March 26, 2007
Note: The instructional material in this article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of the May 2006 issue of Lacrosse magazine. For your monthly dose of "Classroom" material, become a member of US Lacrosse and begin receiving your monthly issues of LM. If you have a topic you'd like to see covered in the "Classroom," e-mail section editor Matt DaSilva at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Alex Smith, Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
(Alex Smith, a senior face-off specialist for the University of Delaware, set another NCAA record March 15 when he won his 846th career faceoff in the Blue Hens' loss to Georgetown. Here, Smith reveals his secrets firsthand.)
Get Your Clamp On
Clamping is the most effective way to win faceoffs in college lacrosse. While clamping, a few general rules are to stay low, and always step with your right foot.
In your stance, your feet should be about shoulder-width apart, maybe more. Both feet should be pointed toward the opposing player -- not toward the goal or a wing player. Crouch down and get comfortable in your new stance. Your back should be flat, with just a little arc towards the ball. Both elbows should be inside your knees. This allows you to utilize the power in your legs for your initial move.
Hand position on the faceoff is crucial. When I was younger, I was always taught to face double-over, which is also known as "the motorcycle grip." By clamping double-over, a player not only gets lower, but also receives more power in his moves. Your hands should be 8-12 inches apart on the stick. In addition, you want to have both hands cocked back, ready to clamp on top of the ball. A general rule with face-offs and hand position is to stay light on your hands -- never put too much weight on them!
With this move, the goal is to clamp the ball in your stick and create an offensive fast break. When clamping, punch both hands hard into the other person's stick, creating a "wedge" where your stick can get over the ball before your opponent's. After you clamp on top of the ball, push your top hand down, and lift your bottom hand up. This allows you to "pinch" the ball into your stick. Once the ball is successfully pinched, pull it around your opponent and in front of him, creating a fast break off the face-off.
Clamping behind should have identical technique to clamping forward, with the only difference being ball placement. When clamping behind, clamp and step with your right foot, just as you would when clamping forward. However, instead of "pinching" it forward, after the ball is clamped, slide it through your legs behind you. Then, open up your stance, blocking out an opposing player, and scoop the loose ball. When clamping behind, it is important to remember a few key things:
1. Don't pull the ball out too far. Sometimes clampers lose control of the ball and the ball will go out of bounds or over the restraining line, creating a 50-50 situation.
2. Use your wingmen. If you feel you can clamp and pull the ball to your wingmen without creating a 50-50 situation, then use them.
3. Use your goalie. If need be, use your goalie as an outlet.
We Be Jammin'
Jamming occurs when a player "jams" the opposing player's stick head and body. Perform this move by sliding your stick over the ball and holding down the opposing player's stick head and arms. Then, you should rake the ball behind him with his stick head.
When to use a jam:
1. When an opposing player is successfully clamping against you.
2. When an opposing player is fast-breaking you.
Things to remember:
1. When jamming, jam just over the ball, or the opposing player will be able to push you back.
2. Get in and out quickly -- try not to lay on top of the ball.
(Note: The jam is primarily a defensive move! Very few players ever use a jam as a primary move. Use it as a counter if your primary move, the clamp, is not working against an opponent.)
Wing play is one of the most important aspects of facing off. A face off midfielder with great wing play can raise his percentages much higher with proper communication. Always line your wingmen up close to the opposing players so they can attempt to "box out." When boxing out, instruct your wing guy to make his first step off of the line in front of the opposing player, making it tougher for him to get an angle on the ball. On wing play, make sure that the best two ground ball guys on your team are always out on the field. In addition, your wingmen should know to break upfield if you get the ball for an unsettled situation.