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In our recent podcast with Anthony Kelly he shared a few specific drills for lacrosse coaches designed to build techniques with Face-Off players not only for boys lacrosse players but youth lacrosse players as well. Clearly this is a key segment of the game that has a dynamic impact on both possessions as well as scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, very few programs have a specific coach, or even enough coaches to spend dedicated time in this key area.

The qualifications or key characteristics that make a good face-off man will vary greatly. [private] And at least in my experience you may never know who might be suited to this unique skill. Small quick players, bigger players, even many who do not have great stick skills can evolve into strong face-off candidates. In the early part of the season we recommend that you continue to try different players in face offs, incorporating them into you full or even half field drills.

I have a few I received from Coach Berkman from Salisbury as well as those from this recent interview with a top professional midfielder and face-off expert.

‘Pop-Overs’ and Clamps

These drills are done individually, and we try and do them everyday, as well as part of our Pre-Game warm-ups. The face-off players take their positions over a ball on a line, with their sticks in a face off position. The coach blows quick sharp whistles, I usually do five to seven in a set. On the whistle the player pops his stick over the ball and then immediately returns his stick to the original position. The is to build reaction to the whistle as well as quicker hands. Five to seven works for us to keep the players from cramping in the ‘Set’ position.

For the Clamps, the drill is similar, but we do it in two different segments, building on the drill. We then repeat the drill but rather than ‘Pop-Over’ the players quickly clamps his stick over the ball, and releases his stick back up, again five to seven quick whistles or reps is about all they can do without their legs feeling tight and uncomfortable. In the next segment, (still done w just one player and a ball on a line,) the players not only clamp on the whistle, but step as they would in a game to position themselves in front of their opposing face off players.

From the ‘A Train’, Back to Back Drill

In this drill the ball is placed on a line, with two players basically standing over the ball, hip to hip, facing away from each other. On the whistle, the two players begin to drive their hips backwards into the other player in a low position. When one player has driven the other player back to the point where both of his toes have gone across the line, he then picks up the ball. At this point the drill is ‘live’ and the player needs to stay low to the ground, pick up the ball, and run away from traffic. The critical points of the drill are for both players to stay hip-to-hip with their feet chopping constantly. Players must stay engaged. In other words one player may not just step to the side and let the other fall back. This drill reminds me of almost a reverse tug of war with hips, resulting in a ground ball.

From the ‘A Train’, Butt End Wars

In this drill two players take their face-off positions over the ball on a line. However, rather than a standard position, the stick is reversed so that the head of the stick is on the outside, and the ‘Butt’ end of the stick is six inches from the ball. Also, each player takes his grip, (standard or both hands over), with the hand closest to the ball leaving two inches of the ‘Butt’ end available to work the ball and the drill.

The whistle blows and the two players jam and jockey for position over the ball. This is a live face-off using just the ‘Butt’ ends of the stick. Players practice driving their hands across, driving their hands and the ball, or body position to accommodate pulling the ball behind, but no raking. And as the rules get tougher, no use of hands on the ball.

Anthony Kelly suggests this is also a great drill to build ‘counter’ skills, timing and toughness. Players want to get over the ball and pull out. If they get tied up, the drill works great to encourage stepping across with the right leg, or stepping with the right leg to get it between the legs of the opposing face off player, thereby creating a huge advantage.

From the ‘A Train’, Wrecking Ball

In the first stage, the players take their face-off positions without their sticks, just their hands on the ground in their normal positions. The coach stands over the player, blows the whistle and drops a tennis ball (or later even a lacrosse ball,) five to six inches outside the player’s hands. The player ‘swoops’ with the right hand and catches the dropping ball, keeping his head low, finding the ball, and catching the ball. This is a tremendous tool for hand speed and improving reaction time. Coach Kelly recommends five reps with each player in the single ball segment.

In stage two of this drill we add a second ball to the drill. After the coach drops the ball on the whistle, and the face-off player swoops to catch it with his right hand, the coach rolls a second ball, which players need to pick up with their left hand. The second ball can be rolled forward or backward, but stay in very close proximity to the player. This continues to build coordination, improve reaction time and quickness. Again, Coach Kelly recommends a second set of five reps in stage two with two balls.

Utilizing these drills will build skills in your Face-Off players, and increase possessions. If you might have any other great drills for face-off players please email to us and we will get them posted under your name and school!

Coach Mike [/private]

One Response to “Article: Face Off Lacrosse Drills”

  1. John S. Duke Says:

    Thanks for the info in this article. As a youth coach we always struggle to find ways to improve the technique of younger players. These drills give our youth coaches a place to start and an opportunity for “coaching moments” about facing-off. I’ve found that even though Face-offs are a very important part of the game; youth coaches shy away from teaching face-offs because they don’t know how to go about doing it. This will help a great deal. Thanks again.

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