The single most important drill for a lacrosse player at any level is throwing against the wall. This is an extremely important drill for a beginner lacrosse player to utilize on his own time. At the lower levels, the player who gets against a wall for ten to fifteen minutes about 3 or 4 times per week will be the best player on his team.
As a coach, scout out a local wall that you can take your team to and show them the following drills. There may even be one close to your practice facility.
Wall Ball Ground Bounce
First, just have them throw with their strong hand and have them bounce the ball in front of the wall so the ball lobs back and they can catch it. They should stand about ten yards away from the wall. Challenge them to try and catch 50 in a row with their strong hand. Then make them move on to their week hand. After they get comfortable with that, make them start to pick points on the wall and hit those points with passes. Don’t worry so much about how many passes they catch – make sure they are using good technique and a smooth throwing motion.
Wall Ball Wall Bounce
Young beginners will not be able to throw hard enough to make the ball return to their stick in the air, so they can throw it at their point on the wall and let it bounce as it comes back to them. Same as the first drill, make them try and get 50 in a row with each hand.
Wall Ball in the Air
Next, they can move on to keeping the ball in the air the whole time. Make them pick a point higher up on the wall and throw it hard enough so the ball comes back to their stick. Only let them do this after they have mastered the first two wall drills or it will just become frustrating for them. Again, have them do 50 in a row with their strong hand and make them move on to their weak hand.
Finally, if they are able to do all of this, then they can try and practice one-handed against the wall. Have them use the same progression in drills as they did with two hands. Do not be too worried if they are unable to do this drill with one hand effectively. Although it is more advanced to use the offhand, it is a good drill for beginners to aspire to while building up their throwing power and accuracy in the process.
These wall drills are extremely effective and efficient in allowing beginners to progress rapidly. Many coaches spend too much time with beginners doing line drills. While line drills are a really great way to warm-up players’ sticks and legs at the same time, they are not the most effective way to build up the stick-skills of beginners. Beginners need as many repetitions as possible and standing in line and throwing the ball every couple minutes is not the most efficient way to learn. If your team cannot get to a wall during practice, the first thing they should do every day is partner up with a teammate to have a catch. Have them try and get 50 in a row righty and 50 in a row lefty. Once they can do that, have them throw one-handed to each other and try to get 50 and 50 again.
Beginner coaches have to remember that there is not much you can teach a lacrosse team until everyone is able to catch and throw adequately. Also, the game is going to be a whole lot more fun for everyone when they are actually able to move the ball to one another.
After they can throw against the wall or have caught with friends, another good passing drill for beginners is a three-man triangle. Each player stands about 10 yards apart in a triangle. Each player throws with his right hand and catches with his left. This means that after he catches the ball with the stick in his left hand, the player turns to the outside and changes hands and throws with the stick in his right hand. This is a very important concept for lacrosse players to learn because it teaches them to always keep their stick on the outside and away from defenders. It also promotes the use of both hands for beginning players. After they are able to get it around the triangle 10 times in a row, then tell them to go the other way, catching with the stick in their right hand and passing with their left.
The diamond drill is yet another helpful passing drill. Players get in four lines that are set up in a diamond formation. Each line should be about 20 yards apart. To start out, everyone throws with their right hand to the line to their right. So, the ball is working around the diamond in a counter-clockwise direction. This is not a standstill drill. The player who is about to receive the ball starts jogging towards the next line, so the player passing him the ball has to “lead” him. “Leading” another player means you have to throw the ball to where he is going, not to where he is. It is like a quarterback leading a receiver, so the receiver can catch the ball without breaking stride. So, in the diamond drill, the player with the ball starts jogging towards the next line and leads the player who is receiving the pass from the next line. The player who threw the ball then gets in back of the line that he just threw to. It is very important to stress to your players that they do not have to fire these passes at first. Teach them to first throw the ball softly and put some air under it so they can accurately lead the receiving player. It may also help to teach players to start another ball when one is dropped.
Finally, the most popular passing drills are line drills. Nearly every team in lacrosse, no matter what level, starts their practices out with line drills. As discussed before, line drills may not be as effective for beginners because they can take too long and be counterproductive unless the players have sufficient stick skills. Line drills are fairly simple to set up. There are two lines facing each other about 20 yards apart. There should be about 5 or 6 players in each line. There are a bunch of different passing skills that you can work on in line drills. Line drills are meant to sharpen stick skills at the beginning of practice, so do not let your players goof-off and develop bad habits.
There are some key points to emphasize when running line drills. The first one is to make sure that everyone gets their hands away from their body when passing. Many beginners try to throw with their hands close to their body or with “alligator arms”. It is important to stress to your players that getting their hands out is necessary for accurate passing and powerful shots. The other important point to make is that the player who is catching the ball must come to meet the ball. This is an important skill to learn for game situations to prevent from getting picked off by the opposing team. The player should run to meet the ball when a ball is thrown, not before. Also, stress the importance of having soft hands and catching the ball like an egg. Many players in line drills tend to attack the ball and knock it down instead of catching it.
There are several different variations of line drills. The first variation that a team can start with is inside passing. This means that everyone’s stick is to the inside. To start the line drills, everyone goes right-handed. So, in “righty-inside passing,” the person catching the ball should be to the right of the player passing the ball. Both players stick are to the inside and lined up with one another.
In the next variation of line drills, it is the opposite. In outside passing, the sticks are to the outside, so when the team is doing righty-outside passing, the player catching the ball is to the left of the player passing the ball. This variation teaches players to throw the ball across their body. The progress through line drills should be inside passing righty, inside passing lefty, outside passing righty, then outside passing lefty. These simple variations in line drills are more than enough for beginners to practice.