Once you’ve taken that first big step to actually committing to the sport of lacrosse, it’s time to shift your sights to developing your game. As a complete beginner, it will take time to fully master the fundamentals, but there are a few strategies you can implement on your own to accelerate this process.
Here are several practical ways to get good at lacrosse fast:
- Keep a lacrosse stick in your hands everywhere you go.
- Always practice with your helmet and gloves on.
- Set a 20-minute daily wall ball routine.
- Experiment with stick tricks in your free time.
- Become a student of the game via YouTube & podcasts.
We will explore these strategies to a greater extent below, along with other effective strategies to improve your game quickly. Having experimented with many different types of practice strategies firsthand that resulted in both success and failure, I can say with confidence that this list only encompasses strategies that have been proven to work.
1.) Keep a Lacrosse Stick in Your Hands Whenever Possible
One tried and true way to improve your game quickly is to be nearly inseparable from your lacrosse stick.
What makes lacrosse somewhat difficult for beginners is the fact that players cannot directly interact with the ball with their hands. In other sports, like basketball or football for example, players contact the ball with their hands whenever they have to perform basic fundamental moves. They don’t have to rely so heavily on any one piece of gear to play their sport.
Lacrosse is different in that players must use their lacrosse stick to do practically anything significant with the ball. For beginners, carrying around a lacrosse stick almost always feels unnatural at first because they’re not used to the crutch of not being able to physically touch the ball.
Carry your lacrosse stick on the walk to school. Cram in some time on the stroll to the practice grounds. I even went as far to bring my lacrosse stick on our summer vacations, even though my family thought I was crazy for doing so.
If you want to build comfort with your lacrosse stick fast, this is the only way to do it. The time spent with your lacrosse stick during practices and games simply won’t be enough for you to see quick results.
It may sound bizarre, but you need to reach a point where your lacrosse stick feels like an extension of your arm. Only then will you have truly developed into a good lacrosse player.
2.) Always Practice with Your Helmet & Gloves On
The next tip you should implement to speed up your lacrosse development is to get into the habit of wearing your helmet and gloves. Ideally, you should practice with all your equipment on. This may not be the most convenient thing to do, but it’s one of the simplest ways to feel more at ease on the lacrosse field.
Too many times, lacrosse beginners grow sluggish in how they go about their practice sessions. They may not train at full speed or mentally dial in like they should. All practice sessions, regardless of whether you’re with a team or on your own, should be treated like the real game.
A major part of simulating live lacrosse gameplay is to get comfortable playing with the equipment. Since there’s so much mandatory protective equipment in lacrosse, it tends to get in the way more often than you would like, especially if you’re a beginner.
Wearing a lacrosse helmet, for instance, can be a major distraction for beginners. The chinstrap might be too tight, causing major discomfort that diverts their attention away from the game. The face mask bars may be positioned directly at the player’s eye level, compromising their field of vision.
Lacrosse gloves present an entirely different set of problems. The layer of material between a player’s hand and their stick can be somewhat unnerving, as it leads to a completely different feel. If a beginner relies too heavily on their sense of touch to guide their play, they are likely to see a dip in their performance come game time when they’re forced to put the gloves on.
These seemingly petty issues can add up if you fail to address them early. So take the time to both readjust the fit of your helmet and get acquainted with how your gloves feel. You will thank yourself later when it finally comes time to hit the field.
3.) Set a 20-Minute Daily Wall Ball Routine
Undoubtedly, the best method to improve quickly as a lacrosse player is to play wall ball. Ask any experienced lacrosse coach or player and they will say the same thing. Going out and playing wall ball every day is the single-most effective way to see results fast.
Put simply, wall ball—in the context of lacrosse—is the act of throwing a lacrosse ball against a solid wall (with a lacrosse stick), catching the ball as it bounces back, and repeating that same process over and over again.
It’s fairly uncomplicated, but many lacrosse beginners still choose to forgo wall ball simply because it’s too tedious. After all, throwing a ball against the same wall for twenty minutes everyday doesn’t seem like the most appealing thing in the world.
However, this sort of constant repetition is the only real way to sharpen your stick skills in a timely manner. There are few other practice methods where you can realistically accumulate this amount of training volume day after day.
It’s similar to shooting a basketball or hitting a baseball pitch. If you’re serious about taking your lacrosse game to the next level, you have to notch a considerable amount of passing and catching repetitions under your belt, to the point you don’t even have to think twice about it.
The unfortunate truth in lacrosse is that you can never be too talented for wall ball. Even professional lacrosse players—like Paul Rabil, Marcus Holman and Jordan Wolf—play wall ball on a consistent basis to keep their stick skills sharp.
Sample Wall Ball Routine to See Quick Results
If you’re at a loss for what sort of wall ball routine to follow, you can draw inspiration from Jordan Wolf’s wall ball routine by watching the clip below:
|Wall Ball Exercise||Amount of Reps|
|Throw Right & Catch Right||100|
|Throw Left & Catch Left||100|
|Throw Right & Catch Right on the Run||20|
|Throw Left & Catch Left on the Run||20|
|Throw Right, Catch Right, & Split Dodge Left||20|
|Throw Left, Catch Left, & Split Dodge Right||20|
|Throw w/ Off-Hand & Catch w/ Off-Hand||50|
Whatever wall ball routine you implement, be sure to throw the ball hard against the wall. This way, you will develop a habit of throwing the ball on a line to teammates. Plus, you will be well prepared to handle whatever fast balls they throw your way.
Lobbing the ball towards the wall won’t test your limits. If you want to get the most out of your practice sessions, you need to throw the ball with vigor.
4.) Experiment with Stick Tricks in Your Free Time
This strategy may seem a bit unorthodox, but it truly does yield tremendous benefits for lacrosse players.
For those of you that do not know, stick tricks are skillful maneuvers done with a lacrosse stick and ball that are meant more to impress your peers, rather than serve any actual purpose during a game.
Contrary to popular opinion, stick tricks do actually help beginners to improve their stick control. For one, many stick tricks involve a high degree of hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity to perform, which are essential to success during games.
Plus, these tricks teach players to soften up the grip they have on their lacrosse stick. Players that grip their lacrosse stick too firmly often encounter difficulties with catching since they refuse to “give” with the ball.
Think about the last time you tried to catch an egg. Is it better to catch the egg with your hands abruptly, or gradually give with the egg as it makes contact? Obviously, it’s the latter choice.
Sample Stick Tricks to Speed Up Your Progress
If you’re wondering what types of stick tricks are the most beneficial to your game, watch the clip below to get advice from one of the best the sport has to offer: Paul Rabil.
This type of practice is perfect for squeezing in the free time between warm-ups, practices, or games. Plus, you don’t have to worry about depleting any of your energy levels, since this is about as leisurely of a practice strategy as it gets.
Remember, the more active you are with the lacrosse stick in your hands, the better off you will be in the long run.
5.) Become a Student of the Game via YouTube & Podcasts
When athletes first embark on their lacrosse journey, they tend to concentrate their efforts toward understanding the physical skills involved, neglecting the mental aspect of the game. The mental aspect of lacrosse is equally, if not more, important than the physical aspect.
At first, trying to make sense of all the fundamental offensive and defensive strategies of lacrosse may seem overwhelming. With all the different terminology and tidbits of knowledge, it can be difficult to know where to start.
The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter where you begin, so long as you take steps forward to learn the game. In my experience, I’ve found YouTube to be a very resourceful tool in learning what lacrosse was all about. Some of the best lacrosse minds are at your disposal on this platform, for free!
In addition to YouTube, lacrosse podcasts are also a wonderful supplement to furthering your knowledge of the game, mainly because you can listen to podcasts as you tackle daily tasks. You can listen to lacrosse podcasts on your drive to school, while you’re grocery shopping, or even during your wall ball workout. The convenience of podcasts are practically unmatched, so far as learning goes.
Before you consider any of these platforms, however, it’s worth noting that this website also has a wealth of lacrosse information catered specifically toward beginners. So feel free to browse around!
You can learn the general gist of what lacrosse is all about by heading over to Rules of Field Lacrosse Explained: A Beginner’s Guide.
6.) Dedicate Time to Full Speed Ground Ball Drills
There’s one facet of lacrosse where any player can flourish, regardless of their experience, stick skills, or athleticism. This facet of lacrosse that’s ripe with opportunity has to do with fighting for ground balls.
As a quick reference, a ground ball is a loose ball on the field that neither team has possession over. Much like a rebound in basketball, it’s essentially an extra possession that’s up for grabs.
For additional information on what ground balls are, click over to What Does Ground Ball Mean in Lacrosse?
It doesn’t take an All-American athlete to be the best at winning ground balls. All you need to have is an unrelenting, scrappy attitude to excel in this area. Often times, the player that wins the 50/50 ground ball situation is the player who wants it the most.
Since no experience is necessary to shine in this particular area, you should devote time and effort to being the best ground ball scrapper you can be.
Simple Ground Ball Drill to Get Better Fast
One simple drill to improve your ground ball skills is to space out five lacrosse balls on the grass or turf. From here, run full speed through each ground ball and pick them up one-by-one with your lacrosse stick, practicing perfect technique with each scoop.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while you perform this drill:
- Step Next to the Ball – This mental cue not only protects the ball from oncoming opponents, but also puts you in the best position to pick up the ground ball.
- Get Your “Two Butts” Low – First, bending at the knees and sinking your bottom down lowers your center of gravity, putting you at a more stable position to stand up to physical contact. Second, lowering your butt-end (the bottom of your lacrosse stick) to the ground gives you the best angle at picking up the ball.
- Scoop Through the Ball – Often times, beginners stop moving as soon as they come into close proximity with the ball, which makes them vulnerable to defensive pressure. It’s better to run full-speed, scoop the ball up, and not break stride.
- Run to Open Space – Lastly, get into the habit of running away from the scrum you just left behind. If you stay still, you’re bound to lose the ball to defensive checks and go back to square one.
7.) Make Certain that Your Lacrosse Pocket is Well-Strung
The importance of the lacrosse pocket cannot be overstated, considering that it affects every facet of your ability to possess the ball. With a poorly strung lacrosse pocket, your capacity to cradle, catch, throw, dodge, and shoot will inevitably be hindered. Needless to say, this is something we want to avoid.
The problem is that the majority of lacrosse beginners do not know what a reliable lacrosse pocket looks like. They’re under the false notion that any store-bought lacrosse head is ideally strung. Sadly, this is not always the case.
For example, certain pre-strung lacrosse heads have extremely shallow pockets, to the point where the pocket is more resemblant of a tennis racket than a lacrosse stick. An example of this difference is depicted below:
If the ball does not have a deep, secure place to rest, it will be exceptionally harder to move with the ball, let alone perform basic skills.
Other pre-strung heads are not strung symmetrically. Any asymmetries, no matter how subtle, will lead to a lopsided pocket, which translates into throwing and shooting inconsistencies. Most beginners end up blaming themselves for these faults, when their pocket is the one to blame.
For these reasons, it’s important to consult with an experienced stringer, teammate, or coach to see what they think about your lacrosse pocket. They can offer insight that you may not yet have, preventing future problems down the road. If they do find an issue, take care of it as soon as possible, especially if it’s an issue that may deem your stick illegal.
In short, it’s best to get your pocket strung right the first time, before these stringing blunders force you to develop bad habits.
8.) Prioritize Shooting on the Run Over Time & Room Shooting
If you want to get good at the offensive side of lacrosse fast, you need to emphasize shooting on the run more than any other type of shot.
Lacrosse is a fast-paced game, with very little opportunity for players to simply go through the motions. Everything from passing to dodging to shooting should be done with the utmost speed and precision to keep the defense on their heels. Any precious time wasted on your part is a gift to the defense, since it buys them time to recover.
For this reason, ball carriers don’t have many time and room shot opportunities where they can fully wind up and let one loose at the goal. More often than not, ball carriers have to shoot on the move to stay a step ahead of their defender, both literally and metaphorically.
Most entry level lacrosse players opt to practice time and room shots over shots on the run because it’s less physically demanding. To them, staying in one spot and whipping balls at the goal is much more preferential. After all, running is fairly taxing.
To truly take your game to the next level, you need to do what other players aren’t doing and practice what you’re actually going to execute during the game. It may not be the easiest road, but it’s the path that reaps the most rewards.
9.) Catch as Many Collegiate & Professional Games as You Can
Watching lacrosse games is not only entertaining, but instrumental to cultivating your lacrosse IQ.
The teams that play at the collegiate (NCAA) and professional (PLL) level do so for a reason. They’re the best the sport has to offer. The plays they run, the strategies they implement, and the tenacity they put on display are all prime examples of how beginners should approach the sport.
To hone in on your personal lacrosse skill set, you should carefully observe talented players at your position that closely resemble your play style. Watch how they play off-ball. Take note of where they position themselves on the field defensively. Pay attention to their shooting tendencies.
This way, you can see exactly how these players use what strengths they have to their advantage. Imitation is the best form of flattery, so the best thing you can do to pay tribute to these players is to model your game after them.
Once you do this a few times with some of your favorite players, you will have a well-rounded base of knowledge of how to play your position. You can experiment for yourself to see what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, the more trial and error you put yourself through, the better equipped you will be at pinpointing your identity on the field.
10.) Do Everyday Activities with Your Off-Hand
It may come off as odd, but performing daily tasks with your off-hand is a proven way to be ambidextrous on the field.
Being versatile with both hands is critical in lacrosse because it makes players more multi-dimensional. It’s considerably easier for defenders to shut you down if they know you rely exclusively on your dominant hand. If both hands are a threat, however, defenders won’t be able to play nearly as aggressively.
Otherwise, they risk just furthering the imbalances in their game. Once these imbalances are ingrained into a player, they can be extremely difficult to resolve. Unfortunately, most players are so focused on improving on their dominant hand that they neglect their off-hand.
Much of improving your off-hand has to do with overcoming self-doubt and trusting your off-hand to do what it needs to do. The physical portion of it is rather insubstantial. The problem is that this mental block only intensifies as you continue to neglect your off-hand.
By accomplishing everyday tasks with your off-hand, you slowly begin to unravel this mental block so that you’re better able to put trust in your off-hand when the time comes.
These tasks don’t even have to be overly complicated. They can be activities as simple as eating cereal, brushing your teeth, or sipping on your water bottle.
Sometimes, a nudge in the right direction is all a player needs to make the necessary adjustments to their game. At first glance, such lifestyle changes may seem rather trivial, but they can provide a huge mental boost once you go and actually pick up your lacrosse stick.
11.) Improve Footwork with Jump Rope, Ladder Drills, & Basketball
You would be amazed at how quickly your lacrosse skills develop when your agility and footwork are in prime condition. For this reason, the last strategy on this list for getting good at lacrosse fast is to specifically address your footwork through other physical activities.
The most obvious way to improve upon your footwork is to get familiar with the agility ladder. This simple piece of equipment offers you a multitude of different footwork exercises that you can choose from. This workout diversity allows you to develop your speed and coordination in every plane.
In addition to the agility ladder, jumping rope on a consistent basis is a fantastic way to increase you foot speed (source). With all the change of direction in lacrosse, this is a key component to both offense and defense. Offensive players need foot speed to shake off opponents, while defensive players need foot speed to stay in front of them.
Plus, jumping rope has the added bonus of improving your cardiovascular fitness, which is a must for lacrosse performance.
If neither the agility ladder or jump rope appeal to you, I found basketball to be immensely helpful in enhancing my own footwork.
Going into lacrosse as a midfielder, I struggled on the defensive side of the ball in trying to match feet with defenders. After my initial season, I ended up playing a lot more pick-up basketball at the local gym. I was shocked at how my lateral quickness showed significant improvement once I returned to the field.
It’s also worth mentioning that I was never that particularly fond of the agility ladder and the jump rope either. Had it not been for basketball, I would have struggled to find an appealing means of strengthening my weaknesses.
So if you need to improve upon your footwork, don’t be afraid to give other sports a try!