Every lacrosse player born in the US has gotten plenty of stick skill instruction on how and when to use the stick on both sides of the body. Now, more youth players are growing up playing both Box and Field Lacrosse, and having some really great success with it.
Traditional "American Style" Lacrosse Wisdom says, "you have to pass or shoot right-handed here, but left-handed over here," etc., etc. But these old rules are falling by the side as more and more Canadian Box-style players are doing it all using pretty much just their dominant side, sometimes even just one hand.
Could all those hours at practice spent on line drills be put to better use? Perhaps. It's probably worth noting here that we don't see a whole lot of Line Drills going on at Box Lacrosse practices. Canadian and Box coaches tend to go more directly into dodging and finishing drills and 2-on-1 situations, after maybe banging the ball off the boards for just a couple minutes.
Don't get the wrong message. We still very loudly and clearly agree that every beginning lacrosse player should develop muscle memory for throwing, catching and scooping with two hands on the stick on both sides of the body. In fact, we know plenty of coaches that say you should practice the weak side twice as much as the strong side. The extra work benefits coordination for both sides. But most importantly, they can do this on their own outside of practice.
Related: Check out our Wall Ball Workouts for more help with this.
We are also saying that, in game situations, whatever works is what your players should do. Can you imagine telling Mark Mathews which hand he has to use? What would you tell one of the Thompson kids, who have been playing literally their entire lives? As coaches, our job is to put our players into positions to be successful. If they are more comfortable and confident using their strong side, then why not take advantage of that? You can save yourself tons of practice time if you don't obsess over which you hand you have to use in which situations.
The same thing goes for raking ground balls. If your players make it work, then get in that scrum and rake all you want. The expression "by all means" fits quite nicely here.
It may seem old school, but we like putting the "Righties" on the right side of the field and the "Lefties" on the left side (when looking out from the Goal). The Canadians have been doing this for decades, and it's no accident. From "their side of the field" they can be more effective with their dominant hand and keep their sticks up-field and to the inside where they will get better shooting angles. More coaches now are designing their offenses to start their players in dodging positions where their shot angles actually increase with each step, instead of decrease.
Most of us here grew up with coaches that taught us the classic 2-3-1 Alley Dodge. Your players need to know this move and practice this shot. It's a classic for a reason. Kyle Harrison pretty much made his starting spot at Hopkins from '02-05 off Split Dodges down the Alley and righty jump shots on the run. Paul Rabil was doing the same thing on both sides of the field when he was at Hopkins from '05-08.
Figure 1.) The left-to-right Split Dodge from the Goalie's top left down the Alley has been everybody's go-to move for the past 30 years or so. But this does give lots of younger players trouble, even though it is one of the first plays taught by most coaches. Shooting with the right hand on this side of the goal, the shooting angle actually gets smaller and smaller with each step as you run down the side of the goal.
Figure 2.) Here's an example of designing your Offense to give your players better shooting angles for their strong hand. Teach your Righties to Sweep Dodge from the top right or right wing (when looking out from the Goal or Goalie) into the middle (or "Slot") and look for a nice right-handed shot on the run. The shooting angles starting from this side of the field actually increase as they move across the face of the goal!
Figure 3.) From the same position at the top right, teach your Righties to throw the ol' Face Dodge, or "S" Dodge and go down the Alley. When you get to a good shooting position, reach inside with the stick on the right side for a much better shooting angle than putting the stick on the left. If the stick had eyes, it could literally "see" much more open goal from the inside.
If your players dodge too far down the Alley, teach them to "Roll Back" into the middle next, still with the stick in the right hand for the best shot with the best shooting angle.
Even though it goes against conventional wisdom, let them take that righty shot instead of saying "you have to switch and shoot left here." Unless you have a really dedicated athlete, honestly- how good is that lefty shot on the run going to be? You can save yourself tons of practice time if you don't obsess over which you hand you have to use in which situations.
Of course all of these ideas translate over to the other side of the field for your Lefty players. In a perfect world, we would all have players that can just do everything- righty, lefty, down the alley, into the slot, etc., etc.
We hope you can add some of these tips and tricks to the rest of your Tool Box to give your players many different ways to win and be successful!