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It’s no secret that face-offs in lacrosse have a direct correlation to the outcome of any particular game. Simply, if you increase your face-off winning percentage, you’ll retain more possessions, control the pace of play, and ultimately have a better chance at winning.
Tufts head coach Mike Daly credits increased face-off work in practice as a key reason for his team’s championship run in 2010. This week you’ll get a chance to learn some of Daly’s most effective face-off drills before seeing them played out live in practice. Look to implement these drills in practice this season and improve on your face-off winning percentage and overall transition game.
This is a terrific face-off drill that involves transition aspects. We’ll start with two face-off units, brown vs. white. The winning face-off team will attack 6-on-5. Whichever team loses the draw, that face-off man will be immediately out of the drill. From there, the drill moves into a 6-on-5 transition opportunity, which is quite common in lacrosse off the draw.
Thunderdome is ideal for working on realistic transition and face-off situations. Also, it implements the mindset that we are attacking in these situations and whenever we get an unsettled situation. This is a big part of Tufts lacrosse and is instrumental to the program’s success.
Key: After claiming possession, the winning team should be crashing the crease and pushing it fast. Coaches should look to keep score in this drill. Have the players really push the transition breaks, get in a lot of reps, and make constant communication.
This effective 3 v 3 drill particularly incorporates the wing players. Even if you lose the draw, your team still has a chance at the ball, and that’s where the wing players really come into play. The face-off battle is such a key part of the game and being able to retain possessions. It’s imperative that your short sticks on the wings box out their opponents.
Start with two face-off guys going at it at the X. Then set up the other wing players on opposite sides of the midline. Remember, we don’t just judge who wins a possession by who wins the clamp, it’s about which team gets the possession. This 3 v 3 drill plays out until the ball is in the box.
For the right wing, his job is to come in and hopefully be physical against the long pole and box him out. It’s key he keeps the long pole away from the scrum and out of the middle. Be physical, box out, and don’t let the opponent be part of the equation.
Tip: Use variation with your long poles in the drill. Have them at various points on the field. Sometimes it depends on the particular players taking the draw. Sag them towards the offensive side of the field, for instance, if they have the advantage at the X.
Meanwhile, make sure that you always have a game plan with the wings. Don’t just react to teams and opposing players.
Also, constantly remind your players that it’s not a face-off win until you get the ball into the box. You can still win possession even if they have the ball. Ride hard and be physical and come up with the turnover before it goes into the box.
Finally, communication is crucial here. Players need to tell each other where they are on the field so they can get in position to make plays. Once you pick it up, look to spread out so you don’t let the defenders double team.
A dominant face-off man can change the outcome of a lacrosse game, whether it’s paving the way for fast break opportunities and scoring opportunities or preventing an opposing team from gaining momentum. An effective face-off man can also control the time of possession for his team, which will ultimately give his side a better chance at winning a particular contest.
With current Lehigh University head coach Kevin Cassese as your guide, check out these four useful face-off moves to see how you can start implementing them at your next practice. Hopefully, after learning some of the key techniques, your squad can gain a major advantage at the face-off X.
Start in your normal lacrosse position. Then, at the sound of the whistle, take your left fist and punch it forward as you clamp. This maneuver will get the ball into the small of your stick and block the opposing player’s stick away from the ball. Plus, it allows the strength of your stick to control the move. Forearm and wrist strength are also key towards having an effective power clamp move.
As you go to clamp, shift yourself over the ball. Then, pull your back hand up a tiny bit and rake the ball out the front side.
As soon as you hear the whistle, move yourself down the right side of the mid-line, pushing forward. Then, jam the ball into the small of your stick and make a big step with your right foot. Rake the ball out the back, turn and box your man out.
Don’t just swing it down the line, get the ball into the small of your stick and rake it back into space where an opposing player can’t get to it.
Don’t forget to about the key elements of a good lacrosse face-off stance: Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your backside down. Your knees should be bent and low to the ground. Your hands should be light yet explosive. Always keep your head and body out of the neutral zone and don’t lean over the ball. Plus, your stick shaft should be parallel to the midfield line.
The previous face-off drills can be seen in detail on Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion Lacrosse Player: The Face-Off” with Kevin Cassese. Check out our entire lacrosse face-off catalog right here.