ll get two teams together with a goalie in net and have two players going up against one. The team of two has to figure out how to score. It happens very fast and is over sometimes in three or four seconds. It’s a high-energy and high-tempo drill that gets the guys amped up and often has consequences at the end of practice for the losing team.”

See the Scrapping Drill in John Danowksi’s new DVD, All-Access Duke Lacrosse, Volume II: Individual Skills and Full Field Drills.

Jim Berkman, Salisbury University:

“It’s called Full-Field Scramble. It goes from 4-on-3 to 5-on-4 the other way and then 6-on-4 the other way and then finally 10-on-10. The guys like that one because of the transition components. It’s good for conditioning and then ends up being a full field situation where the kids must make good decisions. They also must learn to fast break, defend in the box, come down and make the appropriate cuts, and then defend 6-on-6 and clear on the other end. It forces guys to make a lot of different decisions and really enhances the lacrosse IQ.”

Stay tuned this season for more Q&A’s featuring some of the game’s top lacrosse coaches. Also, be sure to sign-up for our bi-weekly lacrosse eNewsletter “Inside the Crease.”

Effective Dodges and Shooting Drills for Midfielders

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whether on the field with a team or in the backyard, the offseason is a perfect time for rising midfielders to continue their development. With Duke assistant coach Ron Caputo leading the way, learn about effective dodging techniques and shooting drills designed for midfielders.

The techniques and drills learned will go a long way towards your players being able to dodge, beat their defender, and score goals. Step-by-step, Coach Caputo breaks down each technique before members of the Duke lacrosse team demonstrate them at full speed.

Offensive Skills

If the game slows down – which it does especially late in the season – midfielders need to be proficient in 6-on-6 offense. But for midfielders to be effective, they must be able to dodge, beat the defender, and score.

One of the first rules for a midfielder is to be able to beat your man and score a goal. Well, you often beat them by split dodging, swim dodging, and roll dodging. Check out these techniques below.

Split Dodge

The split dodge is one of the most effective moves for getting off a shot or making a pass to a teammate. While keeping the shoulders square, the move revolves around a quick burst of speed and change of direction – forcing the defense to backpedal and lose momentum.

Swim Dodge

Notice how violent the players are being with the ground. You must explode off that foot and go. You should have no consideration for who is playing defense. They simply don’t exist. You must get by them.

Roll Dodge

Here you must snap your head around. If you control the head, you control the rest of the body. Get your chin on your shoulders so you can see as much of the field as possible. When you turn and go the other way (when the chin turns), the body turns as well.


The next step is that we must know how to shoot and get the ball past the goalie. Here are a few shooting drills that should pay immediate dividends for midfielders.

Hands Back Drill

This is a drill used by Duke lacrosse every day and a perfect warm-up and pre-practice drill in advance of stretching. One player will go at a time. The player will step between the pipes, call out “One More” and then receive the ball. Next, the player will get his hands all the way back, will get his shoulder “in his mouth”, and then drive down as hard as they can to the middle of the goal.

It may seem a bit weird to shoot two feet from the goal, but as player’s progress, you can keep moving further back. The goal here is to create muscle memory for shooting so that when a player is in the heat of the moment, they can catch a ball, get the hands back, and rip it without even blinking.

Shoot it as hard as you can and almost fall over into the cage as you shoot. Come hard over the top and let it go – similar to a pitcher in baseball. Then switch to the left hand.

Layup Shot

This shot is similar to a layup in basketball. It’s important for the outside leg to come over the inside leg. This gives you power when coming at the goal. For this drill, a teammate will toss lacrosse balls into the air to each player. The participating players will catch it and then shoot the ball hard on net.

We are looking to create torque and get our body twisted. Keep in mind that every time you shoot the ball in lacrosse, your right shoulder should be facing the left pipe and your left shoulder should be facing the right pipe – no matter where you are.

Also, when coming from behind the goal, your hips should be turned as you are shooting the ball from there. Make sure you do the drill left-handed, too.


Two Cage Shooting Drill

For this drill, put a cage in front of the shooter so they are forced into the habit of not dropping the hands or shooting side arm. Players must come hard over the top using the techniques previously taught. Get the hands and hips back, and follow through while turning the hips. Notice how the players in the clip are getting the hands back each time and driving the ball down. Younger players may hit the goal a lot at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it in the long run.


The clips above can be seen in Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion: The Midfielder.” Check out the entire collection plus other videos featuring midfielder skills and drills by viewing our lacrosse library.

3 Key Tips & Techniques for the Elite Attackman

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It’s no secret that an attackman in lacrosse must excel at more than just catching and shooting in order to be a triple-threat player. In this week’s player development feature, learn from one of the game’s finest instructors as Duke men’s lacrosse coach John Danowski breaks down key concepts when playing behind the cage, without the ball, and on the transition fast break. If a player can become proficient in these areas, they’ll likely be on their way towards establishing themselves as an elite playmaker in the game.

Playing Behind the Cage

Once we have the ball behind the cage, this is where we want to be a dodger. First, it’s key to build an attitude and turn the corner. In order to turn the corner, it’s crucial that we get that far shoulder ending up facing the right pipe. Also, look to do this with both hands.

Next, once you have a step on the defender, remember to not slow down. Keep sprinting while turning the corner. If you beat your defender, they’ll likely be trailing just behind you and could look to do a wrap or trail check. Therefore, it’s vital that you’re careful and that you don’t expose your stick to the defender. Keep that stick in front of the body.


Transition Fast Break

There are three important positions to keep in mind when running the transition fast break: the point man, the right-handed shooter, and the left-handed shooter. The point man must run the show. Be sure to set up about 16-18 yards above the GLE or 3-4 steps inside the restraining line. The key is to move the ball and not stand still. If you do stand still, you will give away to the defense where you’re going to be.

However, by moving the ball, you become more athletic, you can receive the ball on the move, and it will open up the field for you. Your first thought should always be to take a shot, but your second thought should be to look for the right or left shooters. Watch the following demo to see proper techniques for moving the ball and taking shots off the point on the fast break.

Another key technique to remember is to follow the slide. This means that when your man leaves you to go play the guy with the ball, you can’t stand still. Rather, you must follow him and move up to the ball. First, it provides a larger area to shoot. And second, it prevents the defenseman from drawing a straight line.

Meanwhile, the complete attackman also needs to know all positions on the break, from how to handle the point, how to move to the ball, how to look to shoot or feed, how to come up the hash, how to follow the slide as a righty, or how to read the point defender as a lefty.

This player should also be able to post up in order to receive the ball from the point man. If the defender is slow getting back, you should be able to maneuver a cross-handed catch inside on the crease. Watch the following clip to see these moves in action.


Playing without the Ball

The majority of the game is played without the ball. Therefore as an attackman, you need to understand your position on the field and what you need to do in relation to where the ball is. There are some simple rules to follow regardless of your own offensive system.

First, if the man with the ball comes towards you, clear through. Next, if the man with the ball goes away from you, follow the ball.

As you clear through, never lose sight of the ball. You never know when your defender will leave you or whether you can break free and get open. Always have your stick in your upfield hand and be looking to make a play and be a scorer.

By following your teammate, you also provide an outlet for a player who may get double-teamed, is fatigued, or simply needs an outlet. Watch the clip below of three attackman playing together with these rules in mind.

When adjacent to the ball carrier, your job is to clear through. But if your defender decides to leave you and double team the ball, you can also execute a fish hook move where you put on the brakes, stop, and come back to the ball with the stick in your upfield hand. Watch the fish hook in action against a near-man slide. This also gives your teammate an opportunity to shoot the ball.


The above clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion: The Attackman” featuring John Danowski. To check out more videos highlighting attackmen and offensive drills, click here.

All-Access Duke Lacrosse Practice: Ball Handling and Shooting Skills

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In the latest edition of All-Access, we take you to Durham, North Carolina for an exclusive look inside 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 within your own practice and hopefully see the benefits pay off with your team.

As of Tuesday, the defending champion Blue Devils are coming off a 15-14 win over Delaware in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Tournament. Duke – which earned the fifth seed in the tournament – will now go up against No. 4 Notre Dame in a quarterfinal match-up set for May 22 at 2:30 PM in Foxborough, Mass.

Also, check out our exclusive Q&A with Coach Danowski from a previous Inside the Crease newsletter.

Shooting Skills

In this shooting segment, Coach Danowski leads offensive players through a series of inside shooting drills that simulate shots off the pass. For instance, techniques include “Sit and Step Away,” where players start at the GLE, drive up five or seven yards, turn back/step away and then run back to X and shoot. Other moves involve getting inside defenders and initiating contact while getting the shot off. Note: Drills are also conducted on both the right and left sides of the cage.


Ball Movement

In this ball movement simulation, watch as six players work on offensive sets without facing a defense. The goal here is to work on basic mechanics, passing within the offense and becoming comfortable with offensive plays. Note how Danowski reminds players to always run to the man they are passing to and to throw the ball overhand. Remember, without perfecting and reinforcing the basics like passing and ball handling, the overall body of work will likely be inconsistent. In other words, it’s the little things that make a big difference in the overall picture.


The previous clips can be seen in their entirety on the Championship Productions DVD “All-Access Duke Lacrosse Practice, Volume II: Individual Skills and Full Field Drills.” To check out our entire All-Access catalog, click here.


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