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It takes a very specific skillset to be able to play on the inside effectively. After all, this is where the action off the ball really takes place. Players must demonstrate an ability to be accurate on net, have a quick release, take hits from the defense, make convincing cuts, and get open.
In this week’s skill development feature, Johns Hopkins assistant coach Bobby Benson reveals key tips and techniques when playing on the inside. This breakdown places a particular emphasis on 2-v-2 play with two crease attackers. Then, learn two new drills that focus on catching the ball inside, setting effective screens, plus making good cuts and finishing on cage.
Often when we play inside, we feature just one crease attackman. However, there are a variety of offenses used today that implement two crease attackers, like the 2-2-2 offense. With two attackers in the mix, the ability to play together effectively is key if you want to have success on the crease. It’s vital that players communicate so they can cut and get open on the inside together. You must talk in order to be successful.
A slide by the defense can often make life a lot easier for the offense. For instance, when the ball is behind the cage and the defense slides, and we haven’t yet set a screen, we can now just separate and try to find a gray area. If we already went through a screen, we can then screen the second slide and come right off of it. But we also need to get open when the defense isn’t sliding at all.
When the Ball is Back Right
When the ball is back right, our crease guys have options on what they can do. First, if the defense is inside one of our crease guys, we can try to seal the ball-side defender that gets caught inside. Now our opposite crease guy can cut right off what is now a double screen. If his defender follows him, he will curl to the ball and make a sharp cut. However, if his defender ducks underneath, he can flare or fade into the open area for a spot feed. This happens most frequently on passes across X behind.
When the Ball is Back Left
When the ball is back left, the defense is taught to be ball-side of their man. Therefore on that pass, we can often screen our own guy before he can get outside of us. Now we can come off and play. If we can’t get outside of our own guy, and the defense does a good job of forcing us to the inside, then we can go ahead and screen across.
When setting screens, we need to make sure that we are square to where the cutter is going. Don’t set a screen with the shoulder. These screens are too easy to get around. Instead, set the screen with your chest, back or butt, and facing where the cutter is going. Just make sure you’re square to where he’s going to cut.
If the defense doesn’t switch on the screen, then the read is the same. If the defense comes around and follows, we should curl and cut to the ball. If the defender ducks underneath, then we should step away to the open area for a spot feed. Also, if the defender tries to jump to the top-side of the screen early, we can go backdoor.
Be sure to notice where the screens take place – always about 7-8 yards out and to the opposite pipe. If we don’t do this, we won’t have enough room to operate effectively. Also, if we set our screen and the defense switches screens inside, look to flare or feed into that open area. There’s no point in cutting to the defender. After the seal, we should go right to the ball.
For this drill, we’ll get four guys on the perimeter. These guys will be skeleton players. There’s also 2-on-2 action on the inside and this is live. As the ball moves around the perimeter, the guys inside are constantly moving around and getting open with the goal to score. This is the perfect opportunity for inside players to work on their communication, cuts, working off the ball, and finishing on net.
This drill really helps with catching the ball inside and finishing. We’ll have one player inside and five feeders around the perimeter. Number the feeders 1 through 5. 1 will be lower right, 2 will be lower left, 3 will be top left, 4 will be top center, and 5 will be top right.
Whichever number the the coach yells out, our crease player will then have to go get the ball from that number and finish it. This inside player will be continuously cutting in the circle, back and forth, and finishing as many balls as he can in a certain period of time. Each perimeter player will have three balls, so it’s 15 total shots per player.
Notice that the inside player is working on catching the ball, getting it in and out of his stick quickly, and putting it in the goal quickly — all while keeping his feet moving the entire time. Don’t catch the ball with your feet still. Keep the feet moving so that defenders will have a tougher time checking you.
Don’t have access to a lacrosse field this summer? Well don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Wall ball workouts provide a number of ways to improve your lacrosse skills, from catching and throwing, to playing on the move, to developing your wrists, and to making you a more explosive player overall.
The great thing is that you can find a wall just about anywhere, whether its at the gym or school. So find a wall, grab a handful of lacrosse balls, and bring your gloves along with a partner. Remember to go into your wall ball workouts with a purpose. As you will quickly discover, the benefits are tremendous.
One Cradle: 10 Right, 10 Left
Sometimes players will use their arms to throw the ball or they might hold their stick too tight. Focus on your wrists. You want explosive hands to be a good player.
Look to maintain a good base, keep your hands up at your chin, and your feet should be shoulder width apart. Your bottom hand should be a little higher than your top hand. Next, get a little cradle going and get comfortable with the stick in your hands. This really trains the wrists to be explosive.
Quick Sticks: 10 Right, 10 Left
There is no cradle here. This drill is similar to pepper, but without the cradle. Get a good base, stand five yards from the wall and look to establish a decent pace off the wall.
Focus on that triple threat position with your hands up by your chin and maintain a staggered stance. Keep that opposite foot forward and try to snap that ball off the wall. Use soft hands but don’t go reaching for the ball. The ball should be in and out of your stick quickly.
One Hand, One Cradle
This really helps to develop your feeding/passing and shooting. It’s also a great way to develop a stronger stick. For this one, take the bottom hand off your stick. Snap your wrist with each throw. Catch the ball deep and use soft hands in and out.
Catch and Switch: 10 Right, 10 Left
This drill is similar to a crossover in basketball and is ideal for working on exchanges typically seen during a game. You need to be comfortable moving the stick from hand to hand. Your feet are always working underneath. They are not waiting for the ball. Remember the progression “Ear, Chin, Ear.” This will help you maintain proper form throughout the drill. Also, don’t abandon those fundamentals for speed. If your fundamentals suffer a bit, just slow things down.
Grounders: 5 Right, 5 Left
With this one, play the ball off the bounce. Get the ball off the ground, right to your ear and snap it out of your stick quickly.
Here, you will be catching the ball across your body. This is also an effective drill for defenders and works on game-like situations. Basically, you’re going to work on a cross-body shovel. Catch the ball, give a face dodge, and then shovel it away.
Cross-Hand Catch and Throw
This is an ideal exercise for those moments when you have to catch the ball on your opposite side and then have to throw it from that side, too.
Backhand: 5 Right, 5 Left
This drill is a little more advanced, but it involves taking a normal pass, making a half cradle and then throwing the ball over your shoulder. Take your time with this one to make sure you maintain proper form and get the ball in and out of your stick cleanly.
Once you’ve practiced the wall ball drills for a while, it’s then time to proceed with the wall ball test. Here, we will incorporate the following techniques: One Cradle, Quick Sticks, One Hand-One Cradle, Catch and Switch, and Shovels.
The wall ball test will make your workouts more competitive and also allows you to shoot for goals every time. Eventually, look to do 110 reps under two minutes. Grab a partner to feed you balls as well. Then, start five yards from the wall. Once you get comfortable, take a stopwatch and time yourself and look to improve your time on each occasion.
The entire wall ball workout can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Explosive Skills & Drills for Offensive Lacrosse” featuring Nick Myers. To check out additional lacrosse videos, visit our lacrosse catalog by clicking here.
Kelly Amonte Hiller and the powerhouse Northwestern women’s lacrosse program place a major emphasis on practicing basic lacrosse skills every day. It’s not only key to a team’s progress, but it’s especially important for young players so they develop and continue to get better.
One of those fundamental areas that needs repeated practice is shooting. With Hiller as your guide, check out these dynamic shooting tips and learn about the three types of shots that can pay major dividends for your team.
When it comes to shooting, there are six key areas to focus on and remember: Be sure to keep an angle on the stick, remember to drop the top hand, keep the head of the stick facing your target, have a loose grip but not too loose, wrists should be relaxed and flexible, and arms should always be away from your body. A dynamic player and shooter must also learn to play with both hands. This will help you become a double threat out on the field.
Most players think that they should aim for the corners of the net, but we need to add more to it in order to maximize the chances of scoring. When shooting for the corners, there’s a higher margin of error as many shots will go outside of the net. Instead, pick a spot 6-8 inches inside the net. This is still out of the goalie’s range and now the margin of error is still inside the net. Pick a target and drive the ball there. Remember, if you miss the net, you definitely won’t score.
This makes a big difference in terms of where you place your shots. Are they a righty or a lefty? If a righty, it’s best to place shots on the offside hip where the goalie has to carry her stick all the way around to make a tough save. Or consider going offside low. Remember to pick a spot and focus on it. Drive the ball right to it and follow through.
You may only get one, two or three shots in a game, so make them count. Be deceptive each time that you step up to the net.
3 Types of Shots
1) Inside Shot
An inside shot is difficult because of the limited room available to execute. Plus, there’s added pressure from the defense and goalie. Instead of taking a big torso twist to wind up, take more of a snap shot with just the wrists while keeping the stick close to the body. Sometimes, we recommend that shooters choke up with the bottom hands to provide maximum protection.
Remember that most goalies are taught to step out on these shots. Often, you will see players come around the crease and try to fire it by, but the goalie will make that save 9 out of 10 times. Therefore, with an inside shot, it’s key to remember to make a fake and move the goalie. Then, you can fake high and drive the ball low.
It’s common for players to rush and shoot quickly because of defensive pressure. But be sure to take an extra second to give a quick fake and drive it home. Head fakes and stick fakes will work frequently, but remember to keep the stick between your shoulders and you’ll know the ball will be protected.
2) Outside Shot
With an outside shot, it’s important to have some power, but not too much power or else you’ll lose control. Find that balance to have a controlled shot on net but with enough power to get it by the goalie.
Start with your feet to the side and your arms away from the body. Take a shuffle step, create torque by turning the hips first and then have the arms follow through. Drive the shot down. Your body will often naturally rise up, and so does the goalie. Therefore, drop your shoulders and drive the ball into the corner. If you’re missing the net a lot, check your form and make sure to take some steam off your shots so the ball goes in the net.
3) Shooting on the move
This is probably the easiest shot because deception is built in. But it’s the most difficult to be accurate and get on net. Here, your body movement is naturally deceptive for the goalie. The goalie must move with the shooter to take away the angle of the net. It’s helpful here to throw a stick fake to throw off the goalie’s body movement. Then place the ball on the offside of the body. The faster you move your feet, the faster the goalie must make an adjustment in the net. Here, you are using speed as your deception.
The following shooting tips can be seen on the Championship Productions’ video “Kelly Amonte Hiller’s Skills of a Champion: The Basics.” To check out our exclusive girls’ lacrosse catalog, click here.
The dodge is one of lacrosse’s most fundamental aspects. This is an offensive attempt to elude the defense, protect the ball and set up your next move (whether it be a shot or pass). Because so many aspects of the game incorporate dodging, it’s a critical skill to learn. Plus, successful dodging enables your team to score goals. And while speed is a key element to a successful dodge, players also need to be explosive, quick and physical.
With Ohio State men’s lacrosse head coach Nick Myers leading the way, check out the following dodging drills that incorporate the speed ladder. See how you can implement the key tips with your squad this season so they can improve their dodging skills and overall explosiveness.
Speed Ladder Ground Ball Drill
One at a time, players will sprint through a ladder positioned on the field. Then, as the players approach the end of the ladder, the coach will roll a ground ball somewhere in the vicinity. The players must explode out of the ladder and scoop the ground ball and continue with a dodging move.
Each time through the ladder, the players should vary their footwork. This is a great way to work on ground ball repetitions as well, in addition to footwork, speed and quickness. For the ladder, anything from cariocas to quick feet or high knees will ensure variety and the use of different movements.
Speed Ladder w/ Ball Drill
In this drill, we’re really working on footwork, coordination and agility. Players will now start with the ball in their stick. When the players come out of the ladder, they will explode, address a cone, square their shoulders to the cone, and finish by putting a hard dodge on the cone.
Really try to focus on exploding out of the ladder and to the cone. Remember, an effective dodger is always explosive at the point of contact. Also, work on keeping your head up at all times. Adding full gear and a ball allows the players to get better reps when using the ladder, as well.
Don’t forget to vary your footwork within the ladder in these drills. For beginners, focus more on form than speed when utilizing the ladder. You can always speed things up when the players become more comfortable overall.
The following drills can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Explosive Skills and Drills for Offensive Lacrosse” with Nick Myers. To check out more offensive videos from our extensive collection, click here.