We love Defense, but it can be very difficult to teach younger and beginning players how to play good Individual AND Team Defense. Here are a few easy drills for Defense you can use with your Team!
We put up this video on our Facebook Page the other day, which got a ton of likes:
Although it's a Hockey video, it illustrates a very common problem that younger lacrosse players have when playing Defense- charging out to challenge the ball, while giving up body position in between the attacker and the goal.
Youth coaches everywhere struggle with beginning players that "Lunge" at the man with the ball, or "Over-Commit" on Defense, running straight out at the ball, letting the man they are guarding run right past them.
Man-on-Man Defense is an individual responsibility first. If you are a youth or high school coach just about anywhere, you are probably working on lots of basic Individual Defense in practice. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.
GET BACK TO THE "HOLE" ON DEFENSE FIRST!
The "Hole" is a common term many coaches use to refer to the area in the middle of the field, right in front of your own goal. This is the most dangerous part of the field, the easiest place for the other team to score, so it's the place your players should cover first.
Instead of charging out at the ball in the middle of the field, where the other team can't score, all of your players should get back to the "Hole" and cover the middle of the field first!
DON'T GIVE UP NUMBERS-ADVANTAGE SITUATIONS!
Any time one of your players charges out at the ball and lets an attacker run right by, they are leaving the rest of your team in a man-down or numbers-advantage situation. If one of your players is chasing the ball around at midfield, another attacker might be open in the middle, closer to the goal.
PLAY DEFENSE "FROM INSIDE-OUT"!
Good high school and college coaches spend a lot of time making sure they are not allowing the other team to get these types of numbers advantages by getting all six (6) of their players back on Defense to cover the "inside" or middle of the field before going "out" to challenge the ball.
Here are a few Individual and Team Drills you can use with your team to teach your players to get back in the "Hole" and play Defense "from Inside Out":
MAKE "STUBBIES" TO TEACH YOUR PLAYERS GOOD BODY DEFENSE:
"Stubbies" can be a quick and inexpensive fix to players that let their attacker run right by with the ball.
GOOD DEFENSE STARTS WITH THE FEET!
Feet, Hips, Hands first. Stick checks are last. Taking away your Defenders' sticks at practice is a great idea for younger players. Without a stick, they have no choice but to play "Body Defense"- using their body to stay in between their man and the goal at all times, pushing away with just the hands, like a Football Lineman would do.
TEACH BODY DEFENSE WITH THE CLASSIC "BUCKET GAME"
The Bucket Game is easy to set up and doesn’t require much space on the field. Just put your empty ball bucket down anywhere on the field and give your players plenty of space around it. Your players don't even need to use their sticks or a ball. This drill is all about body positioning and footwork.
And most importantly, it lets your players work absolutely as hard as they can against one another.
DROP-IN DEFENSE & DODGING DRILL:
This is one of our favorite dodging drills of all-time! It's fast-paced, your players get to practice all their "moves", and it's up-to-date with the style of play that top coaches are using with their teams.
"Lunging" is one of the easiest Defensive mistakes to exploit. It's very difficult for Defenders to move their feet and "Drop Step" to stay in front of the man with the ball when their weight and momentum are going forward.
Use this great drill with all your Defenders to work on good "Defensive Approach"- get out to the ball quickly and be ready to move their feet to stay in between the ball and the goal.
THE CLASSIC "T-SHIRT" DRILL FOR "INSIDE-OUT" DEFENSE!
This is one of the best team drills to teach all your players fundamental defensive positioning- in between their man and the goal. The T-Shirt Drill teaches your players to get in front of the goal to cover the middle of the field first, then go out and guard the man they are covering.
This game is also sometimes called the Hopkins "Top Hat" drill. Johns Hopkins Coach Dave Pietremala bought an old Top Hat to put in the Hole.
You can use an old T-shirt or practice jersey, a cone, whatever you have on hand.
Give these drills a try at your next practice and make sure you tell us if you see improvements in your team!
Defense! Defense! Defense!