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Lacrosse Skills Lift The Game From Brutal To Elegant, Other Sports | BallHyped Sports Blogs
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Lacrosse Skills Lift The Game From Brutal To Elegant

Hyped by on December 8, 2014

It's fairly easy to list the skills required to play the game of lacrosse. As it turns out, it isn't exactly rocket science.

To play lacrosse, you need to throw, catch and run with a ball cradled in your stick. And then there is that great, hidden, secret weapon that appears to be a given, but is a skill only attained from dedicated, repetitive work. From, in other words, practice, one learns to do the simplest of tasks: Pick up a ground ball with a stick.

That's not so easy as it sounds. And how I remember the seemingly endless ground ball drills, which are completely self explanatory. Have players line up in lines of four or five players. Have one of them toss a ball on the ground, rolling it down the field. The first player scampers after it and scoops it up. Before rejoining the line, the player with the ball rolls it down the field for the next player.

If you have only watched a game, it might be assumed that players need to throw and catch and within that skill set it helps to throw accurately and well and in various styles, so that you can not only pass the ball, but you can zip a shot into the back of the net.

Do those two things better than any other team and you've got much of the battle won. But what happens if someone drops the ball? If no one on your team can pick it up, your team is in trouble. We used to keep ground balls as a team statistic. It was that important.

The trick to lacrosse lies in keeping them interesting. Players will respond to the simplest drills if you make them a competition. Endless ground ball drills can be enhanced by a stop watch or by out-performing another set of players. If there are three lines of five players each, all of them picking up ground balls, then you have the potential or a competition. First line to pick up 30 ground balls wins. Or first to pick up 10 in a row. Any variation on the theme will due.

Drills can be designed to teach three or four skills at once; in point of fact, it's hard to teach throwing without teaching catching at the same time.

Set up a ground ball drill near mid field, but have the players pick up the ground balls, then run with the ball towards the net and take a shot. Have a second line formed and send a player in one line towards a ground ball, while another player runs toward the goal. One player, picks up the ground ball, cradles the ball while running, passes to the other player, who catches, takes a step or two, then shoots.

Lacrosse is no more than variations of those skill sets. Separate from these are drills for learning how to do face offs and drills for learning the position of goalie. These can be considered by themselves.

Pick up a ground ball, run, throw to another player, who catches the ball, runs and shoots. It sounds like the easiest game on the planet. But it it not played with two players on a team. It is played with 10 on a team – three roaming mid-fielders, three attackers limited to their side of the field, three defensive players confined to their half of the field and a goalie.

As such, there are also team skills to be learned and, as luck would have it, players love to scrimmage, which is how you set up drills to teach strategies for setting up open shots or for clearing the ball out of a team's defensive end and structures and strategies for defense.

“Get out the pinnies,” is just the word players want to hear. It means those repetitive drills to learn basic skills are over for the day; it's time to scrimmage.

Remember pinnies? In our day, they were netted jerseys of distinct colors that half a team's players would wear to distinguish themselves from the others, allowing an indifferently dressed team to designate two squads that would scrimmage against each other.

Men and youth sized pinnies are still a requirement for any lacrosse team, if any scrimmaging is to be done. And this is where the game gets interesting. With scrimmages you can teach various plans of attack and various defensive zones, should you chose to go with what is known as a zone defense.

It would be nice to believe that half of a practice was devoted to skill drills and half was devoted to scrimmaging and memory is a fickle thing. I do know that the beauty of the game comes from teams that know how to throw sharp, on target passes to move the ball up field and from those who can shoot with deadly aim. Teams with smaller players who know how to pick up ground balls easily can defeat faster, stronger teams if none of them can scoop a ball off the grass or catch a pass.

It was Army Versus Navy somewhere in the Stone Ages – or much closer to the Stone Ages than today – and I had never seen a college game before. I had watched high school teams that struggle with the basics. As such, while lacrosse is a violent game when unskilled teams get together, it is terrifically graceful when played by highly skilled players.

The rules of the game dictate this fact, because players are free to check each other within 10 feet of a loose ball. So a five players struggling to scoop up a ground ball resembles a determined riot, while teams that throw and catch well rarely drop the ball at all, creating a different style of play entirely.

Yes, I was awe struck. The game I envisioned was a series of brutal chases of a ball on the ground was, in fact, a display of aerial, coordinated ball handling and team cooperation and intelligence.

Yes, it's a simple game. It's as simple as that.