Welcome to "A Lacrosse Weekend" my weekly compilation of thoughts, ideas, stories, myths, truths, about the great game of lacrosse. I hope you enjoy it!
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For years I've heard coaches in men's and women's college lacrosse talk about a player's ability to run by someone. "You have to be able to run by your defender." they'll say or, "He or she can't run by anyone." The first order of recruiting is to find players who can run by their defender!
However, due to good on ball defenders and good team defenses that slide to and crowd dodgers, the fact is sometimes you're just not going to run by your defender because sometimes you will run out of space.
When I think of running by your guy I think of Pau Rabil. Every aspiring player should learn the details of Rabil's Split Dodges! The way angles "Inside out" and "Outside in", the way he jabs with his feet and his stick, and the way uses a form Left-Right-Left or Right-Left-Right Double Moves that break ankles. And while any player can learn these moves, most players won't be able to beat their man this cleanly on one move or have the shooting range of Paul Rabil.
I would credit Rabil, his running-mates at Johns Hopkins, Greg Peysor and Kyle Harrison and of course his Offensive Coordinator at the time and current Hofstra Head Coach, Seth Tierney, for taking this style of offense to another level. Alley dodging, long dodging, popping the crease, throw backs all created a style of play and philosophy that lasted 10+ years and created a paradigm of what dodging is all about.
Nowadays, we are seeing fewer and fewer alley dodges in general because coaches are following the analytics and prefer attacking from the wings, increasing shooting angles by getting sticks to the middle, and a heavy dose of wing 2man game, all of which produce higher efficiencies than dodging or 2man from out top (or behind for that matter.) The wings are where it's at!
A Great Dodging Methodology
I want to share with you a dodging methodology I pioneered over the years that I think you will find quite detailed and interesting. Using a Part-Whole teaching model, I refer to the "Life of a dodge" which has three stages:
Watch this video that will clearly explain this methodology, a vast array of dodges, as well as drills with in the Part-Whole method.
Two Interesting Conversations About Dodging
One time I was talking to then Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator and current Harvard Head Coach Gerry Byrne and he said this when talking about certain players, particularly Canadians: "some players can't run by people, but they can 'Get by' people." Coach Byrne went on to explain that many times it's more difficult to slide to dodgers who "Get by their guy" rather than "Run by their guy" because you can't always see it coming.
Another interesting comment from Coach Byrne was, "If your defense can't slide to a speed dodge/Alley Dodge, you should probably quit coaching!" He went on to detail one of his favorite drills called DBR which stands for Dodge, Bounce, Re-Dodge. Gerry trains his defenses in sliding situations primarily against re-dodges and rollbacks. Why don't we train our dodgers primarily in manipulating sliders?
I remember asking Gary Gait about dodging one time about 20 years ago and I'll never forget what he said: "I pretty much just wait for someone (or bait them) to overplay me." Think about this statement and ask yourself why this concept isn't the first thing we teach players? Said another way, we know that deception is critical to dodging, yet we generally teach deception as an add on. Remember: deception = fluency.
Here's an example of Lyle Thompson using a Backhand Pump to set up a Rollback. If you fake a pass as you rollback, you will draw a check, which will automatically make a defender take two more steps.
Question: why do we teach Rollback technique where the main focus is simply having a quicker rollback than your opponent and THEN (maybe) talk about deception?
A New Paradigm
I've been thinking about dodging in a different way. Its not to say all of the moves involved in the "Life of a Dodge" video are obsolete, nor does it mean Part-Whole teaching these moves is ineffective. My new paradigm simply is less about beating your man and and more about controlling your man and the off ball defenders through deception.
Controlling your man is backing your man off, baiting him to overplay you, faking his stick up in the air, drawing a check, dodging when he doesn't expect it. Basically, the whole thing is based on deception.
Just as important as controlling your own man, is seeing, manipulating and controlling off ball defenders bringing them closer to you with a dodge or a threat of a dodge, and pushing them away with pass fakes and retreating movements.
The biggest key to this new paradigm starts learning to be comfortable in as-close-as-possible proximity to your defender in these four scenarios:
Playing in as-close-as-possible proximity to your on ball defender is counter intuitive, but is hugely advantageous. The reason is three fold: fakes of all kinds will elicit a response more effectively the closer you are to your man and a lack of space or cushion means the defender has less time to react or recover, and third the rest of the defense doesn't have much time to react or recover. This is what Coach Byrne was talking about when he said Canadians who "Get by their man" are hard to slide to.
Watch the video below of Duke midfielder Nakeie Montgomery playing super close to his man, seeing the off ball defenders and giving them no time to react.
A player that embodies this style of dodging, that has more to do with "Fluency" than pure athleticism, is Jeff Teat. Watch this video breakdown of Teat's game:
You might ask the question, how do you teach this new dodging paradigm? First I'll tell you how NOT to teach it:
The reason none of these traditional drills will teach you this new dodging paradigm is because the whole key is the combination of manipulating your man and manipulating other defenders. How can you learn to Fake Through the Gap of an adjacent defender if there is nobody to read, fake, and communicate with?
Important Note: agilities, cone work, speed ladders, dummy defense can sharpen the skills of your footwork, which can be helpful, but it will not make you a better at manipulating your man and your defender, or being comfortable in as-close-as-possible proximity to your man. Isolated skill work creates "Accuracy" where as Free Play and Decision making creates "Fluency." Once your athlete has a certain level of Fluency, it's fine to work on technique, but there are definite diminishing returns!
The best way to learn this type of fluency is through playing.
Here's a video from some pick up games from last week down in Delray Beach Florida. We have a wide array of players: boys, girls, old guys, pro players, college players, high school players, etc.
Have a great weekend!