10 Ways to Improve your Skills outside of Practice!
Want to improve your skills in the off season on your own? Think there’s nothing besides wall ball? Here’s some ideas to improve when you’re not at practice with your team that can bring you up to the next level of stick work and readiness!
Ask a parent, brother, sister or friend to play catch with you. If they don’t know how to use a lacrosse stick, give them a baseball glove! Make it challenging, ask them to throw to your off side, too high, low, bounce. Have them put their glove or stick out in random spots without moving, then try to throw it to them so they don’t have to move at all to catch it.
Wall ball is always a great option but there’s much more to do than just throw randomly against the bricks. Amp it up by bringing along some chalk or painters tape and mark spots you try to hit with the ball. Time yourself for one minute and see how many completed catches you can make. Throw from far away and try to run towards it when you catch it, throw from close up and try to catch it over your shoulder as you run away.
If you have access to a goal you can shoot around the clock. (If you don’t have a goal, consider marking a 6×6 area with chalk on a wall) Put a pile of balls (at least 5 if you have them) by your feet. To use the clock method, fake a shot to the top left corner, then shoot to the top right. Grab the next ball and fake to the top right and shoot lower right. Grab a ball, fake low right, shoot low left… continue around the clock a few times and then reverse and go around counter clockwise. Start slow and focus on aim, work your way up in speed until you lose accuracy and then back the speed back down until you hit your targets again. This is another great time to use a timer and see how you improve after a week or two of this practice.
Work on quick feet and stick work together by doing ladder drills while cradling the ball. Make it more of a challenge and try to cradle two balls without dropping them or placing the ball in the back of the stick, switch hands, etc. If you don’t have a ladder, chalk or tape make a great substitute. Start slow and then gradually add speed, backing it back down when you lose form or the ball. There are a lot of great resources for ladder drills online.
LaxySack- use a lax ball, tennis ball, or swax ball, and bounce it off your stick repeatedly as many times as you can in a row. Bounce it off the front of the pocket, the back, the sidewalls, the butt end, the shaft, etc. Use that timer, how many times can you bounce it off the stick in a minute without letting it hit the ground. Add some friends and make a circle, juggle the ball with your stick and then send it to a friend, how long can you keep it off the ground?
Throw it to yourself, change direction, do it again! Throw the ball gently in front of you, catch it out in front of you in the back of your stick, then toss it back to your shoulder catching it in the pocket. As you catch it, pivot your feet and run a few steps in that direction cradling and protecting your stick. Repeat the process. You should be moving back and forth, getting not only ball touches, control, but also an elevated heartrate. How many times can you get back and forth and complete passes to yourself inside of a minute? Add a chair to dodge in the middle as you move back and forth.
Moving ground balls- roll the ball up against a wall, then run towards the ball and scoop it up. The harder you roll it and the closer you are to the wall the harder this gets (too close and you might nail yourself in the face, be careful and wear your head/eye gear!). Never over run a ground ball again! To practice ground balls rolling away, turn your back to the wall after rolling it against it and then run to get the ball as it rolls away from you.
One handed grab and go. Toss the ball high in the air, using one hand, try to grab the ball as high in the air as you can while moving forward. Once you have the ball in your stick, keep you feet moving and pull the stick down to start cradling as you continue to move.
Bounce and go – bounce the ball off the ground and then try to grab it on the move in one clean swoop. Place a chair out in front of you to make it harder. Grab the ball off of one bounce moving forward quickly and then dodge the chair and take a shot if you have a goal.
Mirror a buddy – grab a friend or family member, you don’t need any equipment for this one! Face each other, one of you is the attacker, the other is the mirror. The attacker moves either forward, backward or side to side no more than 3 steps in any direction. They want to move quickly to make it hard for the mirror to stay with them. The mirror must maintain the same amount of space between themselves and the attacker (about a sticks length), and try to stay in front of them. If the attacker moves back the mirror goes forward, if they move forward, the mirror moves back, etc. To make it challenging have the attacker and mirror each hold opposite ends of a string with two fingers, the mirror tries to maintain possession of their end of the string while the attacker is trying to use quick movements to break free.
There are lots of creative ways to work on individual skills in the off season that are fun, and with a timer it’s easy to find and measure success! What other creative ways do you improve when you aren’t at practice with your teammates or coach?