4 Change of Direction Drills Valuable to the Lacrosse Athlete

As the spring lacrosse season is upon us, we are prepping hundreds of lacrosse athletes for their up-coming season. While our goal is to not mirror the exact game of lacrosse, we utilize these drills in order to break down specific technique involved in the game in a controlled setting.

You will notice when we talk about agility through this article, there is no mention of agility ladders or complicated/rehearsed drills that are commonly seen on social media. These drills emphasize power production and reduction in ground contact time in order to move the body faster from point A to point B. Along with building reaction time, that is the true transfer of agility onto the field.

Lateral Shuffle to a Crossover Reach.

In a lateral shuffle drill that can seem as basic as it can be, I noticed Coach Matt June making a very slight, yet critical adjustment in the hand placement of the athletes. Notice when performing this drill when reaching to touch the cone with the same side hand you can notice how easy it is for the athlete to get lazy with their position and simply bend over to touch the cone.

Notice now when performing this drill with a cross-body reach with the opposite side hand. The change that this makes in the athletes position is massively different, and the latter mirrors the position we would deem optimal for sport. By crossing the body it forces the athlete to hinge at the hips and rotate through the mid-back, all while maintaining their universal athletic stance (Universal Athletic Stance = stable and upright chest + knees slightly tracking out + weight on the center foot if not slightly on the toes). 

Shuffle to Vertical to Shuffle

This drill is highly effective for any sport where one must utilize fast lateral movement in both a defensive and offensive positions. For example, if we watch this drill in real time, we can see how the vertical jump allows the athlete time to gain proprioception of when their foot is going to hit the ground. This offers a platform for the athlete to begin to decrease their ground contact time after landing. 

Say when we ask an athlete to split dodge (Split Dodge = A basic movement of offensive attack in lacrosse), the athlete must have incredible awareness of when their foot is going to make contact with the ground so that they can accelerate themself in the opposite direction. Simply put this drill teaches an athlete how to be faster out of their dodge.

Figure-8 Variations

We have found figure 8 drills to be incredibly effective in simulating play around the crease for both offensive and defensive players.

Acceleration to 180 Turn Deceleration (Advanced)

I began utilizing this drill with many lacrosse athletes as I realized this foot work can expose an athlete at incredibly high sprint velocity. A drill like this must be progressed, however by training this movement pattern in a controlled environment we can prepare the athlete to absorb these forces in a way that will greatly reduce the risk of injury on the playing field. During transition play in lacrosse (When there is a change in possession and the ball is moving to the opposite end of the field) athletes will often hit their max velocity sprint speed, which is very rare in sports other than track. In this play athletes have upwards of 60 yards of open field to reach max velocity sprint speed. During this phase the athlete is generating their peak forces during sprinting. These athletes must then stop on a dime and turn a complete 180 degrees to drop into a defensive position. By forcing an athlete to complete this footwork in a shorter distance, we reduce the speed and therefore the forces that they can generate while approaching the turn. As we progress this drill the athlete will take longer distances between turns, allowing them to generate more speed.

Dr. Nick Serio on Special Strength Training For Pitchers

Last week Dr. Nick Serio dropped some knowledge bombs on Joel Smith’s, “Just Fly Performance Podcast.” (https://www.just-fly-sports.com/podcast-183-nick-serio/

In this podcast, Coach Nick goes into detail on how he has developed special strength training methods for rotational athletes, especially for the baseball pitcher. This podcast was PACKED with information. It is necessary for all athletes, parents, and coaches in the baseball community to listen to this. Nick shares his most informed methods in training the baseball athlete and specifically the pitcher. Today I attempt to break down the mass of information stated in this 52 minute podcast. Here were my major takeaways.

With the alarmingly high increase in baseball/pitching related injuries, especially at the youth and high school level, there are a number of factors at play.

  • The recruiting and showcase format is not advantageous to the athletes recovery.
  • The pitcher’s performance is becoming highly predicated on velocity, and therefore many are striving to achieve high velocity with very high risk training methods.
  • While a degree of specialization is necessary to develop the required skill sets to pitch at a high level, there must be a necessary time away from throwing. This time off of throwing should include special exercises related to baseball (more details on this further on). 

As professionals in any field that works with athletes, we must do a better job of illuminating new research to the athlete and parent.

  • Many old school methods no longer have a place in sports.
  • Far too often our population of athletes and parents will never see necessary research and methods in a way that is digestible to them. 
  • The more informed our population is, the more equipped they will be to make good decisions in sport.

“Specialization” has become a villainous term. 

  • While time away from baseball is important, the athlete can gain tremendous strides in their performance by focusing on specialized strength training.
  • With more access to strength and conditioning at the high school level, it is not necessary for athletes to search for “cross-training” of benefits by playing multiple sports. Strength and conditioning should become a season in the athletes yearly sport participation.
  • By implementing special strength training methods during the off-season, and simultaneously giving throwers a 4 month window away from throwing, it has been proven that we can increase performance and decrease the rate of throwing related injuries. 

Pitch count is irrelevant.

  • The baseball community must take into account multiple factors beyond pitch count when monitoring a pitcher’s throwing volume. This includes the amount of pitches during high pressure situations, as well as physical preparedness of the athlete. In short, just as we would not prescribe the same weight to all athletes in the gym, all athletes should not be prescribed to the same pitch count when throwing.
  • A more accurate test to monitor fatigue of the pitcher would be grip strength. Due to the necessary force absorption capacity of the forearm and hand flexor group, monitoring this fatigue directly may be a better method to predicting overuse.

As coaches, we can give athletes a very accurate depiction of where their progress is solely by evaluating certain foundational movements.

  • SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE when working with youth athletes.
  • The Overhead squat will tell us a tremendous amount of about everything from ankle mobility, to hip rotation capacity, to thoracic spine function, as well as arguably the most important for this population, how their shoulder functions in an applicable way under load and challenged position.
  • The Bear Crawl exposes cross-body coordination, as well as challenging the midline strength of the athlete. This movement has become crucial in return to sport from labral surgery, as it allows the athlete a controlled, yet dynamic way to load the shoulder joint.
  • The Reverse Lunge has become one of the greatest transfer strength exercises to throwing. Those who are able to increase their reverse lunge strength almost always are going to throw a baseball more effectively.
  • Finally, those that throw a baseball well also tend to sprint and run very well. 

We need to emphasize the importance of athlete screening and implementation of corrective exercises.

  • Our evaluation process begins with the belief that not all postural based dysfunction leads to movement based dysfunction.
  • Contrary to the old school belief that baseball players should not go overhead, we are constantly striving to improve the scapular and shoulder function through movements that get the athlete into the overhead position. (One of Nick’s favorites is the Landmine Press)

During the 4 month window away from throwing, throwers will partake in a very specialized medicine ball strength program that allows the athlete to improve sequencing of the actual action of throwing a baseball. (All of which can be found on the Athletes Warehouse movement library:

  • Through a progression of phases, we allow the athlete to be incredibly aggressive in their throwing actions.
  • While the drills may mirror the action of throwing, the athlete is able to disassociate from throwing a ball while still working on sequencing and power production.

There must be a massive focus on the front/blocking leg in rotational sports

  • Across the board, when looking at high velocity throwers, there is a common theme of a stiff front side after the front leg hits the ground.
  • In order for the thrower to do this, they must require a large amount of strength on the front leg. We will often take athletes through drills like single leg drop jumps to increase their eccentric capacity.
  • Forcing an athlete to land on an elevated surface on during medicine ball throws, we can force the athlete to generate force sooner, which in turn will allow them to create a stiffer front side.

If you are a baseball athlete in the New York City or Westchester area and you are not training under Coach Nick, you are doing yourself a massive injustice. He has maximized the potential of so many baseball players in this area. From the most elite recruits, to those just trying to make a high school team, this program has proven to succeed with athletes time and time again. Drop the ego, and hand over the reigns to Dr. Nick.