As a coach, I am always looking for drills that I can do with my beginning lacrosse players indoors or in confined areas. Here are three simple but effective youth lacrosse drills for beginners that you can use indoors or in a small corner of a field.
1. The Muscle Throw
This a great way to teach new players proper throwing technique. It gives them some fundamental vocabulary that will allow you to make corrections to their throwing technique that they will understand and be able to self-correct with just a word from you. And believe me, they will need corrections.
Line them up in front of you with enough space that they cannot reach each other with their sticks. Now show them how to hold a stick with their top/dominant hand in the middle of the shaft. Next, ask them to make a muscle and point the butt-end of their stick toward you. Have them put their bottom hand on the butt end of the stick. Tell them to push their bottom hand (butt-end) back toward the corner or their lips until they can just barely see their bottom hand. This prevents the players from pushing the ball with their top hand, a common mistake for new players.
Ask the players to step forward to their target with their non-dominant foot as they follow through. Tell them to point their stick at their target. After a few reps of this without a ball, stand behind them and load a ball into their stick after you are satisfied with their position and let them throw.
Now they can throw. Sort of. As you explain each step emphasize a few key phrases:
- Make a muscle. This gets the elbow up.
- Can you see your bottom hand? This avoids a top-hand push.
- Step to the target. Ensures correct body position.
- Point to your target. Corrects a catapult/early release.
True beginners or very young players will struggle initially, but after a while these phrases will allow them to make quick adjustments to their technique.
2. The Flip/Toss Drill
This is an easy one for kids to grasp; even real young ones. Most new players are uncomfortable catching the ball above their waist. They try to basket catch everything away from their body. They lack confidence or are afraid of getting hit in the face if they miss. Some do not trust their passing partner, which is a legitimate concern in many cases. With the Flip/Toss Drill, we give them a feeling of control that they do not have when they are waiting to catch someone else’s pass.
You will need one ball for each player in order to maximize their reps.
Give each player a ball and have them spread out in front of you. Make sure they have enough room to take two steps in each direction. Next ask them to toss their ball up in the air and catch it in front of them.
Depending on age and coordination levels, this can turn chaotic pretty quickly, so giving them enough room between one another will be key. Ask them to toss and catch five to 10 in a row. After they finish this, ask them to flip the ball above their head and catch it in front of them. Ask for five to 10 on a row on this too. Next ask them to flip the ball above their head and try to catch the ball above their shoulder. This part is a little more challenging, as the player needs to move their stick from the flip position to the catch position above their shoulder.
Learning to catch “in box” (the area next to your head and above your shoulder) can be intimidating and frustrating for new players. It is also a vital skill in the game of lacrosse. This drill allows young players to progress at their own speed as they build their confidence. Some players will pick this up quickly. Challenge them to catch 20 in a row or to use their non-dominant hand. This is also a great drill to give as homework.
3. Ground Ball Progression
I start this drill by asking if anyone dropped a pass today and immediately putting up my own hand. I follow that up with “what did you do then?” After getting someone to say they scooped up the ball, I discuss the importance of being able to pick up ground balls.
Give a brief review of proper ground ball technique: Top hand to the head of the stick. Bend your knees. Drag your knuckles. Scoop through the ball. Smell the ball. And curl away from pressure.
Then line your players up in lines of three to four with a ball in front of each line. The first player in line should roll the ball out five to eight yards in front of them. Scoop it up. Curl back toward the line and then toss or roll the ball to the next player in line. Ask each player to go through the line five times.
Add to the drill by having a player loosely cover the ball with their stick and let the next player scoop through it. Or have the player start with the ball on the ground at their feet and kick it to space and scoop it up. Have the first player hold his stick at chest height over the ball and the next player has to stay low to scoop the ball. I still use this drill at least once a week with my high school team.
As for tools, you can certainly use a regular rubber lacrosse ball. However, we recommend using a Swax Lax lacrosse training ball. Regular balls can rebound and go anywhere — across the gym, down the hall, under the bleachers, into a window, or even back into your face. Swax Lax balls, because they are softer, do not rebound or roll very much at all. This allows players to spend more time getting reps and less time chasing balls around the gym. Swax Lax training balls are regulation size and weight, so they give your players the stick feel of a regular ball that they need to succeed.
This outdoor Ground Ball Progression drill can be adapted for indoor play.
About the Author
Kevin Meany is the head boys coach at Sum It Up Lacrosse. He was a goalie for Providence College, and when he’s not coaching for Sum It Up, he’s the assistant coach for the Morristown-Beard varsity and middle school lacrosse teams in Morristown, New Jersey, and a contributor to the Swax Lax team.