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.
In this week’s defensive drill of the week, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala highlights the highly effective Goal-line Drill. Using cones, the goal is to practice maintaining proper technique regarding how to stop offensive players from beating you when playing behind the net. The cones will indicate which area of the field you don’t want offensive players to get above or beyond.
Follow along as Coach Pietramala reveals step-by-step how exactly to implement the proper techniques, movements and strategies. This drill is critical to developing defenders at every level and is an effective method the head coach uses with his team on a frequent basis.
Using the video as a guideline, note how the cones are situated around the goal area. These cones indicate the areas of the field that defenders do not want offensive players to get above or beyond. The cones don’t go any higher than three yards above the goal line and they have a noticeable arc while tapering to the sideline. This is exactly the pattern we want to follow when we are approaching the GLE and locking up with an offensive player to drive them away from the goal.
The two cones nearest to the GLE are helping us teach the defender the proper angle they want to take to beat an offensive player to his spot. Also it’s key to remember that the crease is our friend. An offensive player must make an arc around it. That arc is exactly how we want to turn our body and have it facing the corner of the field. It’s similar to a gate. It’s either open or closed. With these cones, it teaches players how to close the gate. And by following the outline of the cones, it forces your body to adjust and turn so that you’re no longer facing the sideline and you’re now facing the corner of the field with your top foot forward.
In terms of player movement here, we want to “swing the gate closed.” In other words, swing the hips around and follow the cones and drive the offensive player away from the goal. This is why the cones go away from the goal.
You’ll frequently hear the terms “Plant”, “Drop” and “Squeeze” used with this drill. It’s important that players remember these terms so they can get the key points ingrained in their head. Here in the drill, we want to plant our outside foot, drop-step down the line to handle the first move, and then squeeze the opposing player behind the goal.
Goal Line Drill Full Speed
Now, watch as the drill is conducted at full speed. Players will begin well behind the goal before making their way to one side of the net based on the coach’s instructions. Once there, the player will plant his outside foot and yell “plant.” Then, he’ll drop his outside foot and yell “drop.” Next, he’ll squeeze and ride the offensive player away from the net by following the cone footprint. Remember, when squeezing, it’s important to be a half-foot behind the offensive player so they can’t roll back toward the goal. From there, players should follow the footprint on the opposite side of the net.
To following clips can be seen in their entirety on the Championship Productions’ DVD “Developing On-Ball Defenders Behind the Net” with Dave Pietramala. Check out additional defensive videos featuring Coach Pietramala and other top coaches in our extensive catalog.
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.