We all crave the glory of scoring goals - there are few better feelings than watching your shot fly past the goalie and nestle into the back of the net! However, while scoring remains the primary aim of any team, it is just as important to know how to keep the ball out of your own goal, too. The defensive side of lacrosse may be less glamourous, but every player needs to perfect their skills - whether it be blocking, positioning, footwork or winning back possession of the ball. In this article, we will look at some lacrosse defense tips to help you improve both individually and as part of your team, therefore helping your chances of chalking up more wins. Because it's true what they say - defense wins championships!
Because being in the right place at the right time is key to good defense, let's start with footwork and positioning. These defensive footwork drills also help to direct the attacker into just the area where you want him to be - a predictable, controlled attacker is much easier to defend against.
This drill teaches good positioning while defending. Set up 7-8 cones in a zig zag pattern, and start at the bottom corner with your stick in an upright position. Set your feet about shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and keep a low center of gravity. Move backward from cone to cone with wide, lateral steps, and keep your body facing forward. Change direction quickly at each cone, keeping your stick in line with the direction you are moving. The zig zag is one of the best lacrosse drills for one person - just grab one of your long defense lacrosse sticks and get working on your technique.
Practice good defensive technique when defending against a fast break with this drill. Start with a line of defenders players at the 5 and 5 mark, with offensive players placed a few yards in front of them. An attacker carries the ball toward the defense on a fast break and a defensive player goes out to counter the threat, taking away the sweep. To do this, the defender leads with his left foot and stick upfield in order to cut off the option of the sweep. After preventing the sweep, the defender takes control of the play by ensuring a strong defense on his player.
This is a more advanced drill, which is designed to teach defensive players to quickly get back into their positions ahead of the attackers and the ball. The aim is to beat your attacker to the hole, preventing them from getting off a shot. Set up 4 cones above the attacking area, 2 offense and 2 defense. Also place 2 cones at the side of the field, one defense and one offense.
Attackers 1 and 2 attack the zone in possession of the ball. Defenders 1 and 4 sprint out to slow the attack, preventing attackers 1 and 2 from creating a fast break. Defenders 2 and 3 protect the middle, guarding the ball or the pass to also prevent a fast break. The defense focus should be on protecting their zone, slowing down the offense and allowing for reinforcements from midfield.
As well as lacrosse defensive positioning, these popular and easy to set up exercises also work well as defensive line agility drills, keeping defensive players on their toes and working on their fitness and conditioning.
Defending is tough, you're up against skillful and agile attackers that are going to use all of their smarts to get past you. Therefore, you'll sometimes need help! This comes in the form of a defensive slide, where a covering defender slides across to take care of the situation if you get beaten 1 on 1. Communication is key when it comes to who provides the slide - the goalie is usually the primary manager of his defense and it's up to him to direct proceedings. Sliding defenders should anticipate where the attacker will go, in order to cut off his path and engage the ball carrier. Always remember - slide to where he’s going, not where he’s been.
The close defense comprises the 3 players who work in coordination with the goalie to prevent the opposition from scoring. If you enjoy the tactical and physical battle, working as a unit along with your goalie to build an impenetrable barrier between the attackers and the goal, the close defense is the right position for you! Defenders play with special, long sticks, which are easier to block and tackle with, but harder to cradle. Only 4 long sticks are allowed on the field at any given time, so if you are one of the chosen few, it is really important to work hard on your defensive lacrosse drills.
Finally, let's address the golden rule of defending - NEVER get beaten topside. What does this mean? Topside is the side that leads the defender toward the middle of the field, in front of the goal. As a defender, you should always be directing the play away from the middle and toward the sideline, using your body position and stick as you learned in the lacrosse defense drills above. If you allow the attacker to gain topside advantage, he’s able to shoot or feed into a dangerous area with a good view of the defense. So by winning this battle, you take away his advantage and keep him in less productive parts of the field.
How is your defensive game? If you want to sharpen your skills at the defensive end, drills, workouts and positioning tips like these can really help you to become a more all-round player. Try out the drills at your next practice and remember - the teams with the strongest defenses are almost always the most successful.