Ground Ball Drills
Ground ball drills are easy to vary and are usually fun and simple for beginners. The first ground ball drill that you can run with your players is very basic. Just have them line up about 10 yards away from you. Slowly roll the ball and have them scoop it up, and throw it back to you.
The points to emphasize in any ground ball drill are:
- To it and through it
- bending down really low / breaking your back
- bringing your stick to your face to protect the ball from checks
- exploding through the ball (which means to run fast to it and power through it as the ball is being scooped)
- and to call out “ball” and “release”
“Ball” is called out by the player picking up the ground ball as he gets around 5 yards away from the ball. “Release” is called as soon as the ball is scooped into his stick. These calls are important to make in games when two players from the same team are going for the ball. This will be explained later. Eventually, you can roll the balls on multiple angles in around-the-clock ground ball drills.
The butt-to-butt ground ball is a drill that emphasizes the technique and body position necessary to successfully pick up the ball off the ground. Players group themselves in pairs and stand butt-to-butt with their knees bent and the ball between their legs. On the first whistle, the two players fight for position over the ball without touching it with their feet or stick. On the second whistle, they go for the ball. The player that does the best job of establishing position will have the best chance to pick the ball up. This is a good game to introduce some competition, having a tournament for players, and crowning your ground ball king.
Ground balls can also be worked into line drills after the players have gone through the passing drills. In the “ground-ball-to” line drill, each player scoops up the ground ball and then slowly rolls it to the player in the next line. Make sure that players are not firing the ball at each other instead of just gently rolling it toward the other line.
One vs. One
After this line drill, players can run the “ground-ball-away” drill in which the player scoops up the ground ball, runs toward the opposite line, and rolls the ball behind himself and away from the player who is next. Just like passing line drills, ground ball line drills are a great way to warm up your players for practice or competition.
Beginners love to do one-on-one ground balls because it is an easy drill to understand, and it is a fun competition with some physical contact. Another popular way to do one-on-one ground balls is simply to have two lines of players set up right next to one another, facing the same direction. You can have them line up shoulder to shoulder or get in between the two lines with some balls. Have the first two players look forward and throw a ball out in front of them. As soon as they see the ball, the two players run out and try and get the ground ball. Whoever gets the ball runs away from the pressure of the other player and throws it back to the coach. It is also possible to allow the players to go to the goal for a shot.
One important point to make is to emphasize calling out “ball” and “release.” Also, it is extremely advantageous for a player to get down as low as possible when getting a ground ball. Show your players how a low center of gravity makes it extremely hard to be knocked over. The player, who gets the lowest and explodes through the ball the fastest, will always come up with the ground ball.
There are some good defensive strategies if a player is a step behind the opposition and going for the ground ball. First, of course, players should never push the man from behind. For young players, this is obviously dangerous, and it is also a foul in lacrosse that they should learn immediately. Another tip is if player A is a step behind player B, player A should try and lift or poke the bottom hand of player B. Player A can do this by getting the head of his stick under player B’s bottom hand and lifting upwards or behind it and poking forward. This can make it very difficult for Player B to pick up the ground ball and can give player A the chance to catch up.
A final tip to give your players is that if the ball is close to their feet, they should kick it forward a couple of yards to make it easier to scoop it up. A lot of times in youth lacrosse games, you will see a huge mass of players hovering around a ground ball. Teach your players to lift their opponent’s stick, kick the ball out of the pile and then go pick it up. If they can learn to do this, they will be a step ahead of many young players.
Two vs. One
After one-on-one ground balls, you can move to two-on-one ground balls Two-on-ones are run pretty much the same way as one-on-one ground balls Three lines are facing the same direction. The two players on the outside are partners, and the player in the middle is by himself. If the two partners come up with the ball then they must make one pass before passing the ball back to the coach. If the man in the middle comes up with the ball, then he must avoid checks from the two other players, and throw the ball back to the coach.
In two-on-one ground balls, it is necessary to teach the importance of “man” and “ball” calls. When two players on Team A are going for the ball against one player from Team B, one player from Team A wants to take the player from Team B out of the play. A player can do this either with a legal body check or simply by blocking/boxing him out. If the player from Team A makes contact with the player from Team B, it must be within five yards of the ball or it is called interference and the ball is rewarded to Team B. To recap, one player from Team A calls out “man” and hits or blocks out the player from Team B. Players at the youth level should probably be taught to simply block out the other man as hitting too much can be dangerous and may be against the rules at that age. The other player from Team A calls out “ball” and goes after the ground ball. Once he scoops the ball up, he calls out “release” so his teammate knows to stop making contact with the player from Team B (if he does not stop making contact when his teammate has already picked up the ball, then it is an interference call and the ball is rewarded to the other team).
A good coaching tip for this drill is to have the closest man to the ball on Team A call out “man” and have the player on Team A who is farthest from the ball call out “ball”. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but if the player closest to the ball tries to pick up the ball, then he will have the opposition checking and hounding him. If the player from Team A who is closest to the ball simply stops and blocks out the man from Team B, then the other player from Team A is going to have a clear path to the ball. Of course, if a player has a clear path to the ball and no pressure on him you want him to go for the ball. There are going to be a lot of ground balls in youth games, so working these types of ground ball drills can be instrumental to a team’s success. Winning the ground ball battle helps win games.