Since stick skills are the most important thing for beginners to learn, most of the drills and games that follow focus on stick work. Obviously, another important aspect of teaching young players is allowing them to have fun. So, coaches have to find a balance between working on their players’ stick skills, letting them play lacrosse, and having fun.
The First Step To Becoming a Complete Player
Most young players simply want to scrimmage the whole time and it is important to remind them that scrimmaging will become a whole lot more fun when everyone can catch and throw. It is also beneficial to use games that incorporate fundamentals so young players do not get bored doing line drills all day.
The first thing that a beginner should learn to do is cradle the ball in his stick. This is one of the reasons why beginning girls players often advance much faster than boys players. The first thing girl coaches teach is to cradle and be able to carry the ball. The easiest way to do this is to have them line up along the sideline, side by side. Have everyone jog together about 20 yards using different cradling techniques. The first cradle that they should learn is the two-hand upright cradle. Emphasize to them that the top hand does all the work cradling the head of the stick in and out, and the bottom hand is loose on the butt-end of the stick.
It is important for them to learn that cradling is necessary for them to get the ball in the “sweet spot” for a shot or pass. The upright cradle is the most important and fundamental cradle to learn as you can always be ready to throw or shoot when your stick is by your head. The second cradle they should learn is the two-hand underhand cradle, where both hands carry their stick at their hips. This is the most effective cradle for midfielders when running with the ball up and down the field, but makes an inexperienced or less aware player vulnerable to stick-checks.
The third cradle that they should learn is the one-hand upright cradle. This cradle is essential for learning to protect the ball when being covered by a defenseman. When using the one-hand upright cradle, the player holds his stick right under the plastic on the head of the stick. To protect the ball, the player must hold the stick up by his head and hold his opposite arm out to guard against stick checks. For each of these cradles, have all the players jog across the field in unison working on one cradle at a time. If they are having trouble with a particular cradle, have them try it standing still until they get the hang of it. Another good exercise to have them do while they are standing still is to have them start with one hand on their stick, right at the top of the shaft, with the stick at their hips, parallel to the ground. They then lift the stick up to their chest (with the ball in the pocket) and turn it upside down so the head is facing the ground. They then cradle the ball back down to their hips. This little exercise shows them how cradling keeps the ball in the pocket, even if the stick is upside down for a short period of time. It also gives them a good feel for cradling.
One thing beginner players do all the time is to have their stick-head face out from their bodies when they are trying to cradle the ball. Obviously, with the stick facing out, the ball is much more prone to fall out of the pocket. Beginner players should learn that it is essential to keep the face of their stick facing their own head when they are cradling. This will keep the ball in their pocket much more effectively. The other mistake that beginners make is that they try to cradle the ball too hard. Teach them that a cradle needs to be a subtle, short movement in the stick. The stick head only needs to move a few inches back and forth. A final problem that a lot of beginners have is that they have no pockets in their sticks. Many sticks that kids buy in stores are strung up too tightly. Simply loosening the sidewall strings (the strings that attach the mesh to the sides of the stick head) and the end string (the string that attaches the mesh to the bottom of the stick head) can greatly help a novice player when learning to cradle.
- Keep a loose grip
- Cradle with your fingers
- Cradle smoothly
- Keep the ball in the sweet spot of your pocket