If you're just starting out as a lacrosse player and you need some advice on the best training methods you can follow to build your basic skills, look no further! We've gathered together some tips and tricks, as well as a list of the best youth lacrosse drills. Beginners who work through the examples given will see their skill levels improve, and maximize their performance on the pitch. You don't need a lot of kit ready before beginning lacrosse drills, just a lacrosse stick, some space to practice, and ideally a lacrosse rebounder for working on some of the ball skills.
What skills are needed for lacrosse?
There is a range of skills not found in other ball sports which are crucial to the game of lacrosse. Dodges, ball skills checking and cradling all play an important part, as well as specific drills for shooting, passing, catching and goal keeping. To support this, a high level of basic fitness is also required, including stamina, balance, agility, and speed. We've put together a list of the basic drills which any beginner needs to master to get to grips with lacrosse.
Wall ball drills
One of the most popular youth lacrosse drills, wall ball exercises teach players to catch and release the ball and target their passes and catch accurately, as well as practicing catching. All you need is a wall, a ball and a lacrosse stick. Stand a few yards away from the wall, and practice shooting the ball at the wall, around head height. When it rebounds, try to catch it smoothly, without bouncing the ball out of your stick or dropping it.
As you progress, try picking a specific spot on the wall to hit, or marking out a target with chalk (if you have permission). See how accurately you can repeatedly hit the target and catch the rebound. Over time, try to increase the speed and power of your shots without sacrificing accuracy to hone your shooting skills ready for your next game of lacrosse.
Knowing how to cradle in lacrosse is a key skill that allows you to run with the ball past defensive players and get into the ideal shooting position. A great way to start is by practicing the side to side cradling motion while standing in front or a mirror, so you can observe your form and stick position, before transitioning to running with the ball. Try to master two handed cradling before you start practicing with one hand.
Lacrosse shooting is one of the most enjoyable elements of training for new players. Start by standing 10 yards away from the goal, and practice shots on goal from a stationary position, training both with your dominant and non dominant hand. As your accuracy improves, start attempting shots as you run towards the goal, shooting towards the opposite corner to the side you're approaching on - i.e. across the keeper. Remember to alternate between sides, as you would in a real game of lacrosse.
Lacrosse is a game of speed and agility, and this dodge combines both. Run towards the opposing player, and at the last moment, move your stick across your face as if to switch it to the other hand (as if you're about to switch direction), but don't actually do so, just continue passing on the same side, throwing the defender off balance. This is one of the most widely used dodges in lacrosse.
Once you've practiced the face dodge, the split dodge is a natural development. This time, you do actually switch your stick to the other hand, and change direction to pass on the opposite side to the one where you were heading. In competitive play, switching between using the split dodge and face dodge keeps the opposing defensemen guessing as to which way you'll go.
Lacrosse professionals and beginners alike can use this dodge to great effect when trying to break away from a defender. As you approach the opposing player, pivot quickly and backpedal in a half circle around them, finishing behind them facing the goal end of the field. Then sprint away from them before they have a chance to recover and turn to chase you.
This check is used to stop an opponent switching their stick, for example, to perform a split dodge. Poke your stick towards their torso at waist height, while maintaining a stable position balanced on both feet. Don't make the mistake of aiming too high or low, as you'll risk a high hit or tripping penalty.
Lift checks are used to knock the ball out of players stick, or to disrupt a pass or shot. As with the poke check, you should be balanced, and poke your stick toward the opponent, but instead of aiming for the torso, you want to get the head of your stick under their bottom hand and then lift, unbalancing their stick and causing them to drop the ball.
Cross check hold
The cross check hold is used to keep an attacking player away from your goal. You need to keep your feet moving to stay with the opposing player, and then with both hands at the base of your stick, hold your hands against the attackers' armpit, preventing them from getting closer to the goal. Your stick should be positioned up and away to the side of your hands at a 45 degree angle to the ground.
If you're interested in playing lacrosse, then from the very beginning lacrosse drills are a vital part of your training program. Until you've developed the basic lacrosse skills like stick and ball control, you'll find it hard to get into the game. The exercises above are designed to give you the training you need to get a headstart on the lacrosse field, so don't forget to practice them again and again until you're confident you've got them all down perfectly.
One final tip: Beginning lacrosse drills with some fitness work is a good way to get the muscles oxygenated before starting on the more technical lacrosse drills such as checks and dodges.