Be a Strong Defender
part of an E-Lacrosse Interview with Trish Cummings
In this issue of Girls Lax Guide, I will be focusing on specific concepts for defenders in the game of lacrosse. There are three overall areas of concentration for all players when defending. These are correct defensive body positioning, team concept defense and proper techniques for stick checking. Lacrosse is a great sport in which players have opportunities to highlight their skill and finesse all over the field. Therefore, it is important to understand the finer aspects of defense. You should take it upon yourself to learn these defensive skills by working on them every day at practice. You will be developing an overall presence as a defender by executing solid body positioning and patience with stick checking all over the field. Each player needs to play defense at some point in the game, so prepare yourself now for the challenges ahead. The best defenders in a lacrosse game display extraordinary will, hustle and DESIRE to keep their opponent from closing in on the goal. They have the ability to maintain composure, patience and a focused attitude during the entire game.
Offense Wins Games- - - Defense Wins Championships!
Defensive Body Positioning
It is very critical to learn the basic ideas of defensive body positioning at a young age. Defenders who are marking or covering the player with ball must execute proper stick position and quick footwork. This defender is also known as the player marking "on ball". She could either be marking her player with ball in the midfield or inside the 8M critical scoring areas. You should focus on keeping your stick in a vertical position, dominant hand slightly down the shaft and non-dominant hand at the bottom of your stick.
Players need to hold their stick up in front of them with straight, out-stretched arms. By demonstrating a solid defensive stance, players will continue to shadow their opponent's stick in the air. A major component of proper defensive positioning is quick footwork. All players must work hard to develop a clear understanding of their body position and footwork patterns on defense. They should keep their feet moving forward, remain balanced and be able to adjust well in order to make short and quick lateral movements.
Individual Midfield Defense
As defenders in the game of lacrosse, let us remember our main objective- to prevent the other team from scoring on our goal cage. In other words, we are working hard to keep the opponent away from our scoring end of the field. Therefore, every single player must take responsibility to play strong defense all over the field.
Once the other team's goalkeeper has made a save, attack players such as the 1H (1st home), 2H (2nd home), 3H (3rd home), LAW (left attack wing), RAW (right attack wing) as well as the rest of the team, must find their girl and mark her goal side. One way to describe marking goal side is to keep yourself between your player and your goal. As you are marking goal side, deny her the ball by keeping your stick up in the passing lane while also attempting to come up with any interceptions at the same time.
Then, if your player does get open to receive a pass, you need to focus on strong individual defense in the midfield. It requires the defender to force her player out wide either weak side or to her non-dominant hand. It puts pressure on the other team causing them to make a mistake or force a turnover situation. Defenders need to step up the pressure by running with their opponent. It seems like a very simple concept, but you must not get caught running too far in front of your player with ball. She could make a sudden quick move and beat you around the other side, leaving you in the dust and headed wide open down field. You also do not want to get caught running behind your player trying to catch up with her down field. Therefore, you should find a happy medium by running with your opponent, maintaining good stick/body position and looking for the opportunity to check and regain possession of the ball for your team. Determine the speed and quickness of your opponent at the very beginning of a game so you can play the best individual defense all over the midfield.
Individual Defense Around the Goal
Around the goal you must mark a player who is "off ball". For example, an attack player has possession of the ball behind goal and your teammate is playing defense on her. Then we have YOU, as the defender, marking your player at the top of the 8M. This is a perfect representation of marking someone off ball, as the player you are defending is a scoring threat on a pass from behind. When marking off-ball, defenders must focus on a few crucial ideas:
Mark your player goal side and focus on where the ball is moving at the same time.
Do not get caught just watching your girl and lose track of the ball.
Do not get caught just watching the ball and lose track of your girl.
Practice seeing both BALL and GIRL all the time.
The main objective is to recognize each situation as it comes, and mark the right player in the right way, communicating all along. Then you will have good defensive positioning around the goal.
To form a strong defensive unit, all players must learn to communicate with each other by calling out a few simple terms. When you are marking a player with ball, you need to say out loud "I have ball". When you are marking another player, you should say out loud "I have number 10". You need to talk with your teammates on defense because it helps keep everyone aware of cutters through the middle of the 8M. It also helps with trying to step up the pressure on ball by creating double teams around the goal. When you are playing defense around the goal, you should also let your teammates know where you are by calling out loud "I am with on your right/left or I am on your side". A strong defensive team unit will be successful with lots of talking and communication throughout the entire game.
Stick checking requires exact timing and precision. Learn the basic ideas of stick checking as soon as possible. It is an important fundamental skill that requires extreme discipline and patience to perfect. A stick check can be described as a short, quick jabbing motion, with the head of the stick, that hits the top corner or head of the opponent's stick. It must be done in a very specific manner. A check needs to be performed by hitting the stick away from their body. It may not be held down or you could get called for a dangerous held check.
As you attempt to make a stick check, you need to keep your feet moving the whole time. Players must NOT lose their body position and get caught standing or swinging to check at the last minute. Players should work on developing the ability to time their checks perfectly by going for the stick at the exact moment it may be left open.
After your check is made, it is extremely important to come up with the groundball pickup and keep possession of the ball for your team. If you are going to go for the check, then go for it hard and come up with the ball.