Lacrosse: 3 tips for playing ground balls
While top lacrosse players are skilled passers and catchers and the ball stays in the air much of the game, at lower levels of youth lacrosse, you’ll see more ground balls. Teaching your kids how to play ground balls and practicing this skill can take your team from a contender to a consistent winner.
Play through ground balls
One of the first things to teach your players the footwork for ground balls. If they run to a ground ball and stop, they lose momentum and allow opponents to overtake them, block them out or steal the ball. Lacrosse players should use dynamic balance when playing ground balls, running to them and finding a speed they can use to multi-task when they get to the ball. This multi-tasking includes looking to see where opponents are, locating teammates and then playing the ball by picking it up or kicking or slapping it away from an opponent.
Roll balls to your players and have them practice running to the ball full speed, decelerating as they near the ball to prepare for their multi-tasking, then accelerating through a scoop and pickup. Once players are able to reach balls, control their body and pick balls up, have them practice quickly passing the ball to a teammate.
When players have found their footwork for playing ground balls, have them practice ground balls with an opponent chasing them from behind, coming towards them, and approaching them from each side (one at a time). Have them practice playing ground balls from the left and right sides of their bodies.
To impress upon young players how important dynamic balance is, have them practice running to a ball, stopping, and then picking it up and passing it. They will immediately see the difference this makes and how it limits their ability to play offensively.
Practice moving the ball
Players won’t always be able to pick up a ball when they reach it because an opponent is in hot pursuit or arrives at the same time. Teach your players how to “dribble” a ball with their foot to keep it away from an opponent and set up a better pickup or scoop location. Have your players practice using their feet and sticks to bump the ball away from an opponent and set to set up a better scoop location.
Work on boxing out opponents
There will be times when you must stop when you arrive at a ground ball to deal with an opponent who also wants the ball. Johns Hopkins University long-stick midfielder Mike Pellegrino demonstrates how to box out opponents, then kicking or sticking the ball to a better position for a pickup and pass.
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