Straight Shooters: How to Become a Ladies' Man
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I have been playing /coaching lax for over 25 years and I have been in Maryland, New York and Texas (go figure). However, it has all been boys'/men's lax. I donated five hours of coaching and a stick to a charity auction, and the winner has two ladies who play for a local high school. One is a freshman and the other a senior. I want to honor my commitment to the organization and, more importantly, for the development of the game. I am lost. While I admire the grace and elegance of the ladies' game, I have no idea how to help them. I have no idea about the drills you might do that are different, or some of the tricks of the trade. I want to give them a good experience and keep them playing.
I also committed to two sticks. They are both rookies who have been borrowing sticks for games. Do you have any Web sites or training tips to help me help them? Also, what sticks should I get them. (Do you have any spares? Haha!)
Women's lax is growing in the Lone Star state and I want to
help. Any advice is appreciated.
LCDR Michael Hamilton, USNR
While this probably seems a little daunting, there are actually
a lot of similarities between the men’s and women’s
games, so I think you do have a tremendous amount that you can
share. And I think that any player, regardless of gender, can
benefit from the perspective of another good player.
So with that said, because both players seem to be rookies, I would start with the basics and tailor your approach to their skills. Think of drills you can do with both, seeing as they have some significant difference in their ages and positions. Begin with catching and throwing and teach them good technique. The women’s technique is very similar to the men’s, but involves the arms a little bit more since we don’t have deep pockets. Basically, you want to make sure that their arms are loose, the stick isn’t held too tightly into the body, that the stick head is back when they begin to throw and not held awkwardly in front of their shoulder, and that their bottom hand and elbow are held away from their body to give them maneuverability and not tight into their chest, restricting their ability to throw from any position to any player.
The actual throwing motion is a push/pull – pushing with the top hand, pulling with the bottom hand, and snapping the wrists to get a hard, direct pass off. Teach them to step with the opposite foot and follow through -- the bottom hand should end up in front of their chest or across their body (two different ways to teach it), and the top hand pointing to their target. (This is pretty much all the same, right?)
Catching is pretty much the same in both games as well; you just
have to emphasize the “giving” part since women
don’t play with big pockets.
I would have them stand apart and pass and catch in a stationary manner, taking a step back every 10 or so catches. I’ve found that having them put some muscle behind their throws will help you to better assess their form. After they seem warmed up, have them catch and throw with their non-dominant hand. Then catch right handed, switch hands, throw left handed and vice versa. It sounds insignificant, but depending on how “beginner” each is, teaching them how to position their stick to catch balls coming to different places around their body can be really helpful too. When this starts to get boring, have them run down a field in parallel, throwing and catching on the run. Any other drills to get them moving while working on their stick skills would be great too.
With five hours, you have a lot to cover! I would also teach stick protection, which is pretty much the same in the men’s and women’s games. Have one player plant one foot (you can’t move this foot) and pivot while the other player tries to check her stick. (Make sure they’re careful with the checking -- quick down-up release, no swinging across or into the body or head, stick-to-stick contact only). The girl that is pivoting must protect her stick by positioning her body between her stick and the defender, or by holding her stick in a position that is difficult to check. The defender has to try to check her stick, so by lunging and moving around, it forces the offensive player to pivot and protect. You can also have them weave in and around cones, the cones representing opposing players, and show them where to cradle/position their stick to protect it from the “cones.”
After going over these essentials, I would start picking up the pace. Teach shooting, from farther out and in close (remember stick protection when cranking the stick back to shoot, or when shooting in close around the cage). Show them the hardest shots for a goalie to save. Pick a target and have them try to hit it. Feed them from behind and from either side of the cage so they learn to shoot on the run. Have them work on give and goes, “quick sticks,” etc.
Keep it fun. Maybe throw in trick shots, like “behind-the-backs” if you think they can handle it -- I always loved learning those types of things.
I’d also do 1-on-1 ground balls to cage. Have the player
that didn’t pick up the ball play defense all the way back
in. Maybe have the player who picked up the ball pass to you and
receive a pass back before she is allowed to shoot. You get the
picture -- anything to work on their skills and make the drill more
If they’re handling all of this well, I would then teach game concepts. Though the men’s and women’s games do differ, a lot of the techniques, especially on offense, are the same. You could work on 1-on-1 offensive moves, and defensively, how to position your feet to defend a 1-on-1 and see both ball and your mark. (Emphasize communication as well for both offense and defense).
Teach dodges, picks, the importance of pivots and change of
direction and speed, where and when to cut to and from (run through
the ball when receiving a pass), etc. Help them to identify
situations in which they are in the best position to take the ball
to cage or make a move, and when it is best to help out a teammate
in a better position.
Defensive concepts might be a little tricky, since there is some definite difference there, but you can teach them how to guard a pick (switch or stay on), how a defense slides to double team (leaving the farthest defender to guard two attackers, or those in the worst scoring position). Remember, defense in the women’s game is a lot like defense played in basketball. It’s all about footwork and positioning, and preventing the opposing player from receiving a pass or driving to goal without direct body-to-body contact. You can hold your ground and guide an opposing player away from the cage (so obviously some contact would occur in this situation), but you can’t forcefully use your body to physically direct a player one way or the other.
It might help to go the NCAA Web site and download the women’s rule book. I wouldn’t necessarily read the whole thing, but it does have pictures of what the 8-meter arc and 12-meter arc (the area in front of the cage) look like and some of the basic rules about checking and fouls. It might be good to be familiar with some of the most basic lingo in case they have questions.
To end, I would throw in some fun stick tricks. After the above, which can be challenging, it’s good to end on a light note.
Hopefully this is a good start!
In terms of sticks, you really can’t go wrong with any that are out there. I would absolutely donate some of mine, but I have finally run out! I personally think STX and de Beer currently make the best women’s sticks, though Brine is coming right along.
ABOUT STRAIGHT SHOOTERS
We get questions all the time to which, frankly, we don't have the answers. Luckily, we've got four pros on hand.
Matt Zash, a former Duke All-American, currently plays for the NLL's New York Titans and MLL's Long Island Lizards. Lindsey Biles a former Princeton All-American and Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, ranks second all-time among scorers there. Rashad Devoe is a lacrosse-specific strength and conditioning coach that has worked with some of the best players in the country for over 13 years. Nathaniel Badder is the officials training and education manager for US Lacrosse.
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