Just came from watching several U-15 and junior varsity boy's lacrosse games in South Jersey. Amazes me how many players don't know how to play defense. For some of them, they almost looked bored or simply preoccupied with their offensive game. For many of them, they are standing around and don't seem to be thinking defense. If I had a chance to talk to them, this is probably what I would want to say.
When you are playing defense, think of three simple things: distract, disrupt and disable. When you are playing defense, you have three simple responsibilities. You are to distract the offensive player so that he can not focus on what he is trying to achieve or accomplish. You are to disrupt the flow of the offensive unit so that they are unable to make easy passes or move themselves to various openings for a clear shoot on goal. And you are to disable any offensive player with the ball so that it ends up on the ground or you are able to create a turnover and initiate a transition to the other team's goal.
So, if your job is to distract, you ask yourself how can I distract the offensive player? Think about it. You have your body, your stick and your voice. Are you using all three "tools" to make the greatest impact or are you trying to defend your goal with just your stick. I see too many players who don't know how to effectively use any of them. And many of them are not using their voices at all. If nothing else, when you are defending a player who has the ball, yell out "ball" or "check". Your job is to intimidate the offensive players and make them think really hard about wanting to come at you or shoot while you are defending them.
To disrupt the offensive unit, think about how you can interrupt the flow of their play and movement at your end of the field. You want to get them to do things that they weren't planning to do or don't want to do. So, think about it. How can I get the player whom I am defending to lose his focus and possibly make a mistake? How I can disrupt his concentration and composure, and get him to overthrow the ball to one of his teammates or possibly lose control of the ball and drop it? You need to ask how you can use your voice, your body and your stick. Do I have my stick up and in his face? Am I using my body and stick to block any potential passing lanes? Am I using my hands to ride his waist and use this leverage to push him to his weak side?
And if I want to disarm the offensive player, then I should think about how I could hit his hand or stick to possibly create a turnover. Or maybe, I can take the ball out of the air when two of the offensive players try to pass to each other. My mission is simply to get the ball out of their hands and successfully get the ground ball while initiating a transition to set up our offensive plays.
The next time you play defense, think distract, disrupt and disarm. Whether you are a long pole defenseman or the defensive middie, make sure that every step or move you make includes one of more of these three simple objectives.
Guest Post by Anthony Lanzillo
Anthony is a sports counselor and mental skills trainer. He has developed and presented mental skills materials to student-athletes at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels in such sports as lacrosse, football, soccer and basketball. Besides creating his own mental skills blog for athletes (Reaching Your Mental Peak), he is currently writing articles and posts for eleven different sports websites and blogs.