It’s all about footwork and positioning!
Too often do we see defensive players rely almost totally on their stick. While having quick hands may get the ball out occasionally, we see way to many defenders whiff and then are completely out of position to help their teams.
Defense is played with your feet first! Whether you are on the lacrosse field, soccer field or basketball court, you have to use your feet to play defense. Cross checking is part of the box game, but it’s not about how hard you hit the player. It is about controlling where that player goes and what they do with the ball. Once a player understands and can use their feet to stay in front of an attacker, then they can control where that player goes.
The other part of defense is understanding that you have teammates and that you do not have to win the ball all on your own. Focus on slowing down the attacker you are covering and then let your teammates help you out.
Check out this clip of Jimmy Quinlan of the Rush (white team) playing defense in the NLL.
Notice how he stays in front of his attacker and very rarely is swinging at sticks or hammering hard checks. Less focus on crushing guys and more focus on positioning and keeping the opposition out of the scoring areas.
Basketball. Watch the best defenders in basketball and how they move their feet and stay close to their player. The games may be different in several ways, but playing defense is almost the exact same. The video below shows several great skills and drills that translate perfectly to the lacrosse field (box or outdoor).
Once players understand and use their feet and bodies to stay with their attacker, they will then have the opportunity to win the ball with an easy poke or lift check. Stop leading with your stick and use it once you have the attacker under control.