A New Philosophy for Coaching Ground Ball Drills
In recent interviews with top NCAA coaches, we heard a new philosophy about coaching ground ball drills. This is not to say that our traditional emphasis on the key fundamentals of ground balls or the way we run those drills is misguided or misplaced. But perhaps it simply falls a little short of where we need to be as coaches. To put our players in a better position to be successful, we can coach even better. If you came to this article looking for a cool ground ball drill, it is towards the end of the article, so please keep reading.
Traditional Fundamentals Coaching Ground Balls
1. Fight for position in front of our opponent.
2. Get so low to scoop the ball that our bottom hand on the stick is almost on the ground.
3. As soon as we get position, tuck and protect the stick "head to head."
4. Scoop through the ball, keeping moving.
5. Verbally communicate if "man-ball" scenario.
6. And my personal favorite: "Two hands, I said, two hands on the ground ball!"
First, before you send me an e-mail, these fundamentals are still critical to teach, especially at the youth levels. Next, due to the advent of turf fields, better conditioned natural grass fields, and the fact that traditional three-man ground ball drills calling out "man" or "ball" can be boring and leave a lot of players standing around, perhaps we don't spend as much time on ground balls in practice as we used to.
I can assure you that NCAA coaches are integrating ground balls into practice more than ever. But there is a slightly different focus. These coaches have come to realize that picking up the ground ball is still extremely critical, but what happens in the seconds immediately following can be even more critical. Many college lacrosse coaches live by the mantra, "ground ball, then pass, pass" as a non-negotiable for their players. As coaches look for ways to manufacture transition, ground balls remain far and away the number one solution to get into transition.
For many of us, when we run ground ball drills, the focus is on the ground ball and successfully competing to pick up the ball. This falls short of our number one criterion for lacrosse drills, namely that they must directly emulate a game scenario. We really need to expand the focus to what happens next.
Elements to Enhance Ground Ball Drills and Get into Transition
1. Run the drill to emulate a true game scenario.
2. Incorporate where you run the drill on the field to be game-like.
3. Get the ground ball, look up, pass, and then another pass.
4. Keep it fast-paced and moving.
There two key ways to expand ground ball objectives and emphasis and incorporate these new elements. First, we need to really add a 'look up and move the ball' element into every ground ball drill. Or secondly, we can begin to integrate competitive ground balls to begin transition drills. The second alternative we have covered to a degree in a Ground Ball Drill That Is So Much More. So let's spend a little time on how to enhance our traditional ground ball drills.
Progressive coaches realize how important it is to tweak every drill to directly emulate a real-life snapshot of a game condition. And many of us run man-ball ground ball drills with the traditional three lines. It can be realistic with youth players but is often not that game realistic, especially with high school players. Thus, incorporating and focusing on a 1v1 competition in ground ball drills is really important. If a player aggressively attacks each ground ball situation as if he is the only player to get the ground ball, we will win far more than we lose. It is a player's responsibility to get the ground ball by himself, using the traditional fundamentals discussed earlier.