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This week’s player development feature emphasizes ground ball skills and individual stickwork. The following drills will get your players a lot of touches on the ball, tons of repetitions, and should help them build a strong aerobic base. The drills are first diagrammed on the whiteboard and then carried out on the field by the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team.
This drill replicates situations when you are getting pursued on a ground ball. It’s different than facing uncontested ground balls, as now you have some pressure from behind or the side. It’s also about being able to scoop and escape from a variety of different ways and then finding your teammate.
The four players involved are the Roller, Scooper, Chaser, and Baseline. Start this drill at the top of the box or midfield line. Get your roller up top and then the rest of the players almost stacked together.
The roller has all the balls. His job is to roll balls toward the scooper and to control the placement of balls (mixing it up quite a bit). The scooper’s job is to scoop the ball up, but he must feel the pressure behind. Then he must explode on the ball, listen to his baseline teammate, escape, get his hands free, and then throw a possession pass. Making that first pass after the pressure is really critical. Meanwhile, the relationship between the two is crucial to success and escape. The scooper often powers through it with communication from his baseline man (saying things like, “Roll right” or “Pressure on left hip”, etc.).
The baseline man is movable and vocal. The decision now is: Can I throw this ball without being checked? Can I throw it without having to pass through the chaser’s stick? If he can’t, look to split dodge or turn to elude the defense. Then it will be easier for the player to make the pass to the baseline man. The scooper now reads the chaser and can make jump cuts and backdoor cuts to get open.
Get a line of players ready to go. Next, get a coach with a ball and a stick, plus some spare balls back behind the players. “Around the Clock” is a rapid fire drill designed to get a lot of repetitions and touches.
Have the coach set up in the middle of the field by himself and with a ball. He will start by rolling out an uncontested ground ball towards the first player in line. This player will then come up with the goal to pick it up as fast as he can, move his feet, and get the ball back to the coach. The coach will adjust his position and then roll out another ground ball, this time to the next guy in line.
Like a clock, the coach will move all around the field, switching from the left to the right, or moving out in front or to the side. Players should get the ball in and out of their stick as fast as possible. The great thing about this drill is that it allows for creativity on the player’s part. Look to implement a variety of different stick skills and maneuvers, like goosing, rollaways, and more.
Tip: Get your hands in a good position on the stick. Your top hand should be at the top of stick and your bottom hand should be at the bottom of the stick. Come up with a nice cradle, get in a protect position, and quickly move the ball to the next open teammate.
This week’s team development feature focuses on improving offensive output through a series of high-intensity shooting drills and team plays. Led by Salisbury University men’s lacrosse coach Jim Berkman, the following drills focus on dodging techniques, shooting on the move, accuracy, and getting a lot of reps in a short period of time. To finish up, we’ll reveal five offensive plays from the Salisbury playbook that have paid dividends for the squad in recent years. Then look for ways to incorporate these effective plays with your own squad as well.
Hitch and Shoot – In this drill, one player will throw across for the shooter, who makes a little hitch move, quick sweep, and then shoots on cage. You should be looking to a get a good hitch every time, aiming to freeze the defenders. Try to get from 13 to 11, i.e. shooting the ball inside 11 yards after the hitch move.
Dodge, Hitch, and Shoot – This is similar to our previous drill where the passer dishes to the shooter across. The shooter then catches the ball, hitches, dodges, and fires it on cage.
Roll Back Catch and Go – This particular drills works out of Salisbury’s “22 offense.” Try to implement this drill on both the right and left sides of the field. Here’s how it works. The shooter comes across to the middle of the field, receives a pass, sprints straight for about five yards, makes a quick stutter step, and then shoots it on the run.
Roll Back, Catch, and Step Out – This is a three-man drill that reinforces Salisbury’s offense. The ball moves around the horn until a player makes a little step-out move and then releases a shot on the run.
Wing Dodge and Roll Back – This drill mimics the situation when you are driving down the side and make a dodge to try to get back to the high side. Practicing stepping away from the defender and getting your hands free. It’s key to practice this so it becomes second nature in a game. Run this drill on the right and left sides — even at the same time.
Check out these effective offensive plays from Salisbury’s playbook and see how you can incorporate certain elements with your own squad this season.
23 – It all begins with a hard wing dodge and the ball swings to X. Next, there’s an option for an ISO from the wing. You can then swing it to the backside and get an effective pick for a quick-hitter coming off the backside. The player that picks should open to the ball.
24- The key to this play is picking the picker on the inside. Swing the ball to X, bang it right back, and then look inside for a shot.
25 – The “25″ play involves a double pick for a lefty coming off. Then there’s a re-pick on the inside for a curl. If nothing develops from those looks, you can take those guys to the ball side and swing to the backside for an ISO centering on the middie stepping off the crease.
Bishop – The key here is a wing undercut and backdoor option for a player who’s opening up the backside.
Bluejay – Finally, with “Bluejay”, there’s a double invert behind and you can make it look like you’re setting a pick with an attackman and swinging it to the backside. You then have a pick-the-picker play available on the crease.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “How to Create a Great Shooter and Individual Player” featuring Salisbury coach Jim Berkman. To find more shooting videos, check out our extensive lacrosse catalog.
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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