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How To Win Ground Balls

Winning ground balls is a fundamental skill to be successful in lacrosse and if you can dominate ground balls, you can dominate the game.

I know players sometimes feel that ground ball work is not necessary because it’s so basic, but the truth is that ground ball mastery is what makes an average player a great player.

Ground ball mastery is what makes an average player a GREAT player.

The truth is I’ve been involved in games that have literally been decided by winning or losing the battle of ground balls.

You have to win the ground ball game.

And winning ground balls may ultimately come down to guts, grit, and hustle.

Here’s some key strategies to help you consistently win the ground ball game and be a dominant player.

1-POSITIONING AND ANTICIPATION

Technique is everything. You have to get low. One of the most common mistakes is that the athlete doesn’t get low enough to get the ground ball and as a result, they don’t come up with the ball. Lower your center of gravity to maintain balance and leverage to effectively scoop up the ball. 

You also have to anticipate and read the play to get a jump start where the ball is going. Being proactive rather than reactive gives you a head start. Proper footwork is also key.  Approach the ball with shorter, quicker steps and adjust your position as needed to get the ball in your stick and come away with it.

2-STICK TECHNIQUES

The two-handed grip. Use a two-handed grip on your stick for better control and strength. A common mistake is being lazy and using one hand to attempt to pick up the ball. The scooping technique is vital. Angle the head of your stick so it’s almost parallel to the ground and scoop through the ball smoothly. 

Think “two butts low.” What this means is simply get the butt (end) of the stick and your own butt (your hips) down low to the ground. And move through the ball and don’t stop your feet. When you approach the ball, you have to keep your feet moving through the ball to scoop it up. Two hands, get low and move through.

3-BODY POSITION

We’ve talked about the importance of getting low (versus being more upright). Getting low is a key to proper body position so don’t be lazy here. Use your hips and knees to get lower to the ground. You also have to protect your stick. Use your body to protect your stick from checks while scooping the ball. Other players will be trying to check the ball out of your stick as you’re trying to gain possession, so always protect your stick.

Box out your opponents. Use your hips and shoulders to “box out” opponents and create space. Use your body to shield the ball from opponents, creating more space and opportunity to scoop it up.

4-STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING

Something not discussed enough when it comes to dominating the ground ball game is strength training. If you start building lower body strength, core strength and stability, and upper body strength, you will be better at getting ground balls. The stronger and more powerful you are, the more success you can have winning ground balls and boxing out your opponent. Strength is a difference maker for athletes, remember that.

Agility and quickness also helps tremendously. Improve your quickness and ability to change direction rapidly to get to the ball faster. Of course, you will need high levels of endurance to keep fighting for ground balls. When you gassed in a game but still have the fight and endurance to chase down balls on the ground, that can be the difference versus your opponent.

5-GAME AND SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

Communication is huge in the game of lacrosse. Communicate with your teammates to ensure you know where the ball is and where potential opponents are coming from. Situational awareness is a major factor. Understand game situations and adjust your approach accordingly.

For example, sometimes it’s better to kick the ball out to a teammate instead of trying to scoop the ball in a large group of players who are fighting for the ball. Know who’s around you and what is going on to play the situation to your advantage.

6-GROUND BALL DRILLS AND PRACTICE

You have to practice getting ground balls to become better at this skill. Remember, ground ball recovery is a fundamental requirement to be a great player. Great players always work to improve the basics so no matter how basic it is, always do ground ball work.

A few approaches:

Ground Ball Drills. Regularly practice ground ball drills that simulate game situations. Work in ground ball drills to improve the skills. Ground ball work in line drills and other stick work is always a great idea.

Here’s one of my favorite ground ball drills and also excellent for conditioning.

Competition Drills. Incorporate competitive elements in practice to simulate game pressure. 1v1, 2v2, circle play simulation, and ground ball simulation from multiple points on the field.

Scrimmages. Scrimmage-like situations or other game-like drills (ex. West Genny drill) are great to apply your ground ball skills in a game-like context.

7-MENTAL TOUGHNESS 

The truth is you have to have the right mindset for ground balls. As mentioned previously, it comes down to guts, grit, and hustle. Stay focused and concentrate on the ball to maintain laser focus on the ball amidst the chaos. Focus on the ball, move through it, and get possession. 

Be Aggressive. Approach every ground ball situation with determination and aggressiveness.

Never give up or pull back when players are still fighting for the ball and possession has not been gained. This is when you have to be gritty to come away with the ball.

Once again, guts, grit, and hustle wins the game when it comes to ground balls.


QUICK WRAP UP POINTS

If you want to win ground balls, think about these strategies. 

Winning ground balls in lacrosse requires a combination of:

  • Proper technique
  • Physicality
  • Game awareness
  • *Mental toughness (a huge part of winning ground balls)

Consistent practice in these areas will significantly improve your ability to win ground balls and dominate on the field. 

Winning ground balls can be the difference between winning and losing. Always master the basics.

The secret to winning ground balls? Guts, grit, and hustle.

Coach Scott

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