Focus on Scooping Through the Ball
One of the most important fundamentals of securing ground balls in lacrosse is keeping your focus directly on the ball as you approach it. So many ground balls are bobbled or mishandled because players take their eyes off the ball to check their surroundings. While head awareness is crucial, you must zero in on the ball with laser-like focus as you initiate your approach. Keep your eyes glued to the ball so you track it properly into your crosse. Don’t worry about defenders positioning or teammates cutting – just hone in on the ball with tunnel vision. This simple tip will work wonders on having a “nose for the ball” and vacuuming up grounders. Keep your head still and your eyes fixed on the rolling ball like your stick is a vacuum attachment sucking it up with each step closer. Focusing intently on tracking the ball directly into your net will ensure a smooth scoop every time. Feel free to lift your eyes once the ball is fully secured to survey the field. But during ground ball pursuit, it’s all about eyeing up that ball with dedicated concentration. This fundamental skill is easy to incorporate and pays huge dividends toward efficiently gobbling up ground balls.
Use Proper Footwork and Body Positioning
Securing ground balls in lacrosse requires proper footwork and body positioning to gain maximum power and control. As you approach the ground ball, your stance should be athletic with knees bent, back straight, feet staggered, and head up. Drive off your back foot as you initiate contact with the ball, transferring power from the ground up through your legs. Keep your feet active and churning to propel yourself through the scooping motion. Fight pressure on the ground ball by getting low and coiling your body to generate torque when you make contact. With your lead hand down low on the stick, tilt the head perpendicular to the ball and drive forward, using your bottom hand to rake and lift up in one continuous, forceful motion. Keep the stick head flat and low to maximize surface area for scooping. Bring your lead elbow high and across your body, using your entire core to lock in the ball securely. Maintain balance through the scoop by keeping your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your weight centered. Don’t reach with your stick – bring your entire body weight over the ball to maintain leverage and power. With a strong athletic base and proper body positioning, you’ll have much greater success cleanly scooping ground balls. Utilize short choppy steps and quick bursts when pursuing ground balls to remain in an athletic position. Keep your core engaged and torso coiled to unleash power on contact. Proper footwork and body control when scooping is critical for gaining possession quickly and efficiently in scramble situations.
Keep Your Head Up When Scooping
While keeping your eyes locked on the ball is crucial for tracking it into your stick, you also need to keep your head up as you scoop ground balls in lacrosse. This allows you to see the field and defenders around you so you can protect yourself and the ball. As you approach the ground ball, focus visually on the ball but keep your chin up and peripheral vision open. Scan for cutting teammates or oncoming defenders so you know where pressure is coming from. Use your lead arm to fend off checks and maintain separation after scooping the ball. Keep your elbows out and play physically through the ball to absorb contact. Cradle the ball high and tight to your shoulder right away, snapping your wrists to secure possession. Immediately look upfield as you gain control to spot open cutters or gaps in the defense to attack. Keep your legs churning after scooping ground balls so you can evade pressure and maintain balance through contact. Condition yourself to automatically whip your head up after securing ground balls rather than staring at the ball in your stick. This allows you to see the whole field and make your next move whether it’s passing, dodging, or sprinting upfield. While eyeing the ball for scooping is critical, also keeping your head up and your field vision open is vital for retaining possession and transitioning quickly upfield after securing loose balls.
Use a Stick With a Deep Pocket
Having a lacrosse stick with a deep pocket is beneficial for improving your ability to scoop up ground balls. A deeper pocket helps you secure the ball more easily by surrounding it and trapping it with a wider stringing bed and more mesh. This gives you a larger margin of error in tracking ground balls cleanly into your crosse. Work with your local lacrosse retailer or stringer to customize a pocket with extra mid to low-level whip and bag depth for increased ball retention. String your stick using soft mesh or leathers that mold around the ball and provide more holding power throughout your scooping motion. Using a wider, more pinched head shape also helps cradle ground balls by giving you more plastic to seal around the ball. Incorporate multiple shooting strings and tie-off points to create deeper sidewalls and a centered channel. You can toy with 4, 5 or 6 shooting string dual-layer setups to optimize ground ball scooping. Combine this with a powerfully strung mid-to-low pocket set to a steep angle, and you have the perfect ground ball scooping weapon. Don’t neglect practicing with your deep-pocketed stick to get the feel and enhance hand quickness. Proper stringing for ground balls requires some experimentation to find your perfect setup. But in general, maximize pocket depth, channel curvature and sidewall pinch for best ground ball play. With the right deep pocket designed for securing grounders, you’ll notice a marked improvement in cleanly gobbling up 50/50 balls.
Practice Scooping Ground Balls Daily
The old adage is true when it comes to mastering ground balls in lacrosse – perfect practice makes perfect. Diligently practicing scooping ground balls every day is essential for honing skills and developing confidence securing loose balls. Make a habit of integrating focused ground ball reps into every practice session and warm-up. Work on scoops from different angles and body positions – kneeling, squatting, lunging, inverted, etc. Roll and toss balls out in front of you with varying speed, spin and movement to mimic live ground ball action. Focus on different hand quickness and recovery drills for scooping to build dexterity. Do reps coming straight at the ball then hitting it on the run from the side shuffling your feet. Overload your stick handling and train reaction time by having a partner rapidly toss balls on the ground for you to scoop. Push yourself outside your comfort zone by picking up grounders around cones or focusing fully on scooping while being bumped or checked. Leverage competitive ground ball competitions in practice for extra motivation. Track your progress and set improvement goals like consistently securing 9 out of 10 ground balls. There are so many ways to creatively train scooping skills. The key is putting in the work daily to build muscle memory. Ten perfect repetitions a day beats fifty sloppy ones. For the best results, maintain laser focus, high intensity and purposeful technique each ground ball rep.
Develop Quick Hands to Gain Possession
Having fast, dexterous hands is a huge asset for efficiently scooping up ground balls in lacrosse. The ability to swiftly control your stick and manipulate the ball separates the battle-tested ground ball hounds. Work on hand quickness drills like ball slaps, claps and wraps to increase speed. Use wall ball sessions to develop rapid stick movements through challenging reactionary exercises. Strengthen your forearms, wrists and hands in the weight room for better control and snap. One great skill builder is the top hand scoop drill. With your bottom hand off the stick, focus on scooping grounders using only your lead hand to guide the head. This trains quick hand-eye coordination and fast adjustments necessary for wrangling ground balls. During live ground ball scrambles, initiate contact with your bottom hand low on the shaft to dig under the ball. Then instantly slide your top hand down to lift through the scoop in one lightning fast motion. Keeping soft, flexible hands allows you to feather the ball into the pocket as well. Avoid “alligator arming” ground balls by locking up tense hands. Even slight hesitations due to stiff hands will foil your ground ball efforts. The best shortstick defenders exhibit remarkable hand speed and dexterity to emerge from scrums with the ball. Dedicate training time to drills that enhance hand quickness, flexibility and control to master ground ball possessions.
Perfect the Art of Cradling After Securing the Ball
Cradling technique is a vital yet often overlooked component to ensuring ground ball success in lacrosse. Scooping ground balls means nothing if you cannot properly cradle the ball to maintain possession. As soon as you make contact during ground ball scoops, aggressively snap your wrists and start cradling. Keep the head tucked tight to your lead shoulder with elbows out to shield the stick. Cradle with a quick, narrow motion to keep the ball deep and secure. Avoid over-cradling in wide sweeps that expose the ball. Use your entire body as you cradle, not just your arms. Drive off your legs and rotate your core to add power and fluidity. For added protection, cradle the ball on the opposite side of your body from approaching defenders. Develop dexterity cradling with both hands to enable quick stick transitions. Maintain firm pressure with your bottom hand while lightly guiding with your top hand. Let the motion come from your wrists and fingers for optimal control. Anchoring the butt end against your body adds stability during cradling. Treat ground ball cradling reps like you would shooting or passing practice. Mastering a strong, protective cradle is the finishing touch to ensuring ground balls lead to offensive opportunities.The most proficient ground ball lacrosse players scoop and cradle in one seamless, synchronized sequence. Integrate cradling technique into all of your ground ball training for best results.
Work on Approaching Ground Balls from Different Angles
To truly excel at ground balls, lacrosse players must master scooping from all angles and body positions. Avoid just going through the motions scooping balls head-on during practice. Challenge yourself by intentionally approaching grounders from different perspectives to expand versatility. Sprint up on ground balls diagonally to mimic pursuing in live play. Work on scooping to your forehand and backhand off both feet. Practice coming across your body and scooping back against your momentum. Scoop grounders while kneeling, squatting, jumping or stutter stepping to build body control. Have a teammate roll you hoppers, top-spun worm-burners and choppy skipped balls to handle unpredictable hops. Turn your back to the ball, then pivot and locate it for quick reaction training. Lean and contort your body to scoop outside your center of gravity. The wider your scooping repertoire through angled reps, the more ground balls you will corral in games. Don’t become content just scooping stationary balls straight on. Strive to master the unorthodox, off-balance angles that transpire in live play. Stepping outside your comfort zone prepares you to excel when ground balls take difficult bounces or sits in traffic. Expand your scooping arsenal and gain an edge tracking down scrappy 50/50 balls.
Stay Low to the Ground When Scooping
Bending your knees and getting low to the ground is essential for scooping up ground balls in lacrosse. The lower you can get your body, the more power and control you generate scooping. As you close in on ground balls, drop your center of gravity by sitting back into an athletic stance. Keep your feet staggered and your butt down to achieve maximum leverage. Maintain a straight back and forward lean from your hips to dig into the ball. Explode up through your legs as you make contact, driving with your quads and glutes. Let your legs do the work so your stick and hands follow through cleanly. Getting lower than your opponent gives you the leverage advantage to emerge with possession. Use lateral shuffling or choppy steps to drop even lower when tracking bouncing grounders. With proper knee bend and a low base, you can adjust on the fly to handle bad hops and pick through traffic. Initiating scoops too high exposes your stick to checks and reduces bodyweight behind the ball. Whenever possible, attack ground balls by sinking your hips and getting compact. Keep extra focus on low positioning during box lacrosse play. The tighter confines require staying pad-level low to scoop through sticks and feet. Even slight improvements getting low boosts your ground ball prowess.
Use Your Body to Shield the Ball
Using your body as a shield is crucial for securing ground balls and maintaining possession in lacrosse. As defenders converge trying to jar the ball free, physically protect it with your frame. Keep your elbows out and the stick head tucked tightly into your lead shoulder after scooping. Drop your lead shoulder and drive forward, rolling off contact to maintain balance. Use your free arm to fend off stick checks and clear space. Spin or turn away from defenders, pivoting to keep your body between them and the ball. Sink your hips and remain compact, allowing your core strength to absorb checks. Call for help and use teammates as picks when you anticipate slide defenders pursuing you. Shield ground balls longer before attempting outlet passes so you don’t rush and turn it over. Condition yourself to automatically protecting the ball upon scooping rather than admiring your work. Clearing space with your frame requires fast footwork, coordination and field awareness. But even subtle improvements using your body to shield ground balls translates into more possessions and transition chances. Don’t settle for just scooping grounders. Fight to seal off stick pressure and secure the ball under duress. Take pride in your physical shielding prowess after ground balls.
React Quickly to Loose Ball Situations
Speed and reaction time are decisive difference-makers in securing contested ground balls in lacrosse. The faster you can locate and pursue loose balls, the better your chances of beating opponents to possession. Develop quick-twitch instincts by constantly scanning the field with active eyes to spot grounders immediately. Don’t ball-watch or get caught flat-footed when shots miss high or passes miss their targets. Explode into pursuit by initiating with your first step in the proper direction. Use fast lateral slides or crossover steps to close ground quicker while keeping your head up. Call out “ball!” loudly so teammates alertly locate grounders. Bring relentless hustle and intensity chasing every potential ground ball, even if you aren’t the closest player. Be willing to lay out sacrificially and hit the deck to beat opponents to 50/50 balls. Work on reaction drills like ground ball box games that force quick reads and explosive scooping. Even marginal improvements in reaction time and pursuit speed pay big possession dividends over the course of a game. Your effort and urgency pursuing grounders also motivates teammates. Bring energy andtempo in transition to run the opposition ragged. Outworking opponents for ground balls comes down to reacting quickly and decisively in loose ball situations.
Box Out Opponents to Gain Possession
Boxing out like a basketball rebounder is an invaluable technique for gaining an edge on contested ground balls in lacrosse. As ground balls sit in a scrum, legally use your body to establish inside position on your opponent. Create space by cutting them off with your backside, then sealing their stick hand away from the ball. Drop step sideways and sink your weight into their frame to prevent them from reaching across you. Time your box out as the ball gets within a step of your stick to maximize your leverage advantage. Keep your hands free and high to fend off their checks. Use a wide athletic base for balance, keeping your feet wider than shoulder width. Condition yourself to instinctively throw a hip or shoulder to impede opponents pursuing the same ground ball. The more you can use size and strength to your advantage, the more 50/50 balls you will control. But even undersized players can learn to leverage body position and angles. Whichever direction the ball bounces, get your body in its path to cut off opponents. Mastering the subtle techniques of boxing out gives you an edge in scrums. Don’t just rely on stick checks and hustle. Be proactive disrupting your opponent’s positioning on ground balls to gain possession.
Follow the Ball All the Way Into Your Stick
One of the biggest mistakes lacrosse players make with ground balls is taking their eyes off the ball prematurely before it is fully secured in the head. For the best scooping results, remain hyper-focused tracking the ball all the way into the pocket. Avoid the temptation to look upfield before the ball is locked in and cradled safely. Keep your vision locked on the ball from first spotting it through your entire scooping motion until it nestles in the sweet spot. Don’t assume you have gathered it cleanly or get casual late in the scoop. Follow through and finish the ground ball by verifying the ball is seated properly in your stick head before moving on. This eye discipline takes concentration but ensures better possession results. Have a teammate hold you accountable by calling out any ground balls you look away from before complete control. Get low and exaggerate driving the top hand thumb down through the ball on each rep. Only once the ball is tucked securely into the pocket can your eyes resume surveying the field. Solid focus from start to finish on tracking grounders removes doubt and builds confidence. For long-term ground ball success, adopt the habit of staring each one into your stick.
Use Drills to Improve Ground Ball Skills
Dedicated, purposeful drills are instrumental for honing ground ball skills in lacrosse. Simply scooping random ground balls lacks the focus and intensity needed to drive improvement. Tailor drills that isolate and exaggerate the specific techniques you want to upgrade. Work on low scoops by stacking balls and only allowing yourself to use the bottom hand. Toss hoppers or erratic skips to sharpen hand-eye coordination adjusting to bad hops. Set up cone courses that force you to scoop grounders while navigating obstacles. Incorporate teammate defense by having them lightly pressure you or attempt checks from behind after you scoop. Focus on particular footwork patterns like lateral shuffle steps or changing direction during scooping. Track quantitative goals like “10 perfect scoops in a row” to monitor progress and maintain motivation. Break down advanced skills like pinning ground balls using your stick handle or lifting through traffic. Isolate weak hand development by scooping only with your off hand. Mix in competitive games or relays to inject energy and urgency. The training possibilities are endless provided you maintain a tight drill structure. Analyze the specific technical and physical ground ball skills you most want to upgrade, then design tailored drills that provide the perfect practice. Keep evolving your drills over time as mastery improves. Creativity, focus and repetition are key to drilling better ground ball play.
Watch Lacrosse Film to Learn Proper Technique
Studying video of elite lacrosse players securing ground balls is an outstanding educational resource. Modern technology provides a treasure trove of game film and highlight reels to break down proper scooping technique. Focus on how the pros approach ground balls by sprinting directly at the ball and getting compact and low. Note their body positioning with hips sunk, shoulders squared and head up. Observe how they track balls into the sweet spot with stiff follow-through. Watch how they protect ground balls by cradling high and tight with the elbow out. Look for subtle skills like using the free hand to fend off checks or pinning balls with the bottom hand. Pay attention to footwork patterns and weight transfer. Skilled players make ground ball scooping look effortless. Slow down video to detect nuances like angling the stick perfectly perpendicular to the ball. Contrast different players’ styles and physical attributes. Study field awareness and how they locate loose balls quickly amidst scrambles. Save clips of particularly impressive scoops to revisit and analyze. Seeing elite techniques on film provides an invaluable visual blueprint to model. Use video review to self-scout your own ground ball form and identify areas for improvement. There is no better way to learn proper fundamentals than watching the best in the game execute at the highest level.