September 4, 2009

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This article appears in the September issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your complimentary subscription!


Swim Dodge: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

How many times have you seen a 5-foot-8 midfielder get impaled while attempting a swim dodge? It might be the most abused move in lacrosse, one that often results in nothing more than an embarrassing case of turf burn.

Deploy the swim dodge wisely.

Paul Rabil, whose freakish athleticism only accentuates his chiseled 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame, has made practical use of the swim dodge since his days at Johns Hopkins. A four-time All-American, Rabil has since made the swim dodge his signature move with the Boston Cannons and the 2010 U.S. men’s training team.

Who Uses the Swim Dodge?

Midfielders benefit most from the swim dodge and the separation it creates. Some credit former Virginia and Long Island Lizards standout Jay Jalbert as its creator. Kyle Harrison, Rabil’s teammate at Hopkins and currently of the Denver Outlaws, uses the swim dodge to set up his signature jump shot.

It doesn’t hurt if you’ve got Rabil’s massive wingspan, either.

What is the Swim Dodge?

The swim dodge is a variation of the split dodge. It is a north-south dodge that allows you to transfer hands without stopping your momentum towards the cage. Only instead of bringing your stick in front of your body where the defender is, you bring your stick over his outstretched stick and head.

The move gets its name from the motion it mimics, like a swimmer’s freestyle stroke.

When Do I Use the Swim Dodge?

Timing is the most important element, says Rabil:

“The only time I’m using it is when I’m dodging a long stick. The object for me in any dodge is to get as close to a defender as I can. That way, I’m limiting his chance of recovery. If I make a dodge five yards from him, even if I get him to step in the opposite direction, he has five to three yards to recover to me.

“The swim move is not programmed. I’m not going into a dodge thinking, ‘I’m going to use the swim move.’ It’s about getting as close to a defender as I can to get him off balance, and that being the only option to get out of it.”

Where Do I Use the Swim Dodge?

If you’re in tight space — say, pinned on the sideline or with a double team approaching — but there’s daylight ahead, it’s a good time to bust out the swim dodge.
It makes the most sense in open field. Don’t try it in 6-on-6 unless you’re convinced you’ll get enough separation for a quick shot.

Why Use the Swim Dodge?

More from Rabil:

“When I’m going at my defender and I’m so close to him, I’m in a danger zone where he can check the stick out of my hands with a poke check. I’m making my move in his space, and the only option is to come over with my dodge. If I give him a regular split dodge that close, he’s going to check my stick.”

How Do I Execute a Swim Dodge?

• As you approach your defender, get him off balance with a hesitation or stutter step.
• Plant your outside foot, as you would with a split dodge.
• Bring your top hand up to the throat of stick, just below the plastic. (If you use this move often, put tape here as a memory point.)
• Drop your bottom hand off the stick.
• As you are about to make contact, extend your stick away from your body.
• Curl your stick in a semicircular motion over the defender’s outstretched stick.
• As you bring your stick over the defender’s head, cock your wrist backward to point your butt end in the air.
• Protect your stick on the back end of the dodge, bringing it tight to your body after clearing the defender.
• Explode away from the defender and into open field.



Bonus Strokes

Rabil on the difference between a split dodge and swim dodge: “With a split dodge, coaches talk about making your split without taking both hands off of your stick at the same time. You drive your bottom hand up and drop your top hand down. In a swim move, you’re not worried about your top hand. You’re always going to keep your top hand on the stick. I’m giving [the defender] a lean in one direction, dropping my bottom hand completely off my stick, coming over with my top and really leaving it in my top hand until I feel comfortable and in the clear.”

Rabil on when to transfer hands:
“You can switch hands midair or once you’ve cleared traffic. There may be sometimes where you make your move and he’s with you. And if you’re switching hands during that process, your more vulnerable to losing the stick. So you always want to keep it in that strong hand. When you’re in the clear, then switch over.”


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