Struggling with lacrosse? We’ve all been there. Lacrosse is a sport that is rooted in the fundamentals, and mastering the essential skills of the game can make you a better lacrosse player in no time. Many times, the only way to improve in the offseason is to figure out ways to practice without partners or teammates. In this article, I break down several ways to improve as a lacrosse player by yourself and curate various resources available to players provided by professional and ex-professional lacrosse players.
How To Get Better At Lacrosse By Yourself Fast
1) Cradle With Both Hands
The absolute simplest way to improve at lacrosse is by simply cradling a stick in your hand with a ball. You can also get comfortable switching hands and cradling in your weak hand. Randomize how many times you cradle before switching hands. An old coach of mind would tell me to go home and cradle while watching TV. Build that muscle memory! You don’t want to have to think about cradling while you play.
2) Practice Ground Balls
The next simplest way to improve on your own is to learn to consistently pick up ground balls. Ground ball scrums in practices and games can be physical and require grit. Being able to consistently pick up ground balls is one of the best ways to stand out to coaches and teammates as a new player and it is easy to improve at this on your own!
Practicing this is as simple as cradling. Put the ball down and pick it back up over and over and over and over…. It sounds incredibly boring, but it works. Work on getting the butt-end of the stick close to the ground and scooping through the ball in one motion. Then, work on cradling after you pick it up. As it feels easier, you can increase the complexity. Go to a field and roll the ball ahead of you and pick it up on the run to simulate game-like situations.
3) Wall Ball Drills
Without a partner, learning how to catch and throw is easier than you might think! Since lacrosse balls are rubber, they bounce. You can throw the ball against a wall or backstop to get reps in without a partner. As you are starting, just throw the ball and catch it with your dominant hand until you can comfortably throw and catch 20-30 times without the ball touching the ground. Then, do the same with your weak hand. There are more advanced drills: switching hands between passes, quick sticks, behind-the-backs.
4) Shooting Reps
Improving at shooting is as simple as bringing balls to a field with a net and shooting as many shots as possible. At first, the key factor is to focus on getting the ball in the net as consistently as possible using the correct form: stepping toward the net, good overhand form, and good follow through. Then, move to different positions around the field. Of course, you want to work on your ability to shoot on the run from the major areas of the field: down the alley from the midfield, winning topside from the midfield, at the island (initiated from X mostly), and from the wings.
5) Shoot at Targets
Shooting targets are a great item to have if you do not have a friend willing to step in net and play goalie. Corner targets are nice but there are also other products which produce targets around a goalie such as the hips and between the legs. Being able to visualize how a goalie will cover a net when you are shooting and practice aiming for open areas will improve the quality of your shots.
Dodging is an essential skill for an offensive player and typically how offenses initiate plays. You need great footwork to be an effective dodger. Practicing your dodges can also be combined with shooting on the run. Try out some dodging drills, along with some beginner drills to grasp the fundamentals of explosive dodging.
7) Get Fast Feet Like Mikey Sowers (Footwork Drills)
Ladder drills improve foot agility and hand-eye coordination (if you aren’t looking at your feet while doing them!). Ladder drills focus on either forward/backward movement or lateral movement and are great for improving footwork for both offense and defense. As you get more comfortable just doing the ladder circuit. You should be jogging up to the agility ladder, breaking down, and sprinting to a cone set up ten yards after the end of the ladder. Just doing the ladder drills is good for agility but adding the extra steps helps make you more comfortable making the transition from quick choppy steps (initiating a dodge) to a sprint (beating your man to the goal). Another way to increase the complexity of the drill is to carry a stick with a ball and keep cradling throughout the drill!
Cloverleaf Drill (see visual depiction here) is the perfect drill to condition your body for short bursts of speed, breaking down, and changing direction into another burst of speed.
8) Watch Lacrosse Highlights
The best way to improve as a lacrosse player on your own is to watch professional lacrosse games. Whether field or box, the PLL and NLL feature the best lacrosse players in the world! Not sure why your dodge isn’t working? Not sure where you should be looking on the field after a successful dodge? Where are you supposed to stand when you don’t have the ball? Find a player whose style of play you enjoy watching and see how they play the position. Maybe even cradle a lacrosse stick while you are watching! Follow LaxFarmer on TikTok for highlights and clips!
9) Receive Online Coaching from Pro Lacrosse Players
Just as watching film can be instructive for a lacrosse player looking to improve, so can remote instruction. Professional players Deemer Class and Matt Dunn (Whipsnakes Defenseman) have teamed up to create 1stclasslax which provides in-person and online programs. Online content includes workouts, film breakdowns, instructional videos, and more!
10) Stick Tricks!
Stick tricks are a fun way to mess around with your lacrosse stick that can help with your comfortability with and familiarity of your stick in addition to working on hand eye coordination. Professional players, particularly Paul Rabil, are frequently seen performing stick tricks. No one will say stick tricks alone improved their game, but it’s always another excuse to have fun with a lacrosse stick in your hand which will always help.
11) Mini Lacrosse
Mini versions of the sport, like beach lacrosse or Casey Powell’s Speed lacrosse, require fewer people and simpler rulesets. Games like this lower the pressure on players and promote creativity. Have you been wanting to try a new dodge or want to try a behind-the-back feed without a coach evaluating your play on the sideline? This is a great way to try new things or practice new movements without the pressure of practice or needing 12 people and a goalie to do it!
How To Get Better At Catching In Lacrosse
When doing wall ball drills, or passing with a partner, substitute the lacrosse ball for a tennis ball. The lighter weight of the tennis ball will allow it to bounce out of your head if you keep your hands still when trying to catch the ball. Using the tennis ball will force you to treat catching the ball as if you are in an egg toss or water balloon toss. You have to be gentle and cradle to consistently catch the tennis ball. This will also help you get in the habit of putting your stick in a position ready to pass, shoot, or cradle and carry after catching the ball.
How To Get Better At Lacrosse Defense
Footwork drills are king for a defensemen trying to improve their 1v1 defense on their own. Ladder/Agility drills and change of direction drills are king. Watching defensive highlights is also a key factor for improvement. Watch the PLL Whipsnakes play defense. Pay attention to how the on-ball defender adjusts and plays the ball carrier in different areas of the field and then how different players adjust off-ball depending on the ball’s location and offensive set. While you can’t work on your own communication with teammates by watching film, the PLL does a fantastic job mic’ing up defensive players and goalies to demonstrate their communication. Pay attention to players like Eddie Glazer and Tucker Durkin during their mic’d up clips.
How To Get Better At Women’s Lacrosse
All of the tips in this article apply equally to men’s and women’s lacrosse. You can also seek out online coaching from players like Charlotte North and benefit from watching professional lacrosse with Athlete’s Unlimited!
How To Get Better At Faceoffs in Lacrosse
Similar to First Class, various professional faceoff athletes have developed The Faceoff Academy which also has in-person and online instruction. They produce drills, training, and equipment recommendations.