Most coaches understand the critical nature of ground balls in determining who wins the game. We all talk about ground balls keep a close eye on ground ball statistics, but too often we use the same few worn out ground ball drills. Here are two additional ways to run ground ball drills to keep things fresh for players.
Soccer Turn Ground Ball Drill
Coach Cerino from Limestone has taken an everyday drill from soccer practice and uses it as a warm-up drill for lacrosse players and ground balls. It is basic, fast-paced, puts a lot of touches in a brief period of time, and can be run in a number of groups across the field. He refers to it as his "soccer turn ground ball drill." More and more college coaches are focusing on performing ground ball pick-ups with either hand. I now feel terrible; in 30 years (maybe like you), I have never focused very much on coaching pick-ups with either hand.
The drill is set up with two players in a straight line 10 yards apart. A third player is placed in the middle. One of the outside players rolls the ground ball to the player in the middle. He picks up the ground ball, immediately turns, switches hands, and fires a pass to the other outside player, who then quickly rolls the ball back and so on. The unique twist to this drill is that the player in the middle, the ground ball player, alternates picking up each ground ball, first right-handed and then, with the next ground ball, left-handed.
So, the player in the middle picks up the ground ball right-handed, turns/rolls to the outside, and splits to his left hand to throw the pass. The next ground ball he picks up left-handed, rolls outside, splits to his right hand, passes and so on.
The drill runs about 20-30 seconds for each whistle, when the three players rotate, outside to middle, etc. In seven or eight minutes, each player gets 50-60 ground balls and players get close to 120 or more touches. If you divide your team into groups of three and spread them across the field, you can accomplish a lot with touches and conditioning in a very short period of time.
Three Lines, Man vs. Man Ground Ball Drill
This is a unique take on the traditional three-man ground ball drill. The variation came from our interview with Coach Cottle from Maryland. In this drill, it sets up like a traditional three man-ball drill but with a unique twist. In this case, it is not two against one on the ground ball, but all three players competing as individuals for the ground ball. In other words, one against one against one. The ball is gently rolled out to 10-15 yards. Please do not roll the ball 20-30 yards away.
One player wins the ground ball battle, rolls to the outside, and quickly passes the ball back to the coach or a player standing outside the line. Immediately the two players who competed but did not pick up the ground ball have to compete again and get back in the original line. This time we have two players 1v1 competing as individuals. The player who wins the ground ball immediately rolls to the outside and fires a pass to the player standing next to the line. But we are not done yet.
The player who has not won a ground ball immediately gets back in line, and a ball is rolled out (for the third time). He picks up the ground ball, rolls to the outside, and passes to the player outside the lines, even though he is competing solo. So we actually run three sets with each group, and if you win a ground ball you are done.
Very quickly three new players step up, and the drill repeats itself. I love the elements of competition and reward, and our players love it as well. To keep things fast-paced and with a minimum of players standing around, we generally break the team into groups of seven or eight, and let the groups work without a coach, rolling out their own ground balls as well as a having player stationed outside the line to receive the passes. Remember to keep a pile of balls by each starting line so you can keep things moving!