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!
If you are a men's or women's lacrosse player, coach, or parent, I think you will love the weekly content, videos, and analysis.
Attack "At" Dodges
One dodging concept I've been working on with my JM3 Athletes lately is how to neutralize a pole by running right at him with fearlessness and speed. This is not a new idea. I was taught to dodge this way in the late 80's and the technique still holds true today! However, most attackmen don't put this type of pressure on their defender, letting them off the hook!
Watch this compilation of clips from some of the greatest dodging attackmen of the last 20+ years, running right at their man and you'll see what I'm writing about!
If you listen to the Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast I did last week with Andy Shay, Head Coach at Yale, you will gain some insights on how defenders are often taught to play defense: put your stick out, retreat, and try to make the dodger pick a direction so you can drop step, turn and run, and take an angle to meet the dodger at the "Island."
Listen to more of the Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast with Jamie Munro >>> www.PHILACROSSEOPHY.com <<<
Here's the catch: the dodger does not have to "Pick a direction" just because the defender's stick is going initiate contact on the dodger. In fact, if the dodger settles for picking a direction, the defender will have a perfect cushion and angle to play solid 1v1 defense on the island with his feet shuffling and under control. When defenders arrive at the island under control, they are in a good spot.
Ponder this: if you run hard right at the defender's poke and absorb that contact without being stripped, what is the defender going to do next? What can the defender do next? There is no way the defender will have the ability to cross check or body the dodger as he's trying to gather his stick which deflected off the body of the dodger in time to cross check. The dodger will be right on top of the defender as the defender is recovering from his poke. Many coaches, like coach Shay teach a one handed poke while in a backpedal. The one handed poke has more range, but is even more difficult to recover from when the dodger runs right through it! Check out the example below of Rob Pannell dodging versus Matt Dunn's one hand poke. Dunn, arguably the best defender in the world, never got a hand on RP3!
Then there's the running backwards part. Have you ever tried to body someone (in any sport) while running backwards? It's almost impossible to do. Further, when a dodger is running right at you when you're running backwards, and they don't make an early break, it's like wide receiver's goal getting up on the toes of a D-back, eliminating their cushion and making a move that the backpedal and drop step won't be able to keep up with. However, if the defender doesn't retreat with a backpedal while their stick is out, they will get run by with the no cushion and no momentum. It's a touch situation!
When the dodger runs right at and through the poke check, the defender will almost never be able to body the him. The defender will have to turn and run and try to catch up to the speed of the unimpeded dodger. If you watch the video above you will notice that the defenders hardly touch the dodgers other than a slight stick contact as they turn and try to catch up! The dodger does not have to run around the defender, but rather can run tight to him, almost shoulder to shoulder as if the defender was a pick, maximizing the advantage!
A big advantage of this dodging technique is the dodger will will arrive at the Island and the defender's feet and momentum will be out of control, unable to make contact on the dodger while shuffling. Like Harvard Coach Gerry Byrne always says, you have to shuffle your feet when executing a V Hold or you will get "Scissored" which means the defender will have to take extra steps and will get beat on a change of direction. Same thing happens with a cross check hold; it can't be done full speed without giving up big change of direction advantages!.
Notice how the dodgers in the compilation "At Dodging" video attack both "Inside Out" angling left while right handed or "Outside in" angling right when right handed (vice versa for lefties). Both of these approaches allow the dodger to dodge either way with the difference having to do with switching hands. The Outside in approach requires a split dodge to cut whereas the inside out approach does not. The Outside In Split Dodge can be tricky and risky because the dodger has to avoid the poke. Watch Grant Ament execute a beautiful "Under Split" on his outside in approach. The Inside out approach allows the dodger to attack one direction, turn the hips of the defender and cut back without having to switch hands.
If the defender turns his hips early, the dodger cuts back, if the defender waits, the dodger can go either way depending on the shade.
Here's Ament with an Inside Out Approach:
Here's Grant Ament with an Outside In Approach Under Split:
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There are a couple other important notes regarding this dodging concept I'd like to share. First, at higher levels of play, teams generally don't slide early to poles, which allows the dodger to be almost wreck-less with their speed. Second, you will notice from the video most of the dodgers were attacking from the wings, high or low, goal line and 45 degree below goal line. From these angles the dodger can dodge left or right, underneath or top side, and still get their strong hand. At X the "At Dodge" is still effective, but for two reasons it's more challenging. First because the dodger will have to fight around the crease and be more easily pushed off track and second, because he automatically won't get his his strong hand if he splits to his weak hand (which isn't the case on the wing!)
Hip Turns vs Drop Steps
Some coaches like Virginia's Lars Tiffany teach to move laterally and get a "Chunk" or "bump and run" technique for on ball defense, a more aggressive / disruptive technique, and requires a higher level of athleticism to play. This technique is common place with defensive short sticks, but not so much with defenders.
An interesting fact is that it's been proven in studies that "Hip Turns" are faster than "Drop Steps." The hip turn or foot reposition is executed in a bump and run style of defense where the athlete actually slightly jumps off the ground and then puts force into the ground to move explosively. Conversely, the drop step, which has been taught universally over the course of time in basketball, lacrosse and other sports, is slower because there is no force being put into the ground with the pivot foot and the next step is actually a braking mechanism (ahead of the hips) with no force applied until the hips move over and slightly past the feet.
Check out this video of basketball coach and author Brian McCormick explaining Hip Turns and Drop Steps.
Here are some game clips of Hip Turns in Action.
PLL Defensive Shorties
The best Short Stick D-Mids on the planet primarily utilize the "move laterally and bump and run" concept using the Hip Turn technique. You can see in the video below, Jake Bernhardt using Hip Turns when he's not pre turning his hips to run with a long dodge. Check it out!
Now watch the video below of PLL Archer shorty, Dominique Alexander, a phenomenal athlete with size, speed, range and explosiveness, primarily using a retreating / backpedaling technique, severely limiting his ability to get a "Chunk." As stated earlier in this blog, moving backwards is not conducive to popping your man with a crosscheck. Alexander is playing defense the way a long pole usually plays on ball defense without the advantage of the long pole poke check (although you will notice he frequently uses a one hand poke!). You will notice sometimes Alexander actually executes a hip turn out of his backpedal and other times you can see a pivot or drop step which is obviously slower.
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Have a great weekend!