Chris Mattes on Faceoffs In an effort to help players stay ahead of the competition, Universal Lacrosse has made a push to uncover the secrets to success and get the best faceoff gear in the hands of FOGO middies everywhere. MLL faceoff specialist Chris Mattes has been at the cutting edge of the faceoff technique and equipment evolution since his days as a Rutgers Lacrosse All-American in 2011. Since then he has gone on to become one of the premier faceoff trainers in the country at The faceoff Academy. In this time, faceoff rules and regulations have changed the way middies take draws and the sticks they use several times. We recently sat down for an interview with Mattes to hear what he had to say about both technique and equipment today: We asked “what is your best move?” Chris responded: “ALL PLAYERS should be able to have a few moves under their belt. IF you are a ‘one trick pony’ faceoff guy you are leaving yourself vulnerable to more nimble opponents. The two most common are the ‘clamp’ and ‘pinch and POP. Both of these moves have a lot of variations but can be equally successful in any given situation.” Then we went on to ask “How can faceoff middies get quicker hands?” he told us: “We use a ball hop warm up drill and a lot of technique repetition. There is no secret to quick hands. Hard work and repetition is the key. Your fast twitch muscles will control your reaction time so the more reps you take the faster your hands will be.” We asked “what else is important to practice as a FOGO?” he told us: “If you can’t handle the ball you are not an offensive threat, therefore can be easily neutralized. College coaches watched the competition at the Faceoff Academy 2014 Showcase and made a lot of comments about ground ball play. With the recent rule changes ground balls become a much bigger part of winning the face off. Previously the rules allowed for a face-off play to carry the ball in the back of their stick. College coaches that work with the faceoff academy place an emphasis on the groundball work due to the new rules that were instated.” When we talked about equipment, we asked him “what is the best mesh for a FOGO?” he told us: “Recently I was sent out some samples of Otter mesh and I will now be using it exclusively coaching and through the MLL season. The mesh has a great feel and is extremely lightweight. It is broken in right out of the package and when it gets wet it does not bag out like most of the soft mesh I have felt. It is a bit more expensive but it is extremely durable.” We listed some of the most popular faceoff heads today and asked Chris to give us his thoughts of each. He followed each: Original WARRIOR NOZ- “This is what I used all year 2014. I like the flexibility of it. It also has the stiffness if you get tied up in a scrum and it can hold its shape. The sidewall shape has two strong bars that clamp hard on the ball and retain their stiffness even when the bottom of the throat crimps and flexes. This reaction allows me to control the ball.” WARRIOR NO NOZ- “If you are playing in an extremely warm climate this head might act as the original NOZ did but in the Northeast where I am from I found this head is a bit to Rigid for me” WARRIOR OG BLADE- “The mixture between stiffness and flexibility is right on with this head. It has a strong flex point at the throat and the sidewalls flair at the ball which helps you get under your opponents plastic. When you’re locked up and trying to gain leverage if your plastic is under your opponents this is an advantage. The angle of the sidewall on the OG blade helps you get to this position.” WARRIOR BLADE PRO- “Personally this head is not for me because in the MLL you are allowed to put your hand on the plastic and the way the throat is shaped the plastic digs into my hand. I have seen a lot of kids that I coach do well with this head especially in the absence of the OG Blade. This head was designed by Warrior specifically for facing off by Warrior.” NIKE CEO- “This head has a great flexibility and allows for maximum ball control. The problem with the CEO is after some use it will warp and be less effective. If you are practicing in the warm weather the lifespan of this heads stiffness will be reduced. Overall this is a good faceoff and I have seen it be one of the most popular lately. I would buy these two at a time because of their lifecycle.” We also asked him “What shaft should a faceoff middie use?” He explained: “The Epoch F30 shaft recently came out. This shafts biggest point of differentiation is its Triangular faceoff grip. This triangular shape fits perfectly in your fingers for when you faceoff both motorcycle and neutral grip. This is a perfect grip for the new rules that have been implemented because you are no longer allowed to have your hand touching the plastic at all. The overall texture of the shaft has a sand grip that feels great in your hands. It lightweight and durable shaft with some face off specific tech.” In the current volatile state of face offs today, it is more important than ever for faceoff middies to constantly be working on the techniques allowed within current rules. Staying up to date with the latest legal equipment innovations for faceoff heads and shafts can help give a player the advantage that can equate to victories. For more news, tips, and discussions about faceoffs, check in to the Universal Lacrosse blog. Dennis Jordan Universal Lacrosse Staff

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