May 1, 2007
by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
First things first: you're not Derek Jeter.
Seldom is it in lacrosse that you have the time to set your feet before shooting. You're likely to encounter a lift, a deflected shot or, in the best-case scenario, a goalie who has all day to size up your release.
So Jay Jalbert suggests that you leave the crow hops to the shortstops, and start early in your lacrosse development shooting on the run.
Jalbert, a former three-time All-American at Virginia and one of Major League Lacrosse's most feared shooters with the Long Island Lizards, says he never really thought of shooting on the run as a skill until he had to impart it on others. It was then that he realized it required its own set of mechanics and rules.
Here are a few pointers he came up with.
"I remember when I first started to force myself to do it lefty, it was just a really awkward thing. You're running, and you have to keep your whole upper body still, and still have torque," Jalbert says. "And I remember just fighting through that. It was a really difficult thing."
Remember the two Ts: torso and torque.
As opposed to a stationary shot, in which you can plant your feet and release it head-on, shooting on the run requires less of your legs to generate shot power. Most of it will come from your arms and midsection. Your legs, however, do generate the momentum, which is then converted by your upper body into shot power.
Approaching the cage as a righty, you should line up your shot four steps in advance. Jalbert calls it, simply, a run dodge. Draw your defender on your left hip while sweeping right. Take your first three steps down the alley -- left, right, left -- to get him there.
Then, on your fourth step, your right foot steps over your release point.
Allow your feet about a millisecond delay for your upper body to initiate shooting motion. Then whip your torso in a right-to-left motion toward the cage, and follow through with your arms and wrists as you would naturally.
(Approaching as a lefty, use the reverse footwork.)
Hand Position and Arm Angle
Before that fourth step, your hands should already be in a position to shoot.
As with any shot, your top hand should not be too close to the throat of the stick, because you will wind up pushing the ball.
But more so with shooting on the run, your top hand should not be too low, either. A lot of the whip is already generated by the torso-torque mechanic. Positioning your hands too low on the stick not only leaves you susceptible to a trail check, but it also decreases accuracy. A shot on the run is already less accurate than a stationary shot.
When you step over the release point with that fourth step, your hands should extend away from your body, elbows up, and ready to follow through on the torque created by your upper body.
Also, keep the stick "light in your hands," Jalbert advises. "A lot of real young players, they have that kung-fu grip," he says. "It should be tender."
As for arm angles, shooting on the run lends itself best to sidearm and overhand approaches. Choose the angle according to your position on the field.
If you're dodging across the goal, go ahead and shoot sidearm. This gives you a better angle and widens your options of where to shoot on the cage.
If you're coming down either alley -- called a "purple dodge" in Jalbert's days at Virginia -- an overhand shot works best.
Think of a spring-loaded gun. "My body gets small before I shoot," Jalbert says.
The more tightly wound your torso is upon your release, the more power you'll get on your shot. It means tightening up your abdomen by contorting your upper body and hips, and releasing that energy through your arms and wrists.
Lean into the goal when shooting to generate this effect.
Drills and Workouts
Your body wants to stop. It wants to stop and shoot. So practice everything in motion, without a ball, even.
Jalbert had an apple orchard in his backyard growing up. There were six trees in a row. To get used to shooting on the run, when he was younger, he would dodge each tree in succession, and practice getting his hands out into shooting position after each tree.
The same effect could be achieved with any row of obstacles. The important thing is that you never stop moving your feet.
As for developing muscles used while shooting on the run, the April edition of the Classroom ("Get Hard Core," pages 82-83) contained valuable workouts for strengthening your rotational core.
Got a topic you'd like to see covered in the Classroom? E--mail firstname.lastname@example.org.