5 Summer Tips for Defensemen
Defense. The best position in lacrosse. Why? Because I play defense! That’s why. The best part of having my own website is spewing out opinions without consequence.
Are you apart of the defensive fraternity? Hoping to play defense collegiately? Want to get noticed by collegiate coaches this summer? Then this article is for you. After personally coaching defense and using this advice to get recruited, I can say these tips absolutely work. Sound good? Let’s get started.
Play the 2 and 3 Slide
Do you think you are a good defenseman? Do you know what a 2 or 3 slide is? You don’t? Then you aren’t a good defenseman.
The best way to prove your lacrosse IQ to collegiate coaches is to properly execute on your 2/3 slides. For those not in the know, here’s a quick lesson: a slide is when the man covering the ball is beaten; therefore, his defensive comrade closest to him “slides” to the ball carrier. The 2 slide is when the subsequent closest defenseman goes and covers the man the first slide left. The 3 slide is when the next defenseman covers the man the 2 slide left. See how this works? The 2 and 3 slides cover the man who becomes open. These slides fill in the defensive gaps.
Sound simple? Good, because it is. Yet, I cannot express my frustration at seeing young defensemen standing around watching their teammate slide to the ball. No one goes to the newly open attackman and he gets an easy “dink and dunk” shot. When offenses move the ball quickly, they are trying to get the defense out of order. This is why defensive communication is key. If you don’t know your slide, the offense has you scrambled. They have the advantage.
I promise, if you execute on 2/3 slides in games, coaches will notice you. A guy who knows these slides is better than the 1v1 god-tier d pole. You can be the greatest 1v1 pole in the world, but you’re completely useless if you don’t know how to 2 slide. Most of the time, you play defense off ball, not on; therefore, if you can only cover the ball carrier, you are a defensive handicap 90% of the time.
Surprisingly, many high school players still don’t understand these concepts. Prove to collegiate coaches you’re ahead of the curve by properly executing on these crucial lacrosse elements.
Stop Fast Breaks
An elite defenseman stops the ball when the chips are down. Personally, nothing makes my stomach sink more than watching as the opposite team’s fastest midfielder is charging toward my net. If you consistently ruin these transition opportunities, you’re proving you can handle the next level.
As the top guy, you need to force the transition midfielder to pass the ball. The worst thing you can do is stay covering your man and allow the ball carrier to shoot an uncontested shot. This is why you MUST KNOW YOUR 2/3 SLIDES! If you don’t know these, you will never stop the fast break.
In club, the attackmen will usually set up in an “L”; therefore, I will walk you through how to cover this. The top d man covers the top of the “L” (point man). When the ball carrier sprints down, you should slide to him when he enters the box. This forces the ball carrier to pass the ball to the point attackman. When this happens, the 2 slide comes from the bottom of the “L”. The slider is on the same side as the point man. This slider should be up top before the point attackman catches the ball. Then, the 3 slide will cut across the field and cover the man the 2 slide left open. By this point, your defensive midfielders will be back to help. There, you stopped the fast break and are now playing settled defense.
I get that reading this may be confusing; therefore, I will leave a video link for the visual learners. For the video, click here.
Force Some Turnovers
I’m of the mindset that a defenseman who rarely makes mistakes is better than the guy who forces three turnovers but allows four goals per game; however, forcing turnovers is an easy way to draw positive attention.
Here’s the standard way to strip the ball carrier: when he comes in holding the stick with two hands, get your stick in between his stick and body. Then, rip down on his bottom hand until he lets go. Next, you lift check the top hand until the ball rolls out. To finish, you scoop up the groundball.
If you do this a couple times, coaches will be piqued. Defensive coordinators are always looking for guys that force turnovers when the team is down late in games.
I would not recommend going too far out of position to force turnovers. The only time I’d say to sacrifice some positioning is if you are on (skill wise) an inferior player. Since he’s weaker, it will be easier to force turnovers on him. Show no mercy. When a lion sees a wounded zebra, he doesn’t think “oh, that guy’s hurt. I won’t eat him.” No! The lion sees him as easy prey and kills him. You must do the same when it comes to attacking weaker opponents.
Warning: you cannot get away with sacrificing positioning to force turnovers against the higher-level players. Imagine if you went out of the box to cover Pat Spencer. You’d get murdered. I only recommend doing this against the weaker club players to show coaches you can force turnovers.
Be a Groundball Vacuum
Hate when your parents force you to vacuum the house? Well, you’ll enjoy this type of vacuuming. You must be a groundball vacuum!
When there is a massive scrum for the ball, don’t be the guy hanging around watching. Charge in there, box someone out, and scoop the ball up. Take it down and score. Pass it off. Heck, you don’t even need to get the ball, just box out an opponent so your teammate can get it.
Being a groundball machine impresses coaches. Groundball statistics are indicative of one’s effort. Yes, sometimes you don’t have the opportunity to get groundballs; however, when you do have said opportunity, you must capitalize. Picking up groundballs isn’t sexy, but it’s a huge part of the game. Failing to win groundball battles gives your opponent another possession. A guy who consistently scoops up groundballs, first try, has a place on collegiate rosters.
Ability to Clear the Ball
When I was making a highlight tape for my recruitment, one thing Air Force head coach, Bill Wilson, told me to include was myself clearing the ball. He was extremely specific that I should not have all my clears be me running the ball up. I should also use tape of myself looking downfield and passing the ball to an open man. This is what I mean by ability to clear the ball.
As a d pole, you will get slaughtered if your idea of clearing the ball is to scoop up a groundball and sprint for the opponent’s goal. When the opportunity is there, you should do this, but collegiate opponents will quickly realize this is your only move. Eventually, you will get swarmed by the ride and turn the ball over. Do this more than once and you can kiss your playing time goodbye.
When clearing, think of yourself as a quarterback in the pocket. Your main goal is to pass the ball, not run. Yes, sometimes you’re forced to scramble; yet, you can always dump the ball off to your goalie. If you are getting doubled on the ride, a teammate should be open. It is your job to not get trapped in a double and turn the ball over. In college, you only have twenty seconds to get the ball past midfield; therefore, the longest you should hold the ball for is four seconds (that’s pushing it). Remember, when in doubt, pass the ball to your goalie and force the opposing ride to shift. Do not be the guy that always sprints past midfield with the ball. That will not fly against elite competition.
Do you agree with my list? Do you disagree? What tip was the most/least helpful? Let me know what you think by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can subscribe to my website to comment directly onto this article as well. Thank you for reading and, as always, I hope you enjoyed!