"Ground Balls Win Games."- Every Lacrosse Coach knows that. If you are coaching beginning lacrosse players of any age, unfortunately you are going to spend a lot of time with the ball on the ground in a messy scrum. Make the most of that time if you want your team to be successful. Ground balls require focus and toughness. Often they are followed by a full-speed, full-field sprint. Recognize and reward your players that consistently run hard to get the ball for your team.
The team that wins more "GB's" is going to get extra possessions and extra chances to score. It is that simple. These extra possessions are also likely to be followed by "unsettled situations,"- a 4-on-3 Fast Break or 5-on-4 Slow Break of some kind. In our opinion, these transition goals are easier to score than settled 6-on-6 goals. Don't let these extra opportunities slip away. See, ground balls do win games.
MAXIMIZE YOUR REPETITIONS IN PRACTICE:
Remember, you are trying to build muscle memory in your developing athletes, so make sure you practice as many repetitions as possible just picking up the ball before you move to game situations. Too many beginning coaches go straight to the good ol' "Man/Ball" Drill. Practice picking up the ball at full speed with both hands and both sides first. Beginning players should keep two hands on their stick at all times. Fact.
Check out this simple ground ball drill we saw a few teams practicing at the MCLA National Championships a few years ago. Or try this 1-on-1 Ground Ball Drill Under Pressure.
2-ON-1 "MAN/BALL" DRILL:
This classic drill is pretty good for conditioning and playing tough in game situations. This is probably the most basic 2-on-1 situation you can practice with your players, since it starts from the ground and it only focuses on gaining possession and moving the ball to an open teammate. But it's not the same as repetition and building reflexes for how to pick up a ground ball with two hands at full speed and move the ball.
We've all seen it happen in games- somebody goes "Man!" for the big hit and lets the loose ball roll right by. More and more coaches now are teaching their players to play "Ball/Man" instead, where everyone on your team always goes for the "Ball!" first. You can't even play "Man/Ball" in Indoor Lacrosse Rules. So with more and more younger players growing up playing Box Lacrosse and Field Lacrosse, we think "Ball/Man" will become the standard. Always play the ball.
RUN THROUGH THE BALL:
Every ground ball should be at full speed, and every ground ball should be contested. No matter what happens, make sure your players run to go pick up the ball, and run away from pressure to get their hands free to pass. Hands should be hip width at the bottom of the stick. If you know where the pressure is coming from, choke up so less stick is hanging out there. Watch the ball all the way into your stick and "run to daylight" to get away from trouble.
WE THINK IT IS OKAY TO "RAKE":
Sometimes. It depends on the situation. Many of us have been yelling at our players for years to "Stop Raking!" and run through the ball, no matter how many players or sticks are in the way. We talk to more coaches now that are teaching that raking is okay. Whatever you have the most success with is what you should do.
Box Lacrosse players are very comfortable getting right into the scrum to rake up a ground ball. Step in and establish a good body position with a low center of gravity over the ball, like "Boxing Out" in basketball. Just get the ball and run to space so you can get your hands free and look up to move it!
The coaches at Duke are very strict about this. Always scoop and then pass the ball right away. Loose balls attract extra players and change everybody's position on the field. Any time you pick up a ground ball, somebody is probably open somewhere on the field. Move the ball one or two passes up field to the "Head Man" and attack the goal quickly. Make sure your warm-ups and other drills incorporate this idea with both muscle memory and game situations.
You can start just about any drill with a loose ball. Make sure to keep it interesting. Vary the direction and location of your ground balls- start from a push up postiion, start sitting back-to-back. Roll the ball toward your players, away from your players, toward the goal, away from the goal, toward the sideline, from in front of the goal, from behind the goal, with a Defender in front of them, with a Defender behind them, etc., etc. Check out our full list of Ground Ball Drills here.
Every coach loves having players that will go out and get GB's for the team! Let us know how your team does on ground balls in practice and in games.