The most key part of any lacrosse game is the face off. It starts the field battle and limits the number of involved players. A lot of dirty tricks are easily snuck past officials, and the task calls for dynamic low-to-the-ground mobility.
On my high school team, my coach would always seek wrestlers for face offs because of their training with body and space manipulation under tight circumstances.
Many coaches will bring in professionals or experienced players to work with their face off midfielders during certain practices. Another route is the more scrimmaging in practice there is, the more opportunity for face off practice. I do not believe in the second method because under pressure, a midfielder just wants to get the ball out. They’re not focusing on practicing their newly learned skills from the experience around them.
During the face off, between 4 and 8 things happen within 2 or 3 seconds at a rate so quick the official can’t catch any dirty play. With that said, it takes an abundance of technique, skill and speed to pull off proper face offs.
The most popular move is “the clamp.” Plain and simple: referee blows the whistle, you try to clamp down on the ball and trap it under your stick head. It prevents the opponent gaining access to the ball, and you can pop it out either side with certain ease. Unfortunately, as lacrosse and its skills grow beyond expectations so does the need for more athleticism and skill sets.
In an effort to defend against the clamp there is a second move called the jump/jam/punch/top. When the opponent attempts to clamp the ball, jump your stick just clear of the top of the ball and against their stick. This prevents them from being able to clamp, and you can push the opponent away from the ball with your body, allowing a teammate to scoop up the rock.
A third faceoff strategy is the jump rake, an extension of the jump, in which instead of/while pushing the opponent away from the ball, you sweep the ball out from under you behind you for a teammate.
Fourth, the reverse plunger. While clamping, you should rotate your body, arms and stick to block the opponent’s access, and when you flip your stick right-side up, the ball should follow suit and pop up into the air and into your stick (if executed properly).
Finally, the deflator. This trick is quite dirty in that if the opponent beats you to the clamp, you quickly snatch their sidewall strings and pull their stick out in your direction. Because the clamp move is based around centered weight on the head over the ball, pulling the plastic out from under them makes that entire maneuver ineffective.
Again, all these tricks require practice, speed and efficiency. Best bet is to practice what you can on your own or find a buddy to practice with. There are face off clinics available throughout the US. And just like linemen in football, what the ref doesn’t see can only hurt the opponent.
Follow this link for more details on faceoffs: