Sept. 4, 2008
Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of the May 2008 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
Houdini's got nothing on Sonia LaMonica and Katie Doolittle.
LaMonica, the former Sonia Judd and a member of the Australian national team, and Doolittle, a U.S. Developmental team member, made their Maryland women's lacrosse careers as escape artists, thwarting defenders at every turn.
Now assistant coaches under Missy (Holmes) Doherty at Towson, they credit their success to a skill they contend is too often neglected by today's players - stick protection.
The tendency to keep the ball within swatting distance of a defender is often the result of poor mechanics when receiving a pass, Doolittle contends.
For instance, a player who develops the habit of "stabbing" at a ball to catch it could very well reel a pass in, but then leaves the stick exposed to oncoming checks. To avoid this, practice receiving passes from a partner with a defender approaching your backside.
Break down your position: Your outside (left, if you're right-handed) shoulder should be perpendicular to the defender, with your inside shoulder and the ball falling parallel in line. This is your max-protect position.
"It should be shoulder, shoulder, ball," says Doolittle.
If it helps, say it to yourself. Give with the ball as you catch it into a cradle, and keep your head up, finishing in this formation.
Adds Doolittle, "They all go together."
Catch any ball inside of 8 meters and you're guaranteed to find pressure in tight quarters, where the best finishers are almost constantly in max-protect. LaMonica and Doolittle suggest the pivot drill to help prepare for such an assault.
Have a third party toss a ball in your direction as above, only this time, go live with the oncoming defender. As a rule and to develop better stick protection, you must keep one foot planted, pivoting off of it as the defender attempts to find an opening and dislodge the ball. You may pivot in any direction you wish, but your pivot foot cannot change.
"With good stick protection, [dislodgement] is nearly impossible," says Doolittle, "so then we add another defender."
By throwing a double team into the mix, you'll find that not matter which direction you pivot, a defender's stick awaits. Your pivots should hasten, and your body language should react with each pivot to protect from the defender nearest the ball.
Make a game of it - whomever manages to dislodge the ball must now play the role of protector - and go full speed.