Space is always at a premium on a lacrosse field. With twenty players moving towards the ball or ball carrier, a player can be surrounded before they know it. At the youth level, this is especially prominent. Most new players do not understand that they have to MOVE when they pick up a ground ball. As a result, many youth lacrosse games devolve into a gigantic rugby-like scrum. Where players from both teams pick up the ball, turn around, and the ball gets checked right back onto the ground. This is because they are not MOVING!
If you have not noticed, I am stressing the term “move.” Because young players need to get comfortable with picking up a ground ball and running to empty space. I find that many youth players know the proper technique for getting a ground ball, yet they lack the instruction for running through the ground ball. The reason behind this conundrum is that most coaches teach ground balls with line drills.
For those unfamiliar, a line drill looks exactly how it sounds. Two groups of five to six players stand about twenty-five yards apart. The player in front scoops up the ball in front of them, runs a few yards forward, stops, and places the ball on the ground for the player in the next line to scoop. While the line drill is good for repeating the required ground ball technique, it unintentionally puts every player on that team at a disadvantage.
Since players will play how they practice, the line drill ingrains the motion of scoop, run, stop. Instead of scoop, run, run, and look for a pass. I see this every weekend. A player runs forward, bends his knees and executes a perfect pick-up. Then he stops and gets body checked. So how do coaches get players to unlearn this behavior?
Fortunately, the drill diagrammed below has yet to fail me in getting kids to MOVE!
This drill is performed in five steps:
- Ball is rolled out near the first cone
- Player runs out and properly picks up the ground ball
- Player runs all the way around the cones, which are arranged in a skewed semicircle
- Player rolls or passes ball to next player in line
- Player goes to end of line
Note that this drill is lined up for a right-handed ground ball pickup. When using their right hand, a player should generally run in a wide turn to their left. For a left-handed pickup, the drill is reversed, and the player engages in a sweeping turn to their right. This keeps the stick between the player’s body and their opponent.
So instead of a line drill we get a “C” drill, with the cones giving players a visual barrier they must avoid. Eventually, the behavior of running away from pressure and towards empty space becomes ingrained in each player. After a week of using this drill, and any variations you want to use with it, you will notice your players taking sweeping turns during 1-on-1 or 2-on-1 ground balls.
The best part of this drill is the lightbulb effect on kids. More than any other lesson, I see the wide-eyed understanding when a player sees how easily they can avoid pressure just by moving their feet an extra fifteen yards.
Featured Image Credit – www.swarthmoreathletics.com