Game Ready: Nothing But an SNG Thing

PHOTO BY RACHEL PINCUS / NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS


This story appears in the May/June edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

When the NCAA outlawed the motorcycle grip and determined that all faceoffs would be contested from a standing-neutral grip position, Notre Dame’s Kyle Gallagher and Charlie Leonard were better suited than most specialists to adapt to the new rules.

Gallagher was part of a cohort of Long Island natives who used each other as lab rats. A group of college players that experimented with the SNG approach over the summer included Penn State’s Gerard Arceri and Duke’s Jake Naso, among others.

Leonard had already navigated successfully a similar transition when he switched from facing off with a long pole to a short stick two years ago.

They’ve emerged this spring as one of the best 1-2 punches in the land. Gallagher, a transfer from Penn, plays the part of the one-move wonder — a quick-clamp workhorse who’s as good as they come when he gets hot. Leonard, a captain, has embraced a change-of-pace role with his unpredictable array of counters. Each ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA for faceoff percentage when this edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine went to press.

Switching from knee-down moto to SNG? Here’s their advice.

GET A GRIP

Before gripping the stick with his supinated hand, Gallagher lays the shaft across the callouses of his first three fingers starting with his pinkie. It creates a natural angle to drive at the ball. Then he wraps his index finger entirely around the stick as the trigger point for the cranking motion. Finally, he places his thumb as close to the head as possible without touching the plastic. “I’m really specific in my approach,” he said. “Even before the refs come out for the faceoff, I get my grip on the stick. I do the same thing every single time.”

TAKE A STANCE

  1. Point your right foot directly at the ball at a 45-degree angle.

  2. Keep your left foot flat and as close to the line as possible without touching it.

  3. Keep your body positioned at 45 degrees and lean into your right foot.







CLAMP AND PLUNGE

Gallagher uses a combination of a quick clamp and plunger to secure possession.

  • Roll your top wrist over to trap the ball under your stick.

  • Lift up with your bottom hand to trap the ball in the throat of your stick.

  • Sweep your stick laterally down the line toward your back foot.

  • Pop the ball up, flip your stick around to catch it and exit out in front of your opponent.

ADD TO YOUR ARSENAL

“I’m a little different than Gal. I have four or five moves that I like to do,” Leonard said. “But I’m doing all of them from the same grip, so the guy doesn’t know what’s coming. I like to put the guy’s mind into a blender.”

Leonard’s four go-to moves

  • Quick rake: Rotate your top wrist backward and punch your bottom sidewall into the ball, then drag the ball to the left and scoop it.

  • Deflate rake

  • Clamp

  • Reverse clamp

STRENGTHEN MUSCLES

Switching to SNG, you may at first experience soreness in your forearm and on the inside of your right palm. “Those are really underdeveloped muscles,” Gallagher said.

Notre Dame’s strength and conditioning staff had the faceoff specialists do forearm and grip exercises with a sledgehammer — gripping it near the head and doing short repeated rotations in pronated and supinated positions. Rows and pullups also help.

In addition to strengthening your wrists, Leonard suggested adding knee stability and ankle flexion work into your routine.

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