By Lane Errington | @lane_errington
Successful players cradle, throw and catch consistently and efficiently. This comes with hours of practice and repetition. Whether you’re throwing against a wall or passing with a partner, the key is to get lots of touches on the ball. Remember the 10,000-hour rule.
As a coach, you are instrumental in the development of your player’s stickwork. Encouraging players to work on cradling, throwing and catching outside of practice time will enhance their fundamental stick skills, allowing them to be more successful in practice situations. Solid fundamental stick skills will develop confidence and allow your players to better handle pressure situations in both practice and in games.
So, how do you get there?
Repetition and concentration!
It takes an extra half-second to get a pass off accurately. Instead of rushing themselves when they pass the ball and risking a turnover, encourage your players to take just that little bit of extra time to get their stick in position to make an accurate pass. In order to make your teammate look good, you want to put the ball on her stick where she can catch it.
What follows are some stickwork “gems” or teaching points that will help your players become better stick-handlers. These are the foundations for developing reliable stickwork.
Soft handsThe stick should always rest lightly in your fingertips. No death grip! Think, “loose and smooth” when handling your stick.
Hand positioning is keyThe bottom hand should be at the bottom of the stick and the top hand should be about three hand’s widths from the top of your stick—about one-third of the way down the stick.
Eye on the ballWatch the ball into your stick as you catch it until you become a proficient catcher.
Roll your shoulder to catchGive back slightly as the ball enters the stick so you catch it right behind your ear. This puts you in a triple-threat position to pass, feed or shoot right away and keeps your stick protected from defenders.
Don’t “wrap” the ball off the catchWrapping the ball doesn’t allow the catcher to quickly get rid of it. Teach your players to “give back” as the ball enters their stick and then “control cradle.” No need to over-cradle. Just a slight rocking motion with the wrist will keep the ball under control.
Know your stickThe pocket should be just under the shooting strings. This is the sweet spot. All passing, catching and shooting should be done from this place in the stick.
Arms and hands awayGet your arms and hands away from your body. Avoid “T-Rex arms” where your elbows and arms are in tight by your body.
Make an “L”The stick head should be just off of the shoulder. The player’s top arms should make an “L” or right angle.
Remember your lower halfGet your hips around while the ball is in the air to catch and then quickly pass to the opposite side of the field.
Shoulder-Shoulder-StickKeep your stick protected by keeping your body between the ball and your defender.
Utilize drop stepsTake “negative” shuffle steps to create space between yourself and your defender.
Play fastTeach your players to play fast, throw from all angles and work both hands.
Be creativeRemember to practice “little hands” where you slide your top hand down about one-third of the way and work the stick using quick, tight, legal cradles.
Fake, fake and fake some moreWork on head and shoulder fakes, stick fakes and footwork fakes to throw our opponent off balance and create opportunities.
This post was adapted from “Building the Modern Midfielder,” a comprehensive US Lacrosse coaching resource authored by Scott Biron, head coach at Acton-Boxborough (Mass.) High School, and Janine Tucker, head coach at Johns Hopkins University.
The "Building the Modern Midfielder" and "Building the Modern Attacker" continuing education resource are the most comprehensive resources on the market for women’s lacrosse. Pick up your copy through the US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program.
Building the Modern Player