Sept. 4, 2008
Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of the November 2007 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to its members. Join today to start your monthly subscription.
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by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Look at any efficient attack in men's lacrosse and you'll find three controlled elements - a dodger, a feeder and a finisher.
While past editions of the "Classroom" have focused on aspects dodging (see Mark Millon, January/February 2006) and finishing (see Tom Marechek, September 2007), we've heretofore managed to ignore perhaps the most important function in an offense - feeding.
Feeding, which usually takes place in tight spaces around the cage, is a skill that requires a great deal of attention as players develop. Young players feed from all over the attacking area. As players mature and defense improves, feeding must be practiced and honed.
Here are some generic concepts, excerpted from the US Lacrosse Coaches Education Program and input from professional players, to keep in mind as a feeder. Practice these tactics, and the glory hogs on your team will be thanking you.
Free Your Hands, and the Rest Will Follow
When a defenseman has targeted you as a feeder, he will try to jam his stick in the "spokes" (the opening between your arms and torso) or throw a lift check on your bottom hand to offset your upper-body balance.
Free your hands with a dodge (with the ball) or a cut (without the ball) to combat this and create space. Because feeding requires pinpoint accuracy, you'll want to put yourself in a situation to dish with your strong hand.
The best way to do this behind the cage, where feeders often pitch camp, is to show for your weak hand. Defensemen are trained to take away the topside. So if you start with the stick in your right hand, for instance, he'll immediately take away your topside with his stick and body positioning - hindering your opportunity to feed, if that's your strong hand.
Put your stick in your weak hand and get your defenseman to commit topside on your weak hand as you approach goal line extended. Then roll back behind the cage, switching to your strong hand as you seal off your defenseman. You've created space, your hands are free and your stick is in your strong hand, ready to feed.
Make sure also that your movements are targeted as close to the crease as possible. The crease and cage act as another buffer of space.
For feeding position, bring your top hand closer to the throat of the stick, with the bottom hand about midway up the shaft for optimal control.
A feeder naturally works off his vision. You head should be up, scanning, but not telegraphing, where you're going to pass the ball. Look for someone who is in position to shoot. That is the difference between a feed and a pass. A feed's purpose is set up the shot, preferably a high-percentage one around the crease.
A feed must be accurate, thrown to a cutter's target or box area around the head, to ensure a finish. Make sure you are square to the target when you throw, and that you are following through with his top wrist. Accuracy takes precedence over velocity.
1-3-2 For You
Strong feeders are best utilized in a 1-3-2 offense, which is generated from behind the cage and relies on off-ball movement by midfielders and wing attackmen.
Traditionally, the feeder camps behind the cage until the ball rotates to him, setting up either another rotation or a designed play in which cutters and pickers create an open look. But if you're defenseman is locking you off back there, a good way to beat him is to hang him up in front of the cage.
Here's how it works: You start off on the crease, drawing your defenseman there. Most defenses require a first or second slide from the crease, so your guy will slough off perhaps a stick's length away from you to prepare for his movement.
Once you've gained that separation, quickly slip behind the cage on the midpoint of the arc on the crease, to receive the ball back there on the next rotation. If executed quickly enough, your defenseman will be hung to dry in front of the cage, and will have to commit to challenging you on one side, and the goalie or near man will be forced to challenge you from the other side.
Now you've got space and the defense rotating, which is sure to lead to a lay-up on the crease. Look for it.
Keep It Shallow, Stupid
Modern sticks are designed to be narrow with deep pockets and a lot of whip. It's a shooter's era, but a feeder's error.
If you want to quarterback an offense, go for a shallow pocket and minimal whip. Deep pockets and whip require a wider range of throwing motion, dipping your stick back or to the side, and require more time to get the ball set on your shooting strings.
As a feeder, your hands must be free and your stick in a passing position. You want a quick release.