September 11, 2007

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Sept. 11, 2007

Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of Lacrosse magazine in July 2006. If there's a topic you'd like to see covered in the "Classroom," e-mail section editor Matt DaSilva at mdasilva@uslacrosse.org.


by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Like the driving range in golf, a punching bag in boxing or the batting cage in baseball, "the wall" is a place where repetition breeds skill, and fundamentals are of the essence.

To a fault, lacrosse players oftentimes treat wall ball as a stationary activity. Bad habits can materialize just as easily as good ones when the moving fundamentals are not implemented. Peter Worstell, a former four-time All-American at Maryland and a high school coach in California, offers a wall-ball workout that is diverse and, if done properly, tiresome.

Worstell, who presented a live field demonstration in January at the 2006 US Lacrosse National Convention, calls wall ball "a topic that I am very, very passionate about, although it's a topic that isn't the most glamorous."

Speaking to convention-goers in front of a collapsible practice wall, Worstell contended: "There's a tendency for [players] to take their game from `A' and `B,' and go right to `Z.' We have a habit of saying to a guy, `Michael, you really have to go out and hit a wall.' But how many times have we showed Michael what that looks like?"

With Worstell's help and input from some other popular wall drill engineers, the Lacrosse Classroom took recess outdoors and hit the bricks. Next time you go out to a wall, follow these guidelines, and you'll be housing line drills by the time next season surfaces.

Right Hand, Left Hand: 50 reps each

Start off standing 10-15 feet from the wall, with your feet spread in throwing position, perpendicular to the wall. Having the step already in place allows you to concentrate on the upper body mechanics of throwing -- keeping your biceps by your ear, your hips and shoulders creating a torque motion, snapping the wrist of your top hand and fashioning a full follow-through.

Do 25 reps on each hand. They should be rapid (an optimal wall ball workout lasts about 30 minutes). Then move to within 5 feet of the wall, choke up on your stick handle, and repeat reps of 25 on your right and left hands.

"It's about wall work. I want reps. Forget how many times you drop the ball. You want to dial in on the fundamentals," Worstell says. "Push yourself a little bit. The beauty of a wall: the darned thing just doesn't make mistakes. You do, but it doesn't."

Throw Right, Catch Left and Vice Versa: 50 Reps

Move back to within 10-15 feet and square off to the wall. Only this time, catch with the opposite hand with which you throw. Your upper body mechanics should remain tight, but your aim should be for an off-center spot on the wall that will make the ball return to your opposite side. Do this 50 times per session, and you'll be much more comfortable making offside catches and transferring hands.

In Close: 20 reps right, 20 reps left

Staying within 5 feet of the wall, square off to it, this time taking the hips and shoulders out of the equation and allowing you to focus solely on the wrist action of throwing. Maintaining a wide base with your arms out in front of you, throw 10 times right and 10 times left, emphasizing the wrist snap and utilizing a quick cradle and release. For those interested in ulterior motives, this also builds muscle in your forearms.

Then, alternate hands, transferring in between each throw. Do this 10 more times on each hand without cradling, and your stick speed will benefit. Choke up on the stick if need be.

For your own purposes, try some variety. Start out in the perpendicular stance for five reps, and then open up square to wall for five reps, and repeat. Alternating stances creates cardiovascular work. Also, if you're comfortable enough, don't cradle -- try quick sticking while you're close to the wall. Finally, if you're really comfortable in tight, try doing it one-handed.

Add the Step: 25 reps right, 25 reps left

Drop back about 20 feet. Maintaining the upper body mechanics, add the step to the throwing motion, targeting a spot on the wall.

Sprint Laterally, Catch Backhand: 25 reps right, 25 reps left

Since you've implemented footwork, move up to within 15 feet of the wall, and work laterally while practicing backhanded catches. Starting with your right hand, throw across your body, run left, and catch the ball backhanded like an outlet pass over your right shoulder. Then switch to your left hand, throw across your body, run right and make the same backhanded catch over your left shoulder.

Laterally, this should act more like a shuttle run, sprinting about 5 feet in between throws. Do this 25 times on each hand.

For more advanced wall-ballers, repeat as desired while getting in close to simulate forced feeds in the crease and around the cage. Or square off for a set of backhanded quick-sticks.

Split Dodge: 25 reps right, 25 reps left

A wall ball fallacy is that the exercise is one only of throwing and catching. Really, the wall is an ideal place to perfect your split and face dodges, too. You're already moving laterally -- why not work the split in? Again, fundamentals are key. When using a split dodge, there should always be at least one hand on the stick -- you're not just tossing the stick from one hand to the other. Worstell calls it a "golden rule" of the split dodge that "your bottom hand tells your top hand, `Get out of there. I'm coming through.'"

Throw right, catch right, dip over to your left; throw left, catch left, dip over to your right. Do this 25 times on each hand, using the same shuttle-type movement as mentioned above, practicing the transfer of hands so that it happens tight across your face. As Worstell says, if fundamentals are sound, "you should hear the stick whizzing by your ear."

Face Dodge: 25 reps right, 25 reps left

Ditto. Make sure that when you whip the ball across your face, you're doing so from ear-to-ear, and not exposing your stick outside of that tight semicircle. This also means having the right throwing mechanics to receive the ball in this position.

Behind the Back: 25 reps right, 25 reps left

These days, behind-the-back passes and shooting are considered fundamental. While you can square off to the wall, the perpendicular stance is probably more appropriate since you're seldom facing the target when throwing behind the back. Regardless, for this to be an effective drill, you must continue releasing from behind your ear for the return to be catchable.
For more wall-ball practice tips, Peter Worstell's "Basic Wall Work" video is available for sale at the US Lacrosse Online Store. Click here.
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