Lacrosse: The National Game of Canada/Chapter 11

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Picking up.—To pick up the ball, keep, and fully control it on the netting of the crosse, is necessarily the A B C of the game, and yet, by no means, an easy accomplishment. Simple as it looks, and easy as it may be to a skilful player, it is "the very mischief" to a novice. It is impossible to be a reliable player unless able to pick up with facility, and the two following practices should be gone through with, before venturing to enter into the heat of a game:—

1st. Picking up in one motion—Stand a crosse's length from the ball, with the left foot advanced. Draw the crosse back about a foot from the ball, and, striking straight at and under it, scoop up in one quick, sharp motion.

2nd. Picking up in two motions.—Cover the ball with the top surface of the netting, draw it towards you quickly to make it roll, and scoop up as in one return motion forwards.

The ball may be picked up, by the first practice, when it is coming towards or going from you fast, or when steady: the latter practice generally applies only to occasions when the ball is comparatively steady. It will he remembered, that picking up is much facilitated, by shaving the part of the top of the turn which touches the ground.

Tipping the ball.—Tipping is the issue of close practice and precious moments, and is important, not only as a dernier resort when there is not time to pick up, but as a principal practice in Frisking, and a very excellent part of the duties of a home-man. The ball is simply tipped with either side of the top or bend of the curve and netting, and may be done forcibly by striking, or, more gently, by placing the stick at the ball and jerking it from the ground. We knew a home-man, whose forte it was to stand near goal, and tip the ball to the flags if it condescended to come within the reach of his crosse. He was the laziest mortal ever seen on a Lacrosse field; he was never known to disturb his equanimity by a run, but, if the ball came anywhere within the circuit of his crosse, it was generally caught on the wing, or hooked from the ground and tipped into the flags like a shot. A quick tip from a short distance is more puzzling to a goal-keeper than a clean throw.

Swiping the ball—Any one knows, instinctively, the difference between a tip and a swipe; and, though swinging the crosse in front, or at the side of the body, and hitting the ball, as in shinty, is not actually prohibited, it is generally deemed unfair, and is repudiated by all good players. It has not a shadow of skill to excuse it, is dangerous and unnecessary, and is not only a death-blow to science, but destroys the originality and beauty of the game.

Kicking—Often helps to introduce pretty and effective play. Some have proposed to prohibit it under certain circumstances, but it is one of those points of play which must either be allowed ad libitum, or entirely done away with, as any half measure, one way or the other, would only lead to endless dispute. The use of the feet is, however, important in close play, not only for kicking, but for guiding and guarding, and may be used when there is even not time for tipping. The Indians use the feet a great deal around an enemy’s goal, and thereby interfere with the free action of the goal-keeper, while they do their best to kick the ball into goal.

Frisking the ball.—In close play you may point out the scientific from the brute-force player, as easily as you can pick silver coin from among copper. Though the play of the old school is not to be ignored, it is not the paragon of to-day, even though it should sometimes succeed against the present more studied game. To improve Lacrosse, and not detract from its native merits, we must agree to the systematic conformity, intended in the regulations which guide the game. Unscientific play in any game has sometimes been more effective than its antithesis, as poor shots have sometimes made bull’s-eyes when champions have missed altogether; but the more head-work put into such a game as Lacrosse, the more beautiful and less rough it will become.

Among the improvements in general play we must recognize one peculiar feature of close contests, which is becoming a specialty and a mark of the true artiste in Lacrosse. Occurring only at close quarters, and sometimes lasting but a few seconds, it is the foreshadowing of a scientific game, and an evidence that there is more scope for development than generally believed. Al present this specialty of close play is in its adolescence, but gives token of a development which must eventually oust much of the shillelahing of rough players. Its very first principle is the avoidance of roughness, and the getting out of difficulties, and overcoming opponents without breaking sticks or heads, or swiping, or any manner of play which partakes of rough-and-tumble. It is easier to explain this mode of play than to give it a name, so we will risk it and call it "Frisking the ball." We would define it as the quick feats done, instantaneously, in passing one or more checkers; in hooking the ball out from a crowd of opponents; titilating it on the crosse; capering it upon the ground, within a radius of ten feet. It embraces throwing, catching, carrying, dodging and checking, all in one, and needs a remarkable agility of body, which is only secondary to the quick and clever use of the crosse.

When the ball is on the ground, frisking consists in filching it out from among feet and crosses, hooking it towards you, and from right and left, and vice versa, and between your legs; and the general, quick, varied play designed to frustrate similar attempts on the part of your opponents, and to secure the ball to yourself for further proceedings. Sometimes you require a short grasp of your crosse; at other times the longest reach possible, using both sides alternately as you tip and draw the ball, or shield it, as it were, from the strokes and drags of your antagonist.

In ground frisking, the feet may be used to tip and kick the ball in various ways, as in football. At other times the feet are in the way of some effective hits, and little leaps, especially if running, are often useful in giving room to hit close. The various feats of ground frisking which arise during close play, are beyond description, and yet no rules can be given for any.

Some players have a remarkable aptitude for getting the ball close to their feet, and puzzling their opponents by this manner of frisking. We remember seeing an Indian get the ball between his heels, and, leaping up, kick it straight up behind, and, turning around, catch it as it descended, and make off with it, while his opponent was looking for it in another direction.

Practice for ground frisking by toying the ball in front of you, alone, or with another player, and, no matter how simple it seems, you will find it good exercise. Tip it to right, then to left, then out and in, and around, and between and at the back of your feet. Practice tipping to the right with the bend and the tip of the crosse. A very good practice is frisking with a young and smart setter—your crosse versus his teeth and paws. It will teach you many little feints.

High frisking, when the ball is not on the ground, is quite a different play, but needs a like expertness in handling the crosse and mastering the ball. It can hardly be premeditated, but opportunities are often afforded for its practice in close contests. It comprises all quick, successive feats in playing with the ball in the air.

When carrying through a gauntlet of checkers, or when catching, after throwing over your own or an opponent’s head, a pretty and most invaluable play is to titilate or dandle the ball upon the netting. Some of the best dodgers use this very much, the ball never being on the netting when the crosse is struck at by the checker.

A great deal of showy play may be introduced in frisking,—such as playing with the ball on the top of the curve, tapping it up, and catching or titilating. There are times when a descending ball may be wisely checked in its descent, and tapped away by the top of the curve.

Another neat play in frisking is to gently touch descending or straight balls with the opposite side of the netting to which you carry, and, quickly bringing down your crosse, catch before the ball touches the ground.

Several skilful and neat feats can be done, introducing tips, balancings, and twistings. Did you ever try to revolve the crosse, and the ball with it, without letting the latter off the netting? The rule to do it is to keep the ball close to the wooden part of the crosse, and, if you carry on the right side, revolve the stick quickly, by a turn of the wrist, from right to left: if you carry on the left side, revolve it from left to right. The closer the ball is to the wood, the shorter its turn, and the less chance of it being thrown off in revolving. This feat may be so perfected, when the crosse is held in a high and horizontal position, as to be made a useful part of dodging.

A “dying-bounce” ball is one that strikes the ground more than once before touched, and, like a cramped swimmer, is giving its last kick. Sometimes you may make something of these balls by hitting them on the bounce to make them bounce higher, which may secure you a catch in a position, when a forward pick-up would bring your crosse into the neighborhood of checking.

We might as well advise you here, as elsewhere, to drop your crosse, when it is trodden upon, rather than run the probable alternative of a fracture. If you feel you are going to tread on a crosse, leap up and over it.