When playing defense, there is a lot to focus on at once. Master three things to stop any attacker that wants to challenge you to the cage: 1) Approach 2) Make Contact 3) Watch the Hips. Below you will see how each of these things can make you an unbeatable defender.
1) Approaching Forward
One of the most common habits of defenders is to backpedal when an attacker begins to drive towards them. By backpedaling, the defender is allowing the attacker to gain momentum on her. This also allows the attacker to get closer to the cage before she receives contact by a defender. It is a crucial aspect as a defender to always move forward and engage in contact no matter how small the steps are. You do not need to sprint full speed at your attacker, but move towards her and break your feet so you can meet her to apply the contact.
2) Make Contact
Attackers need to create space in order to drive and dodge to the cage. As a defender, you want to take all the space away. Shadowing your attacker and standing a few inches away is not making contact as they are still able to get space and continue their drive. To make successful contact, stay low in a deep athletic position so you can make contact on their hips. Keep your arms firmly out in front of you and make sure you do not push off your attacker. Approaching the attacker with your arms tight and then extending them out to touch the attacker, will often result in pushing them and will be called a foul.
3) Watch The Attackers Hips
Attacker's hips are the quickest way to determine their next move. Defenders often get caught watching the attackers stick or head. When this happens, it allows the attacker to fake with their stick and/or head and will allow them to dodge around the defender. Keeping good body positioning is more critical for defenders than going for a check. Watching an attacker's hips will allow you to tell which way they are about to drive, regardless of the quick stutter steps or stick/head fakes they make. As I always like to say to my players, hips don’t lie!
Practicing approaching forward, making contact, and watching the attackers hips will allow you to be a threat on the defensive side of the cage and will truly elevate your game. Getting these three basic concepts down will also allow you to challenge every attacker that tries to dodge you. Defense is a crucial role in the game of lacrosse and good defense could be the difference between a win and a loss.