Fundamental Skills Analysis: Stickwork



  • Start with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the stick at shoulder-width apart, shoulders facing (Beginners) or perpendicular (Intermediate/Advanced) to the target; with the player’s head also facing the target. Sometimes choking up on the shaft of the stick can also be effective in tight spaces during game play, and might well be more comfortable for younger players (one of the most common mistakes players make when beginning the game is using a stick that is too long (34” minimum, 42” maximum).
  • Grip the stick on whatever side feels most natural (for all drills), using an alternate “lax” grip (bottom-hand = overhand grip, top-hand = underhand grip) with the shaft resting on the lower part of the fingers (not the palms) and the thumbs of the player running parallel along back of the shaft (relaxed grip aka “soft hands”); the stick “head” should start in the “the box” beside the player’s ear ("10 & 2 o'clock").
  • Players prepare to pass by pointing their lead elbow at the target, bringing their weight onto their back foot, and at the same time reaching their arms straight back ("arms up and away") and then transferring their body weight forward from the trail leg to the front leg. The bottom hand pulls down on the "butt-end" of the stick and is primarily responsible for shot power. The top-hand will simultaneously push forward and is primarily responsible for accuracy. Ultimately both hands work in tandem to effectively manipulate the stick, utilizing a snap of the wrists (simultaneous push/pull) for a “quick release.”
  • When shooting, remember the BEEF principles: Balance (stance), Eyes (on target), Elbows (reaching back, tight to the body), and Follow Through (towards target). Initiate the movement while standing perpendicular to the target and stepping and planting with the lead foot pointed toward the target. Otherwise, time permitting, use a baseball-like “crow hop” to generate momentum, with players bringing their hands slightly closer together during the shooting process (slide top hand down). All other technique is similar passing, with the only major differences being the use of a more aggressive hip rotation while bringing the stick square to the target, which creates a more powerful shot. “In-tight,” shot power is less important, instead favouring quick release using the arms and wrists. Being able to shoot with power and speed is essential, but accuracy is the most important (there is generally a speed/accuracy trade-off).
  • Being able to compromise for “body momentum” while shooting/passing on-the-run is an almost entirely unique skill in itself, other than having similar mechanics overall. The key is getting good arm extension and hip/shoulder rotation, while simultaneously still following through toward the target (for emphasis have players try shooting while kneeling - or with stick behind body and pressed up against lower back).


Points of Emphasis:

  • Hold the “shaft” of the stick using an alternate "lax" grip, at the base of the fingers for maximum feel and comfort.
  • There is an understanding in lacrosse that wherever a player is holding their stick is the target where they want the ball to be passed to them. Ideally, the “head” of the stick should be completely square (open) to the ball and be about 6 inches in front the body at the start of any catching action. In most cases this is best accomplished beside the player’s ear (in "the box") which makes it easiest for them to deliver a "quick" pass or shot after catching the ball. After catching any errant passes the stick/ball should be returned back into “the box” as soon as possible, ready to make a play with the ball.
    • Catching the ball is all about having "soft hands." Imagine that someone is throwing an egg at you to catch and how you would cushion it as it approaches; absorb the ball by "giving" with the ball, pulling your hands in towards your body. The most common error in that sense is players throwing their stick (reaching) at the ball as it comes, with rigid/flexed muscles (relax!). Instead, they should wait for the ball to arrive with relaxed fingers and bring their stick head back slightly (even with or slightly behind their head), cushioning the ball as it enters (just like receiving a pass in hockey).
    • For Beginners it is often easiest to slide their top hand from shoulder-width apart, further up the shaft towards the head of the stick. This makes it that much easier to follow the ball into the stick with one’s eyes, and also to manipulate the stick into the proper position to catch the ball. Otherwise, this technique might also be used to catch a long and/or hard pass that is tight to one's body.
    • More Advanced players may choose to keep their hands shoulder-width apart while catching, depending on the situation. During the game, rarely will the ball be passed square to the stick from a teammate, so players must get used to catching the ball from all directions. The best players need to be able to catch passes everywhere including: stationary, across their body, high or low, on the run, and over their shoulder while “facing away” from or running in the opposite direction of the passer.
    • If the ball is passed across the player’s body (i.e. right side of a “left-handed” player) they should turn their hips and bring their entire stick over to their right side, with their stick head exposed to the ball.
    • Players should not twirl their stick after receiving a pass which is a bad habit and could be the difference between getting a shot/pass off, or not.
  • Categories: Drillbook / Stickwork