If you want to be a dominant defenseman, you’ll need to master three major skill sets: Footwork, Sticks Skills and Lacrosse IQ. I laid out these key aspects of player development in my post, How To Become A Dominant Lacrosse Defenseman, and today I’ll go a little deeper into the stick skills portion of this.
The Takeaway Teacher
Throw GREAT checks and be FEARED by all who carry the ball!
As I said in my defensive post, wall ball is extremely important when it comes to stick skill development and becoming comfortable with the ball. However, it isn’t the only stick drill you can do to improve your game! This drill is an oldie but a goodie, and it will allow you to really focus on your wrist strength, timing and stick skills. It’s perfect for first time long poles but can still help the best of the best become even better!
To get started, you’ll need the following:
- 1 short stick
- 1 goal
- 1 long pole
Preferably, the long pole you use will be a heavier back-up stick, as this will help you build up strength and stamina. Also, when you pick up your gamer after using a heavier pole, it feels like a feather in your hands!
Step 1: Take the short stick and slide the shaft through the back of a lacrosse goal’s netting. The shaft should be placed through the goal so that the head of the short stick is at or below your head level, placed about 10-15 net rows in from the goalpost. The stick is positioned like this in the goal to simulate a ball carrier with a vertical cradle and good stick protection.
Step 2: Take two steps back from the goal, standing on goal line extended and pick up your long pole.
Step 3: Start throwing PRECISE checks on the stick hanging in the goal as two of my HS freshman defenders are doing here:
Ok, so they aren’t young Joel Whites just quite yet, but they are improving! This was probably the first time they ever got a lesson in throwing checks, and later in the day, during 6 on 6, it showed with multiple takeaways.
At first, stick to simple checks like the poke check, two-handed front wrap check, and slap check. Then, as your strength and comfort with a long pole increases, you can start throwing more advanced checks. If you can’t throw a kayak perfectly on a set up like this 20 times in a row, you’re not ready to use it in a game. Use this drill as a barometer to test how well you know your own checks, and avoid getting in trouble with your coach!
Build up to combination checks. By throwing two checks to the front of the goal, the stick will begin to sway back and forth. Time this sway like an attackman’s cradle and then work on throwing the over the head check. This drill truly allows players to learn how to set up checks, and throw them effectively.
Do’s and Don’ts
When doing this drill yourself, try to focus on the following things:
- DO throw sharp, accurate checks. With a heavier shaft, you will be amazed at how quickly your arms will get sore. But that means they’re also getting strong!
- DON’T take a big back swing on your checks. This will lead to bad habits on the playing field!
- DO time your checks. As the short stick swings, focus on timing your checks to navigate around the goal pipes.
- DON’T hit the goal with your stick. Hitting the pipe is equivalent to slashing an attacker on his free arm, and it means you are not reaching AROUND the player enough with your stick, or timing your checks well.
- DO stay in control. Tighten your core when you do this drill. Focus on your positioning and be precise with your stick checks at all time. Get ready to work!
- DON’T be lazy and step around the goal. Stand on the balls of your feet, like you would in a real game, and bend your knees. Challenge yourself.
- DO be diverse with your checks. Practice throwing checks to the head of the short stick and then to the butt end. Some players hang the head of their sticks, while others show the butt end. Get used to going after either.
- DON’T throw one-handed checks. This is another horrible habit to fall into. Effective and efficient use of a 6-foot long lacrosse stick requires 2 hands!
The Only Drawback
The only real drawback to this drill is that the defensive players are standing still, and we all know that standing still is bad! So as a coach, if you’re going to use this drill in practice, I recommend having the poles go at it like this for 5 minutes, and then moving DIRECTLY to 4 on 3s. Players’ arms should be tired from throwing all those checks, so they will have to use their feet. After you see that they are moving their feet again, you can get into 1 on 1s, 3 on 3s or 6 on 6.
The Art of Checking
This drill really breaks down the art of defensive checking to its most simple form. It is all about short, strong and precise checks while working on timing. By placing the short stick on either side of the goal, you can mimic a lefty or righty ball carrier.
There is no limit to what a defensive player can learn from this drill, it just depends on how far they’re willing to take it.