Defensive footwork is one thing coaches and players overlook in practice all the time. Use this quick and easy drill to teach your players how to "Approach"- get out to guard the ball quickly, then back in to help cover the middle in settled and unsettled situations. Plus get some Speed, Agility & Quickness work done at the same time!
Proper footwork on defense doesn't end up on highlight videos very often, but it probably should. Good Defense starts with the feet first, then the hips and hands. Stick checks come last.
Youth and beginning players make some very common mistakes playing individual man-on-man Defense:
- Poor "Approach"- running at the ball from the wrong direction, or coming in too fast, letting the man with the ball run right by.
- "Over-Committing"- Younger players often charge straight out at the man with the ball and "Lunge" at him. If he changes speed or direction, it's over. "Break Down" in a good athletic position, ready to "Drop Step" and "Pursue" the ball, no matter which way he goes.
- The old "Stop and Chop,"- Defenders stop their feet and throw one stick check, letting the man with the ball run right by. Move those feet and stay in between the man with the ball and the goal!
- "No Top Side!"
Use this simple drill to teach your players to get to a good defensive position on the field quickly, where they can stay in between the man with the ball and the goal.
They will also learn to get back and help cover the middle of the field, with their sticks up to knock down passes once the ball moves to another attacking player. This is an easy way to help teach "Team Defense", where your players have First and Second Slide responsibilities.
Here's THE DRILL:
Set up cones in a circle around the outside of the goal area, with one on the crease. You can use anywhere from 4-8 outside cones, depending on how much conditioning you want to incorporate into the drill.
This imitates common locations and spacing where attacking players usually are on the field- Midfielders at the corners and top of the box, Attackmen at the wings, goalie's back left and right, and at X behind the goal.
Figure 1.) Blue 1 will run straight to the cone on the Crease. Teach your players to get back in the "Hole" and play defense "from inside out". Don't give up the middle of the field!
- Recognize all your players' effort: Encourage all your players effort and athleticism in these types of drills. They might not be as fun as other practice drills and games, but they are just as important!
- Defensive Communication: Make sure all your players are communicating loudly. "I got ball!" when they are at each outside cone, and "I got your two [Slide]!" when they are back in to cover any open attackers in the middle.
- Remember to Time Your Drills for your players' age and attention span: You should be able to get your Speed, Agility & Quickness work done in 10-15 minutes at the beginning of each practice.
Defense! Defense! Defense!