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In this week’s lacrosse player development feature, we’ll focus on specific defensive techniques and strategies when defending against shots on goal. With Virginia head coach Dom Starsia leading the way, you’ll learn about proper stance and technique before getting an understanding of key strategies to help you be successful in these frequent defensive situations. Coach Starsia dishes the same advice to youth players and college athletes alike, so see how many tips you can pick up and implement with your team on the lacrosse field this season.
During 1-on-1 play when defending against shots on goal, the goal for the defender is to create unsettled situations. Unfortunately, with their back to the goal, they have a natural disadvantage. Meanwhile, an attackman knows exactly where he’s going, so the defender must react to that. Therefore, it’s crucial that defensemen have an opportunity to make up for those disadvantages. Here’s how they can close the gap.
First, it’s critical that a defender is always maintaining proper stance. His feet should be shoulder-width apart, knees are bent and one foot should drop back a little bit behind the other. In other words, players should be in a drop-step mode, which will give them some ground they can make up.
Also, defenders should remain low, never up high or straight up. Remember, you almost can’t be too low. Staying low gives you the chance to change direction and drop step quickly in order to gain an advantage.
Meanwhile, keep the head of the stick pointed at the offensive player. The distance between the head of the stick and your body is called the cushion. This is the margin of error in this situation. With that cushion, a defender has the chance to regain territory and gain an advantage.
With this technique, once an offensive player makes his move, the defender should poke him with his stick and then drop step. Also, it’s important to remember when approaching the goal line extended that the onus is on the defender to get above the GLE about 2-3 yards – and get there before his man does. Here, the defender must get his hands on the offensive player and ride him out and away from the goal. Defenders should not shy away from contact. Get your hands on your opponent and push him into a position where he can’t attack the goal or score.
In the situation where you get beat, try to get your stick on the inside of your opponent. If a player starts to shoot, you can still put your stick in a position to prevent the shot or deflect it. Remember to make contact below the GLE. If the offensive player gets there first, he has a major advantage on the defender.
The follow segments can be seen in their entirety on the Championship Productions’ DVD “Developing the Dominating Individual Defender” with Dom Starsia. Check out more defense-oriented videos in our extensive catalog by clicking here.
The “General Drill” is one of Lars Tiffany’s favorite drills to run at Brown University. Not only is it effective from an offensive and defensive perspective, but it particularly emphasizes the movement of going off-ball to on-ball in a short period of time.
The drill starts out with one defender and one midfielder and then later adds an attackman at the crease area. Below, check out the locker room discussion with Tiffany followed by step-by-step simulations on the turf and see how you can incorporate the drill into your next practice.
General Drill – Overview
The drill starts with one coach standing about 5-10 yards to one side of the cage, with the role of feeder. Next, there’s one defender who starts right on the crease, plus one midfielder situated about 13-14 yards away from the cage up top. Coach Tiffany often gives rules for his defenders as to where they can stand to begin the drill, but often they will start with one foot touching the top of the crease. Figure out what works for you to get down the timing of the drill.
The drill begins with the coach throwing the ball to the midfielder up top. The defender can’t move until the pass is thrown. Once the pass is made, the defender then drop steps, turns, sprints and approaches the midfielder for a defensive breakdown.
According to Tiffany, this is a perfect drill to practice man-down because it’s replicating something that happens all the time in man-down situations. This is when the defense needs to suck into the crease, take care of the offensive players closing in, and they need to know how quickly they can get out there and not give up an easy shot.
Remember, it’s key for players to get down into a good defensive stance, with the butt low and knees bent. Once the defender approaches his man, the offensive player now must make a decision. That player must decide whether he has to dodge to get a shot on goal or just fire a shot immediately on cage. As for the defender, it’s about how fast you can get out there, not turn away and duck your head, contest a shot and ultimately prevent an easy scoring opportunity.
Adding an Attackman
A second step to the General Drill is to add an attackman around the crease area. Now, the coach can either throw to the midfielder up top or to the attackman right in front. This is a way to keep defenders honest and is much more like man-down defense.
The first goal for the defender must be to take care of the crease first and then worry about an outside shot. The same principles from before will apply once again. Remember to open up, drop step, turn and then break down the offensive player. Meanwhile, look to knock down any skip passes as well, which is certainly a skill that a Division I program like Brown looks for in its defenders.
Meanwhile, check out a recent Coaches Corner Q&A with Coach TIffany from January which also highlights the General Drill.