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Developing the Complete Goaltender: Proper Positioning and Offseason Drills

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

This week’s player development feature highlights proper goalie positioning covering a variety of different situations. Former Towson head coach Tony Seaman breaks down key tips and techniques for goaltenders when the ball is behind the cage and being dodged from the side. Also, learn about how to “match sticks” and figure out player “tells” in order to stay one step ahead of the opposition.

Positioning with the Ball Behind the Net

The position of the goalie when the ball is behind the net is very important. Let’s start with footwork. When a player has the ball behind the goalie on the left, the goalie’s right leg should be in the middle of the goal. Meanwhile, his left leg should be facing towards the player with the ball.

Notice that the stick is not higher than the pipe. This says to the offense that if they want to pass the ball over the goalie, they can probably go ahead and try. However, the goalie has the ability to reach out and knock down any of those passes. We say, “try it”, but we’ll more than likely knock it down.

Positioning on Dodges

Next, if an offensive player looks to moves up field from behind the cage on the side, the goalie can also step to the pipe. At this position, a goaltender will be closer and taller in the pipe and won’t allow an offensive player to have the inside angle to shoot at. This also forces the opposition to go around and shoot around the goal. This is considered good pipe coverage.

As for the opposite side (to the right), the left foot should be in the middle of the goal with the right foot facing the offensive player. As that player drives, the goalie should step up and protect the pipe while facing the offensive player. One of the biggest rules for a goalie is to never give up the near pipe – AKA the space between the goalie and the pipe.

One area that isn’t practiced far enough with goalies is when players dodge from behind or pass the ball from behind. These are the situations when goalies must learn how to turn, follow, and pick up the shot. It’s typically one of the keys for most offenses you go against, so it’s important for you to work on this technique and skill. Remember, your body should also follow your hands.

Matching Sticks

Many goalies keep a rule of thumb in mind to match sticks. In other words, this means to match the plane of the ball. If one offensive player throws a pass out in front to another player, the area where the player catches the ball is probably the level where the ball is going to come from (off the shot).

With the ball down low, 90 percent of the time the shot is going to come from the hip or side arm or lower. The vast majority of shooters in the country will shoot low when they drop their sticks low. Therefore, the biggest thing for the goalie is to follow the plane of the ball and get the stick there.

Intercepting Balls Thrown from Behind

When intercepting balls thrown from behind the goal, the goalie should be in a position to reach up and deflect or catch a pass. Keep that outside foot in the center of the goal and maintain proper positioning. Always be in ready position.

If a ball is thrown from up top to behind the goal and close to the cage, the goalie can come out and intercept the pass on the run. But beware of the fake pass, as that player will have an open look on net. Don’t get out there early. Leave once the ball has been thrown.

 

Practice Drills for Goalies

Good technique comes from practice and extra hours even away from the field. Just playing catch can have a major impact for a player — and it doesn’t even have to be with another goalie.

Each and every time you want to get a good step with the lead foot and nice follow through. Continue to pass and catch further apart and work on longer passes. Start with good, straight throws and then eventually move up to arcs and 35-40-yard passes that you can make with accuracy and control.

Meanwhile, when you don’t have someone to throw to, look for a wall. This gives you a chance to work on your skills by yourself. The wall never misses a pass and always throws it back. Remember to work on good technique of stepping towards the ball and stopping the ball. As a goaltender, it’s key to stop the ball, not necessarily catch the ball. We don’t want to turn the stick and cradle. Rather, we want to use as much of the face of the stick to stop the ball as possible.

Notice that the stick is always facing out toward the shot until the ball has hit the stick. Use good form to throw it back. Plus, a wall with an uneven surface really helps for catching and your overall reaction.

 

The above clips and techniques can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion Lacrosse Player: The Goalie” with Tony Seaman. Check out more goalie-specific videos in our extensive lacrosse DVD library.




Player Development: Goalie Tips For Proper Grip, Stance and Footwork

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There may be no position more important in lacrosse than goalie. Goalies make up the core of a defense and “run the show.” It’s no secret that they have a big responsibility. This vital player must make the stops, and if they don’t, they receive the blame if the ball goes in the net. According to Towson head coach Tony Seaman, very few teams have won championships without an above-average goalie.

In this week’s player development feature, we’re going to take a closer look at three key areas of goaltending: proper grip, stance and footwork. Without having a solid foundation of these goaltending fundamentals, it will be difficult for a player to improve and rise to an elite level. However, if one can excel in these three areas, they’ll be well on their way to becoming a difference-maker in the game.

Proper Grip

The top hand on the stick should be your dominant hand and should be placed on the top part of the stick as close to the head as possible. This positioning gives you much more control of the stick and allows you to get the stick head out to a shot. Plus, when the ball hits the stick, you want to be able to control the stick so it doesn’t turn on you and the ball ends up going in the goal.

Meanwhile, the bottom hand should be a comfortable distance apart from the top — about 10-12 inches, depending on one’s size and strength.

Also, keep in mind that a longer stick has the tendency to get caught on the body or uniform during play, but a shorter stick allows more freedom and less interference. But most of all, do what’s comfortable. For beginners, it’s recommended that you go with the shortest stick possible.

Next, the grip itself should make sure the wrists and hands are flexible. This is so the player can get to all parts of the cage quickly and save the ball. Meanwhile, your thumb should be to the side of the shaft. Sometimes, it’s preferred that you even wrap your thumb over the forefinger to give you more strength. However, make sure you don’t have a death grip or full-hand grip. This will take away the flexibility of your wrists. But with a flexible grip that features your knuckles pointing out, you won’t give up as many rebounds.

 

Proper Stance

When talking about proper stance, goalies must always be bent. This allows you to get to the ground a lot quicker for low shots and your whole body is much more flexible this way. Never keep a straight back.

Next, your knees should be bent and avoid locking your legs. Locking your legs doesn’t allow you to step to the ball.

Meanwhile, your chest should be leading and out in front of you while your head is up and hands are in front of your chest and out in front of your body. Remember, never place the stick behind your head. It should be out in front of you so you can get to all directions and meet the ball. Also, goalies should always be “pigeon-toed” and on the balls of their feet. This allows you to step quicker to shots overall.

 

Proper Footwork

Proper footwork is very key to becoming a solid goaltender, and stepping toward a shot is vital. Remember, the shortest distance to any shot is a straight line. Therefore, your hands, chest, body and helmet should all lead toward a shot.

When a player shoots to the opposite side of the stick, a goalie should lead with that same foot. Therefore, a right-hander should step with his left foot and a left-hander should step with his right foot. However, for shots to the stick side, goalies should lead with their strong side foot and their body must follow.

A terrific warm-up drill that works on these footwork techniques actually involves no lacrosse stick at all. The participating player will make believe a stick is in his hand. Meanwhile, his partner will throw a ball to his right and left sides and the player must use proper footwork to catch and meet the ball with his hand.

The drill should include 10 throws to the right side and 10 throws to the left side. Throughout the duration of the drill, coaches should always watch the player’s feet. Make sure all body parts stay square to the shoulders, too. Then, switch to high and low throws on both sides after the initial 20 total reps.

 

The previous goaltending techniques can be found on the Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion Lacrosse Player: The Goalie” featuring Tony Seaman. To see additional goaltending videos in our extensive catalog, click here.




Coaches Corner: Q&A With Towson Head Coach Tony Seaman

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with Towson head coach Tony Seaman, the reigning CAA Coach of the Year and three-time NCAA Division I Coach of the Year. Seaman talks about the specific tools that players and teams need to be successful in lacrosse, takes us behind the scenes of his program in the off-season, and even reveals his New Years resolutions for 2011.

CP: Take me behind the scenes of your program right now. What happens in these off-season months and what’s the transition like to January and preseason mode?

TS: October and November is when we have our fall practices. We also run individual practices up to two hours a week with each player and we work on dodging, stick-work, shooting, and things like that. Plus, we also have the guys go through a comprehensive strength and conditioning program with one of our coaches four times a week. In December, it’s all about finals for the kids, and we don’t see them anymore.

One of the most stressful times for me is actually in the off-season when I have to check out the final grades of our players. But January 17th is when things get started back up again. We have a February 2nd scrimmage with Bucknell and then we face Princeton at Princeton before opening up the regular season with Johns Hopkins.

Talk about the things you and your coaching staff must do at this time of the year that people may not know about.

Recruiting is going on continuously. It’s a quiet period now, but there’s always a lot of juniors and sophomores coming through and getting ideas from our staff and learning about overall philosophies. Meanwhile, we are always staying in contact with recruits and trying to decide where to go with them, and they’re trying to decide where to go themselves. There is constant contact. Recruiting never stops. It takes up about 80 percent of your time in the off-season. Plus, I personally have an administrative role with 205 Lacrosse Camps in the summer and I’m taking admissions now and making contacts and so I’m spending lots of time with that.

What’s your overall practice philosophy and what are your general goals for practices?

Fall is evaluation time. Basic philosophies are established with the freshman and although the older kids are familiar with them, we reemphasize the key techniques and fundamentals that make up what we do. The individual work that we do makes our players better at all parts of the game. Strength and conditioning makes us faster, better athletes and altogether makes them better lacrosse players. It’s about getting ready for the season. We cover all aspects, from offense and defense to extra man offense and defense to riding and clearing, and then all of the game situations we will see. It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Our philosophy in the spring is to make each other better every day. We also use a lot of scouting reports, do film study, work on game plans and are constantly talking with the players. We are using newer technology now and distributing breakdowns on laptops so the kids can carry it around with them and back at their apartments to study.

You’ve been around many successful teams over the years. Besides talent, what did those teams “have” that made them so successful?

It takes a lot more than just talent. Although, things are a lot more difficult without talent, that’s for sure. Our job as coaches is to bring in talented players. But it’s a team game and a team game can be stronger than the individuals. I’ve never heard of a team that was successful and didn’t have great chemistry, and I’ve never heard of a team that wasn’t successful and did have great chemistry.

It’s an amazing thing. Our team last year started the season at 1-5 and was almost falling apart and then we went 5-0 in the league and got it all together. It comes down to leadership, how badly kids want things and hard work. But in the end, it’s also about goalies making saves, defenders making stops and players putting the ball in the goal.

As a program, how do you decide on which offensive and defensive systems to implement? Does it stem from the coaching staff and their preferences or do you make adjustments and decide based on personnel and the personality of the current team?

If you are going to be successful over time, you must be able to adapt to your personnel. One of the best things of my career was that I got to be a JV and varsity high school coach. There was no recruiting involved and it forced me to adjust and that was so important. Now, big schools can find the perfect players that fit to what they do best. But in high school, you couldn’t do that and you had to adjust and change your philosophies to be successful.

Losing coaches never adjust. I listen to my assistants a lot and we talk a great deal, and we also talk a lot with our older players and we find out what fits best for us. We do a lot of that in the off-season, but also during the season, too. We talk about the things we have to incorporate and make us better and it’s an ever-changing process.

What do you look for most in recruits?

Athleticism, speed and agility stand out right away. After 10 minutes of watching a game, you see a player that continuously beats opponents up and down the field. But in lacrosse, it’s also about stick skills and kids who score no matter how fast they shoot, and the defensive kids that have sound fundamentals. Those things stand out.

Attitude is also key, plus players who hustle and get dirty and work hard for everything they do. In the end, those things help you separate others, who to take and who not to take. You also look at the family, character, where they come from and their reputation, especially in the classroom.

What common bad habits do you see at the high school level that players should focus on improving if they want to take their game to the next level?

It drives me crazy to see sticks down at the hips. Kids need to learn how to play vertical and always have the stick up and down versus across your body.

What’s your favorite drill to run in practice?

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.

What’s a favorite drill of your players over the years?

Anything that’s competitive, like 6 on 5 or 5 on 4 drills. Many times we’ll make it into a game where 10 points wins. If the defense clears or makes a save, it’s a point. Or if the offense scores, his team gets a point, and we’ll reward the winning team and punish the losing squad. The guys typically like anything that challenges them.

What’s the best advice you can give to a young player?

Take 100 shots with your right hand and 100 shots with your left hand every day, no matter the weather and no matter what your girlfriend says.

What’s the overall outlook for Towson in 2011?

I believe this is as good of a recruiting class as we’ve ever had. We’ll see down the road, though. They are all talented and come from good teams and they all had a great fall. I think that four or five of them will get some extended playing time this year, and they deserve it. We also have one of toughest schedules in the country and it’s going to be a challenge week in and week out.

Any New Years resolutions?

The more you win, the less you eat and the more you lose, the more you eat. That seems to be the case each year. So I think winning will certainly help my diet next year.

Tony Seaman has produced seven lacrosse videos in partnership with Championship Productions. To check out more videos in his exclusive series, click here.




3 Useful Lacrosse “Pick Plays” Utilizing the 4 v 4 Set

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Towson University men’s lacrosse coach Tony Seaman considers many of the drills based on the 4 v 4 set to be very effective for game-planning. This formation typically allows coaches to be flexible with personnel and gives them the chance to move players around in order to create a variety of game-like situations — and the more game-like scenarios you can implement in practice, the better. Plus, just one or two coaches can administer the drill, which is efficient for getting things done both offensively and defensively.

Overview

Offensively, the 4 v 4 set typically features a midfielder up top (1), a midfielder or attacker (2) on the left wing, a midfielder or attacker (3) on the right wing and an attackman behind the goal (4) — forming a 1-2-1 set. The offensive players are guarded by the typical defense they’d see in a game situation. The 1 player is defended by a short-stick defender (5), the 2 player is defended by a short-stick defender (6), the 3 player has a long-stick defender (7) on him, and the 4 player has a long-stick defender (8) on him behind the net. Keep in mind, if you usually put a long-stick defender on the 1 man, just replace him with the 7 defender (or you can use 3 or 4 long-stick defenders in the drill so that your personnel gets used to this style of play).

Drill 1 — “Picks Behind”

Instead of the typical 4 v 4 formation mentioned above, this drill has two attackers starting out behind the cage and then two more stationed out in front of the cage, creating a 2-1-1 formation.

The 4 player, who has possession of the ball on the right side behind the net, throws across to 3 and then sets a pick for 3. Now, the 3 man tries to drive off the pick and get a lead step. The offense has an advantage here as the 6 defender has to slide and pick up 3, who is now open at the side of the cage. All the while, this opens up 2, causing the 5 defender to drop down and play him, and that opens up 1 on the backside, who is moving towards the crease.

Coaches can create a variety of different options off of that pick, but the important thing is that the offensive guys get an idea of how to pick and how to create openings for their fellow attackers behind the cage.

 

Drill 2 — Defending the “Picks Behind”

Coaches and players can also work on the defensive aspect of how to play against the picks behind. In this scenario, the 7 and 8 defenders have choices here. When 4 carries the ball to the left and 3 picks the 8 defender, we can have 7 come across and tell 8 that the pick is coming. The 7 defender also steps back on the play and below the crease so he can allow 8 to move through thanks to the open space as 4 drives. Also, if the 7 defender can see this pick coming, he can yell out “switch” and take that man if 8 cannot get through.

Defenders can also jump the pick behind. Let’s say 3 comes over and picks 8 and 7 comes over with him and 4 now is coming off the pick with the ball. 7 then jumps out and tries to turn the attacker and 8 still goes with him and creates a double team on the ball. The goalie can also go out and play the open man, which in this case would be the 3 player who set the initial pick. The goalie sees this and covers the open man (3) because no one can shoot the ball from behind the net and the other players are being covered out in front. The goalie is safe to play that, especially if he is athletic.

 

Drill 3 — The Pick and Roll

When the ball is behind the net, you can also implement the pick and roll, which is a popular 2-man play. In this set, 3 passes to 4 and then sets the pick for 4, and 4 comes off the pick with the ball before getting jumped by the defense. Meanwhile, 3 sneaks out to the side after recognizing the double team and 4 hits him with the pass. 4 then passes to 3 before the goalie can get there and he comes around with the ball and deposits an accurate shot on net.

 

These drills are featured in the Championship Productions DVD “The Best Drill in Lacrosse: 4 v 4” featuring Towson head coach Tony Seaman. For more videos featuring Coach Seaman and Towson lacrosse, click here.




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