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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Former Rutgers University men’s lacrosse coach Jim Stagnitta is a big proponent of using multi-purpose drills during his practices. The drills maximize staff and players to produce an efficient, fast-paced, competitive, and effective practice session.
With the current Denver Outlaws head coach as your guide, check out these dynamic multi-purpose drills that particularly promote skill development. The drills — which include moving target passing and over the shoulder full-field exercises — should make a great addition to your practice plan this season.
In this moving target drill, a group of players start clustered together in the middle of the drill (perhaps 7 or 8 total). There are always four players involved at a time passing the ball around the horn and outside of the cluster. Essentially, once you pass the ball, you move back into the center. The goal is to hit moving targets on the run, simulating game situations.
During a game, players aren’t just standing around and catching and throwing. Since most passing occurs while while on the move, this is a great drill to practice that. The ball moves around the horn and new players are always rotating through.
Tips: Players should always be moving their feet. Step towards your target when throwing the ball. Pick up the pace as you go along and get as many repetitions as you can. Communicate often and call for the ball.
Start the drill going right-handed. Then switch to the left hand. Players should be going out about 10 yards, but make sure that they don’t leave too soon. Timing is key. Also, have the players throw the ball across their body. Always move your feet when you catch it.
Next, players should practice rolling to the outside, evading pressure, and making a nice, crisp pass. The simulation goes as follows: Catch, turn, roll away from pressure, and deliver the pass. This drill helps players improve on their “C” cuts and advancing the pass/play.
Like the previous drill, timing is also key here. Players want to be in sync. Keep the spacing as and pick up the pace as you move along. After a few minutes, switch to catching left and throwing right.
This effective full-field drill focus on handling the ball over the shoulder, getting game-like situations, and taking as many reps as possible.
Players will break out to the right side first. The goalie will throw an outlet. Catch the ball over your shoulder, use proper technique, and then turn to the sideline. That player will then throw to the next guy up the field (around midfield). He will call for the ball over the shoulder, keeping the stick protected to the sideline. The ball moves one more time down and is then thrown to the goalie. Make sure that you go up and down the sidelines on both sides of the field.
Keys: Work on proper fundamentals like making good passes and communicating. Players should catch everything on the run. Also, work on realistic and game-like movements.
Finish the drill by going left-handed over the shoulder on the left side of the field.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Multi-Purpose Practice Drills for Lacrosse” with Jim Stagnitta. To check out more essential practice drills, head over to our extensive lacrosse library.
Individual ball handling and ground ball drills are two staples of Notre Dame lacrosse practices. Often used at the beginning of each practice, the drills reinforce good habits and demand attention each day. The following drills — first diagrammed on the whiteboard and then carried out on the field — will allow your players to get a lot of touches on the ball, repetitions, and build a strong aerobic base.
The goal with the Ball Bag Drill is to give all players as many ground ball repetitions as possible in a short period of time. We can also give them some element of creativity and ownership of how to run the drill.
Typically used by Notre Dame at the start of each practice, the drill essentially consists of one player, one ball, and 10-15 yards of space. We use one half of the field and take our players and spread them out all over and around the goal area (on the sides, behind, out in front, etc.). Each person owns his/her own 10-15 yard area has his/her own ball. Players will roll the ball out in front, scoop it up, and then perform some kind of ground ball maneuver.
As a coach, look to position yourself in a place where you can see all of the players and coach them as they are doing it. On the whistle, they will begin the drill. There are three different increments: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 45 seconds. We will also test the players conditioning-wise to make sure they are still maintaining technique at the end of drill.
The job of the coach is to make sure the players are going full speed and are doing every type of iteration they can do with a ground ball, such as dropping at their feet, rolling away, kicking, using hockey moves, scooping through, scooping and backpedaling, scooping and changing hands, scooping and walking the dog to cut another player off, and scooping and walking the dog and rolling away to get the hands free to throw a pass to an open man.
Benefits: The key here is to give the players as many ground balls in the time period as possible. They can practice all kinds of ground ball situations this way. It’s also a conditioning drill, too. Notice that the heads of the players are curling, they are shielding their body from potential defenders, using their feet, and using the head of the stick – all things they may find in a ground ball situation.
The Yo-Yo Drill has similar goals as before: tons of reps, ability to be creative, and a great conditioner. Plus, the drill replicates scenarios the players will typically find in a game.
At the midline or top of the box, set the players up into pairs. Each group has a defined area (or lanes) so they don’t run into each other. You can set up 15, 30, and 45-second increments in this drill, too.
One player in each pair starts with a ball. Each time they will roll the ball out. They will first roll it out to 10 yards, then 15 yards. The ball will roll out and the defender in each group (D2) will chase the ball down. He will scoop, turn and make a curl, and each time he will turn a different way. He scoops, turns and throws a pass back to D1. After the pass, he breaks toward D1 and now D1 rolls the ball to D2. The partner now scoops and throws a pass or scoops and flips. After he gives the ball up, he circles around his partner and his partner throws another ball out, this time to 15 yards. And the drill continues like before.
Benefits: Heavy repetitions, strong technique, lots of changes, and builds an aerobic base.
This week’s player development feature focuses on improving offensive output through a series of high-intensity shooting drills. Led by Salisbury men’s lacrosse coach Jim Berkman, the drills work on finishing inside, shooting in a tight situation, plus head, hands and stick fakes, and shooting on the run.
This is a terrific drill for attackmen as it forces players to always move their feet. Set up three goals right next to each other in a line. Assemble feeders in a box formation around this confined space, with one shooter on the crease. Meanwhile, this drill allows you to work on your hands, head fakes, stick fakes, scoring down low, and catching the ball tight on the crease.
Feeders will take turns passing to the shooter on the inside. Shooters should always be moving their feet and constantly moving. Really work on finishing the ball inside. Players should turn to the outside to catch the ball and always be communicating with their teammates on each pass.
This is part of our attack shooting series. Align a set of cones to the sides of the cage and two sets on opposite sides just behind the cage. One at a time, players will start straight behind the cage and make a dodge behind the net at one side of the cones. Players will then rolls the other way around and to the side of the cage. After one players goes one way, the next player in line goes the opposite way. It’s a quick drill, and players are constantly moving. Once they reach the next set of cones on the side of the cage, they should make an inside roll move and deliver a quick shot on net.
This drill is perfect for working on footwork, stickwork, and shooting in a tight space close to the net.
This shooting drill has a similar set up to the last drill. This time, we will have players make two quick change of direction moves behind the goal. Next, they will turn to the outside at the cones and deliver a “question mark” shot on net at the island (i.e.: where the cones are set up on the wings). If you’re wandering what a question mark shot is, you can compare it to a fadeaway power shot with a slight jump and is used to create power and separation from an opponent.
The Rocker Step Drill has the same setup as before. Start with two change of direction moves behind the net. Once players reach the side island, they will make a quick fake one way before delivering a quick shot on net the other way. It’s almost like a fast shoulder fake or head fake before the shot.
This one is similar to our inside roll before, but now we must use a line of cones at a 45 degree angle. These will direct us on where to roll and shoot. One at a time, players will sprint to the furthest outside cone, make their inside roll move, follow the line of cones in front of the cage, and deliver a quick shot. Make sure that you alternate sides that you shoot at. When starting out, players will sprint straight to a cone behind the net before making a quick deke move into one direction.
Finally, get three cages set up next to each other. Place two buckets out in front of the middle cage. In this drill, we are working on catching the ball inside, making one quick fake, and drilling the ball down off hip, or right into the corner. Players will first make a pass to a shooter before cutting and becoming shooters themselves. Players should move their feet while passing the ball before cutting hard around the buckets. Once around the buckets, players will receive the next pass and make a quick shot on net.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “How to Create a Great Shooter and Individual Player” starring Jim Berkman. To learn about more shooting videos, check out our extensive lacrosse catalog.