The sport of lacrosse is always evolving, and even the simplest drills sometimes need to be shaken up. Today, coaches at camps, clinics, and practices all across the nation are rethinking one of the most basic and familiar drills in the game--the Man/Ball Drill--and working with players to think ball first, hit second.
When all of us here were beginning lacrosse players, we spent tons and tons of time at practice on the good ol' "Man/Ball" Drill--just like you probably did. There were plenty of days where our coaches thought we were being "soft," or didn't think we really wanted to be at practice. So we would all line up in three lines. Two guys would take turns hitting the third guy as soon as coach threw out the loose ball. Actually getting the ground ball seemed to be an after-thought.
"Ball/Man" vs "Man/Ball"
We've all seen how this hit-first mentality actually works in a real game--somebody goes "Man!" for the big hit and lets the loose ball roll right by. With this in mind, more and more coaches are teaching their players to play "Ball/Man" instead, where everyone on your team always goes for the "Ball!" first.
Ground Balls Win Games. Always play the ball. The ball scores goals, not big hits. Even if you watch the big time college players on TV, they are always going for the "Ball!" in loose ball situations.
Especially with the new rules changes in 2014 in the NFHS and NCAA that make hits to a "defenseless player" a two- or three-minute non-releasable penalty, teaching your players to go for big hits on the "Man!" could seriously penalize your team and possibly cause you to lose games.
NFHS Rule 5.3.5: Illegal Body Check:
A body check that targets a player in a defenseless position. This includes but is not limited to: (i) body checking a player from his “blind side”; (ii) body checking a player who has his head down in an attempt to play a loose ball; and (iii) body checking a player whose head is turned away to receive a pass, even if that player turns toward the contact immediately before the body check.
PENALTY: Penalty for violation of Article 5 is a two- or three-minute non-releasable foul, at the official’s discretion. An excessively violent violent of this rule may result in an ejection.
We know that there are lots of coaches and players out there that are mourning the demise of the textbook body check during a loose ball.
But with so much recent research about concussions and brain damage that result from hits to defenseless players, the new rules are clearly necessary. Especially in Youth Sports.
You can't even play "Man/Ball" in Box or Indoor Lacrosse rules. So, with more and more young players growing up playing Box Lacrosse and Field Lacrosse, we at LaxLibrary think "Ball/Man" is going to become the new standard.
You can still work the same Ground Ball Drills that you are used to running in your practices. You just change your point of emphasis from teaching your young players to go for the big hit to always going for the "Ball!" This new emphasis is not just for your players' safety, but also proves more effective if you want to win games. We'll say it again: Ground Balls Win Games.
Try it out and let us know how it goes for your team!