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This week’s team development feature focuses on man-down defense and a key drill that can help boost your team’s overall defensive play. Led by Brown University head men’s lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany, the drill featured in this segment will teach your defenders how to knock down crucial passes in 5 v 3 situations and get them to learn proper positioning in specific man-down formats. This 5 on 3 drill — easy to implement at practice — will also have players going at full speed.
For this scenario, A, B, C, D, and E are all offensive players. For defense, we have D1, D2, and D3. With this drill, the defense has more opportunities to see the ball flying around from different angles. The offense will be set up in an outside formation of a 3-3 offensive set. Meanwhile, the defenders will be put in the skip lanes, the primary lanes you need to knock down passes. Coach Tiffany has excluded the two defenders who might be responsible for defending the crease.
With this drill, if the ball is with B, we need D1 and D3 to be responsible for the skip lanes, i.e. from B to E, and B to D. As the ball moves around the outside, we must define what the next stick lane will be. If the ball is passed from B to C, D1 must adjust his positioning to be in the skip lane from C to E. He must also peek to see if E is moving. If E cuts in, he must cut down further. We tell the top defender (D2 here) that he can’t let a skip go between C and A.
This is an ideal drill to do a day before a game when you’re trying to get the stick skills flowing and don’t want to wear out your players’ legs. Be sure to get a lot of balls behind each offensive player. We want the players to throw a lot of passes, taking a lot of chances, and giving our defense lots of reps to intercept balls, knock them down, and put them on the ground.
Now we are really building up the picture to be more like a man down scheme against a 3-3 offensive set. We have five offensive players around the horn and have also eliminated the crease player. Remember, the defenders are three perimeter defenders and not the two crease-guarding defenders. The offensive players should remain relatively stationary (i.e. no dodging or attacking the goal).
Be sure to pick up some additional man-down drills by reading our previous blog features starring Coach Tiffany: 3 Effective Man-Down Lacrosse Drills to Boost Defensive Play, plus Man-Down Defense: The General Drill.
This week, pick up some tips from one of the game’s sharpest minds as Tiffany highlights key defensive strategies in a 2 vs. 2 format. Tiffany first breaks down the 2 vs. 2 action using whiteboard diagrams before taking to the field for some live simulations with his squad.
The action focuses first on using no picks before eventually getting into screens up top and behind the net. Also, be sure to pick up more defensive tips and key terms from our previous feature starring Coach Tiffany.
We are adding to our team defense scheme development with 2 vs. 2 action, which really emphasizes on ball and off ball skills. This is more free-flowing than most other defensive drills. With the up top offensive player, we will say to them, can you beat your opponent? For the defensive player, we will say, can you prevent your opponent from beating you? For the two off ball players, can the offensive player rotate to a good spot to be an outlet and a scoring threat? Defensively, do we need the defender to slide? Should you slide?
In this first scenario, we’ve got a dodger up top and an attackman on the crease. But we will also put the offensive players behind the goal, too. Perhaps there’s a defender on-ball and then another defender ready to slide from an adjacent position.
On the Field
We do a lot of 2 vs. 2 work at Brown. Let’s start with an on-ball defender and a help defender (hot man). Defensively, do we need to slide? If so, can we do so in a way that won’t leave his man wide open? For now, there will be no picks on the ball.
On the field, players go 2 vs. 2 in live action. Meanwhile, Tiffany provides the play-by-play and uses slow motion replays to highlight his tips and suggestions.
Next, the players move behind the cage. Still, there are no picks yet. The key here is to really emphasize communication between teammates, plus slides and recovery tactics.
Now, what happens if the offense brings a body to the dodger with a pick? There are three ways to counter.
1) Get Through. Our communicator is the defender off ball (D2). As the attackman approaches the pick, the defender says “Get Through” and he wants to be a yard or two off his man and a yard or so over, giving room for D1 to get underneath the pick and through it.
2) Switch. D1 is on the ball. D2 should position himself a little wide and off his man. D1 will let go of the man he was guarding, releasing him, and switching to guard the picker. D2 will now step up and guard the dodger.
3) Double. This is where we jump the pick. D2 will trail his man in initially. As the pick is set, he will jump up and attack the ball carrier. D1 will trail the dodger into D2, hopefully forming a closing-in tactic on the offensive player.
A lacrosse team that rides effectively can generate extra possessions in the double-digit range. Ultimately, your team will cause key turnovers, get odd-man breaks, and have a better shot at coming away with a victory. This week, former NYIT head coach Jack Kaley explains his 10-man riding package, an effective system that recently netted his squad an average of 10 extra possessions per game.
Riding demands pressure by the riding team and hustle all over the field. At NYIT, the team features six different rides. According to Kaley, turnovers off of rides are some of the best turnovers you can get in a game because now you have numbers. When you get the ball back via rides, you normally end up with an extra man in transition. Plus, the pressing, turnovers, and extra possessions you get via riding far outweigh any goals you might give up.
NYIT starts incorporating riding techniques on day one of the season. Even early in the year and we’re doing 1-on-1 drills, the drill isn’t over until the team has cleared the ball. For instance, on a 1-on-1, if the offensive guy takes a shot, and the defender breaks out to receive the ball, the offensive guy must get back to get in the lane. He may not be able to get up to the man, but he can still deter the goalie from passing to that open defensive player.
We must stop the man who was playing the shooter. Once we stop him, it’s easier to cut off the rest of the players. The goal is to cut off all of the opponent’s top players, especially their top sticks or anyone breaking out up field. Remember, we are riding every single day, on every single drill.
The first series is a ten-man package, or 90/100. This is a zone ride.
We always have a man on the ball and are always cutting off the adjacent player. Near the midline, we’ll have midfielders on the opposing midfielders. We will also have a midfielder zoning ball-side, and the player in the middle. Our zone attackman is zoning off-ball side.
Meanwhile, we will also have a long pole in the middle, perhaps over the midline or back. He is the quarterback of the ten-man zone. He is working with the outside guys. If the outside guys are down low, he will come back and they will go low. If they are high, he will stand to zone the middle.
Key: All of the on-side players should be cut off. Only the far-side players should have options. If the opponent goes over the top, for instance, with a cross-field pass to the opposite defender, players will bump up and play tight. Watch Coach Kaley diagram where the riders should move in this situation.
Any time the opponent gets the ball underneath us, we want to press, take away the outside, and force the ball carrier to roll back and to the inside. That’s where we have the most underneath support.
Also, it’s key to remember that the role of your zone players is to not take the ball away or cut the player off, but to pressure him back to the middle of the field. If we get our trap in the middle of the field, where we have a long pole pressuring from the top-side, we have three guys on the ball. If just one of them gets a check, we will have a 1-on-1 chance or possibly even a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Note: On all of your pressure rides, should the opponent clear the ball, your attack has to be within ten yards of the midline. This helps particularly with any throwbacks at the midfield.
Learn from one of the game’s sharpest minds as Tiffany highlights some key defensive terms, strategies, and goals. Also, Tiffany runs through some basic slide schemes on the whiteboard before taking to the field for some live simulations.
It’s vital that six defenders and the goalie communicate to each other while playing together in order to be successful and stop the opponent.
The goalie’s focus should always be on-ball. We want the goalie watching the ball and dodgers and talking to the on-ball defender (with terms like step left, step out, step in, etc.). It’s up to the defense when it comes to slides.
Next, we need the defense to say, “Who is the first slide?” At Brown, the terminology is “hot” or “hotman.” This person can also ask questions to build trust in the defense. For instance, things like, “I’m hot,” or “who’s my fill”, or “who’s my second slide?” Fill means to fill into the crease and take care of the crease and the insides first and foremost.
The hot player identifies the fill player. Those extra words really make a difference. Meanwhile, the third slide is “the three” or “crash” into the crease. There’s not always a third slide and getting there isn’t easy.
Okay, so the hot man is identified and has his fill, but when he slides, what does he say? At Brown, the saying is “go.” This player sends himself. If he doesn’t slide, he yells “stop” and he stops the slide scheme. Now you must get back to your man.
The final term is used in our recovery. Once we have slid, the man who has been slid for (the original on-ball man) – when he is flying into the hole – well, we need to talk to him and tell him where to go. In Brown’s schemes, they look to the crease first and find the open man. When looking for the open man, the defense can tell him where to go. If he hears “bump”, he goes to that voice. It tells the man who is beat to come to me and follow me back to my own man so we can match up quickly.
Here are some key terms to determine how the defense will slide. We can slide from different areas with the hot man. Then we can mix up where our fill slides come from.
Coming from the Crease: the hot man slides from the crease.
Crease, Crease: the hot man comes from the crease and the second slide comes from the backside crease.
Adjacent: We may come in hot from the adjacent defender initially. The second slide could be adjacent as well, meaning the first slide hot player and the second slide fill player.
First Slide Hot from an Adjacent Defender, Second Slide from the Crease: The first slide is from the crease defender and the second slide is from the adjacent defender.
Sliding Cross Crease: When we are defending the ball on the dodge from behind the goal.
Cross-Crease Slide: When a defender slides across the crease from the backside.
Brown uses a variety of drills that start at the base level of 1 v 1 and eventually build that up to 6 v 6. The goal is to start with the fundamentals and then evaluate the decision-making skills of each player. The first drill here works on such.
One player will start in the middle with a ball up top and a defender on him. The hot man is on the crease with a coach nearby. This drill is indeed 1 v 1. The slide man is only a decision-maker. The coach will sit there and evaluate his decision-making. The coach will keep the hot man in there for 3-4 reps. Meanwhile, the dodger dodges 1 v 1. The Coach will then have the defender in a good open stance and ready to go. Next, the coach will ask the player about his decision-making. Should he “Go” OR not say anything? The coach has the same vision as the hot man and can give some good feedback right away.
The team’s slide scheme development begins with on-ball play. This focuses on a few key principles, particularly being good 1-on-1 defenders. Here we’re going to work on some on-ball play with an offensive player dodging from up top. The cardinal rule for the defender on the 1-on-1 is to not give up the middle of the field. Remember, the goalie focuses solely on the ball and the on-ball defender.
This 1-on-1 drill can be run from up top, the side and behind the net.
Legendary lacrosse coach Cindy Timchal is a firm believer that the better her team plays defense, the more they will have the ball on offense. Ultimately, they’ll have a better chance at winning the game.
Quite simply, an effective, shutdown defense can produce major dividends for your program. The following drills focus on 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 defensive progressions from a number of areas on the field. With Timchal providing whiteboard descriptions and then on-field instruction, coaches will be able to easily implement these three useful defensive drills with their own team.
A general philosophy for team defense is to have constant pressure on the ball, always be ready to help on the right and left sides, and if beat, ask for help. Remember, players must back each other up and be ready to step up and help. Keep your head on a swivel and be alert as anything can happen.
The goal on defense is to protect the goalie and limit the amount of scoring opportunities by the opposing team. Always be ready when the ball is behind or up top. Meanwhile, and perhaps most importantly, in order to be effective, teammates must communicate well at all times.
In order to be a great team defensively, we must be great individual defenders. Therefore, it’s key to break down the defense into 1 v 1 and 2 v 2 situations and build form there until we ultimately have a solid 7 v 7 defense. Remember, the better a team plays defense, the more they will have the ball on offense – and that often translates to a winning formula.
Let’s start with some simple drills to develop good individual defense. Take your team and have them go 1-on-1 with an offensive player and defensive player starting just outside the 12-meter line. Alternate from the left side to the right side, focusing on the attacker looking to go to cage and the defender trying to stay right with her. In a 1 v 1 situation, we want the defender to force the attacker out and away from the cage at all costs. Also, look to change the starting points of this drill to the GLE and behind the crease.
Now, we’ve got two defenders and two attackers starting out at the 12-meter line and parallel to each other. Unlike our 1-on-1 situation, now we want to force the attacker inside and into the help defense. Therefore, it’s key that defenders communicate effectively in this situation. The goal is to stop the player with the ball and force a pass and not allow them to go to the cage.
Next we’ll focus on defending when the ball is behind the cage. In this situation, we will start out with a 1-on-1 format. So when the attacker looks to go up crease to try and score, our defender will be waiting there at the GLE in a good defensive position as the opponent tries to curl around and get a decent run to the net.
Positioning wise, the defender picks that attacker up and because of the 1-on-1 situation, she must keep the attacker out and away from the cage. Always keep the stick facing toward the midline. It’s key to have containment in order to prevent the curl around and shot attempt.
Now let’s add a second attacker and defender. Our two attackers will begin behind the cage. Our two defenders will start out at the GLE on opposite sides of the net. As the attacker with the ball starts to go toward the cage, the opposite defender will need to make a crease slide. This is when a defender slides parallel to the crease in order to double-team an attacker. Help defense is key here. It’s difficult to stop the 1-on-1 in this set up, so that’s why the double team is important.
The following team defense drills – along with many others – can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Teaching Progressions for Team Defense” featuring Cindy Timchal. Check out our entire defensive library by clicking here.