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Five Rules For Becoming a Better Defender
Being a defensive midfielder or an LSM in lacrosse is one of the most thankless jobs. You don’t get the glory of scoring, the relief of making saves, or the triumphs of takeaways. As a defensive midfielder, your main job is to just not make mistakes and when you make them everyone notices. This makes it an aggravating position to play, but it’s also one that almost always has playtime available. Become a better defensive midfielder in lacrosse and you can double your field presence overnight. The key to improving as a defensive midfielder is remembering some simple rules for success and keeping a level head.
Rule #1 It’s OK to Get Beat
You heard me, now say it with me. It’s ok to get beat. Don’t approach the player you’re guarding and intend to get beat, but remember that’s not the end of the world if you do. If you are going to get beat, then you need to get beat down the alley. This allows your defense to get a better slide to the dodge and rotate more efficiently. Then you just recover and listen up for the rest of the defense to help you out.
Rule #2 It’s All About The Hips
Your hips will dictate how well you play defense. They will control your strength and speed, which are your best assets. There are a few things you must keep in mind with your hips when playing defense, but first, you must consider the angle of your hips. When playing midfield defense in lacrosse you want your hips to be splitting the field vertically. This means keeping your back to a sideline at all times and you’ll be forcing the dodger down the alley. Then you’ll want your hips to be above the person dodging you so they can’t get over the top. Ideally, your lowest hip will be lined up with their highest hip so you have a buffer zone so they can’t get over the top. Then the dodger’s only option is to dodge down the alley and if you get beat refer to Rule #1. Your hips should also below and in an athletic stance until your offense has the ball. This is huge for mobility and helps you make up for any lost steps.
Rule #3 Hustle Beats Skill
This rule is not an ultimate statement that means anyone hustling hard can beat someone more talented than them, but it does mean hustling can make you better than a skilled player. You should specifically think about this rule when throwing checks. Tricky checks that require a lot of skill can sacrifice your body positioning, so it’s better to keep it simple. Use simple jam checks or small lifts when applicable, and don’t get too fancy. If you’re hustling as hard as you can and staying true to Rules #1 & #2 you’ll be fine.
Rule #4 Communicate & Listen as a Unit
Communication is the biggest part of defense in lacrosse and becoming a better defensive midfielder is directly related to communication. You must let your defense know what you see and you, more importantly, must keep your ears open for help for your defense. The other defenders will let you know when to slide, who to cover, where to go, and anything else you’d need. This means you have to reciprocate that help to the rest of your defense so you can all work as a unit. The more communication between a defense the better it operates as a whole. Speak up, but try to listen twice as much so you can recover properly.
Rule #5 If You Can’t Play Defense, Get Off the Field
Subbing is included in lacrosse for a reason, so use it. Being a bad defender is something you can always improve upon, but it may not be your role. If you get caught going back on defense then try to get off the field as easily as possible for a defensive player. If you can get off immediately once the other team gets the ball, then do it. Your LSM will thank you and then you get a rest. If you get pulled down to the defensive side, look for a defensive player from the other team. Stick with them and they will likely sub off once their team settles the ball. Then you get an easy sub that doesn’t hurt your defense. Unfortunately, if you get stuck down on defense then you can’t sub without following off a player from the other team. Subbing without being conscious of your defense can give the other team easy numbers on transitions. Then you’ll be to blame and you likely won’t be going back in during that game.
Concluding Thoughts: Rules To Improve Your Midfield Defense
Midfield defense in lacrosse isn’t rocket science, but it does take some thought. Your stance, form, and communication will make or break you on the field. Being prepared is 75% of the battle and the rest is a pure reaction. A good defense doesn’t have to react without planning because they dictate the motion and operation of the offense they are guarding. In order to do this, all of the defensive players must be on the same page and fully prepared. One weak link can bring down a whole defense, so don’t be that weak link. Conversely, don’t allow weak links on your defense. Help out your teammates and encourage them to be elite as well. Work with them in order to become a better unit and stop any offense in the land!