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mitch belisle long stick ground balls for lacrosse defensemen
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Defensive Stick Work

I often get questions about picking up a groundball with a long pole, and more often than not, it seems to come from the dad of the player who is 3’2″, weighs about as much as a bag of feathers and has what seems like a 30lb and 20ft long pole.

Let me start by saying that I don’t think any player should use a long pole longer than themselves (unless of course you are an “undersized,” but full grown, defenseman like myself and will never equate to a 6 ft pole). At the very least I feel players should use a cut down pole until 7th grade or they are strong enough to hold the stick out in front of them with one hand.

With that said, picking up a ground ball with a long pole is very much like it is with a short stick. You can be lazy and avoid all of the basics like getting low over the ball, protecting the head of your stick and bringing the ball next to your ear once you have scooped through it – often results in crushing checks to your stick and/or hands or the inability to control it.

OR, you can stick to the very rules we teach to short sticks, only choking up on the stick to limit the amount in front of or behind you, depending on where those opponents around you may be.

Finally, be sure to keep the butt-end off to one side of your stomach.

I will never forget watching film my freshmen year at Cornell when one of our Captains who was a defensemen went for a GB with his stick directly in front of him, bottom hand on the butt of the shaft. He pushed down too hard with his top hand, the astroturf (for all of you youngsters, that is basically just a squishy green carpet) buckled and he basically pole vaulted over the stick as it jabbed him in the stomach. Despite the hilarity and watching it in slow-mo over and over again, he missed the GB and had a nasty bruise on his sternum to boot.

So, in conclusion, keep it simple – match the basic techniques we teach to short sticks, choke up on your shaft to protect the most vulnerable parts depending on your opponents’ location and never time-travel to an astroturf field!