Why Great Lacrosse Attackers Play Like Zombies
Midfielders are do-it-all players. They run the offense. They command the defense. Most are driven by the desire to score rather than the desire to do full-field sprints, but they do it anyway because they know it’s their job.
But how many attackers know their role also overlaps with that of midfielders?
Do your attackers have the 30-zone disease? The one where they play like possessed, lights-out players when the ball enters their offensive third, counting down until the second they score, but as soon as the ball crosses the 30-yard restraining line, they start napping and even drag their sticks along the turf, digging up pellets?
Meanwhile, their opponent has cleared the ball, starting a fast break with little-to-no contest from the midfielders chasing behind – and only the midfielders, outnumbered and exhausted, carrying the weight of the attackers who forgot they are also midfielders.
It only snowballs from there.
What happens to their defense when the attackers fail to re-defend past the restraining line? Do the defenders retreat to the 8-meter, waiting for their opponent to charge toward them in an uncontested transition? Do they meet their midfielders to double team, leaving the goalie unprotected? Or worse, they forget about that lone attacker who’s waiting for a nice long pass and a wide-open one-on-one opportunity.
When coaching a young offense that is new to the concept of re-defending, also known as riding between the restraining lines, you can introduce it slowly and methodically until it’s second nature.
When the defense starts its clear, have your attackers run to the far restraining line, tag the line and then backpedal to their assigned area with their eyes still on the ball. This gets them moving, and oftentimes, when the ball is nearby, they jump in to help.
In order to have a successful offense, you must also have a successful ride. It should become a habit. Attackers shouldn’t camp out by their opponent’s goalie or chat with their defenders while remaining stationary. Their feet should always be moving between the restraining lines, like busy bees that never quit.
Take re-defending to the next level by teaching backside doubles. When a midfielder is marking the ball carrier, an attacker can come from behind to double team, ideally by the sidelines (the sideline acts as a third defender), forcing a bad pass or dropped ball. Nearby players should cut off adjacent passes.
Your message to the attackers might sound like, “Don’t be the last one into the midfield on the ride. Be the first one to double the ball. Be the first one to screech to a halt at the far restraining line.”
Which brings me to my point: Attackers are like zombies!
When the ball is being cleared, attackers become full-fledged zombie apocalyptic players who hunt the ball. If they don’t catch up with the ball, then they gave their opponent a scare – and hopefully – some added pressure to throw it away.
Drills that allow your players to take turns riding the ball during a clear are key for slowing down fast breaks come game day.
Keep a line of four attackers (that will serve the defensive role of a midfielder) about 10 yards behind the ball when you blow the whistle. Three to seven midfielders on the opposing team will attempt to clear the ball, but feel pressured from both the midfielders and attackers coming from behind.
A successful ride will trap the ball, force a bad pass or a turnover. To challenge your team, add in as many players as you need, but no more than seven to mimic game-like scenarios.
For little peanuts, try using a smaller area, like a 15-yard box, with only two midfielders trying to clear the ball, one marking in front and one coming from behind. Add in more players after they master the skill on a smaller scale.
- Set up a 7v7 below the restraining line. Have the attackers play keep away inside the critical scoring area. Identify which players are midfielders and which ones are attackers.
- On the first whistle, an attacker throws the ball to her defender, who starts the fast break. The offense, which just lost the ball, starts to ride.
- The midfielders immediately mark the ball and the two closest passes that are closest to the goal they’re defending. Aim to slow forward momentum.
- When the ball passes the restraining line, the coach blows a second whistle, signaling the attackers to turn into speedy zombies – complete with zombie sounds, of course!
- The zombies chase from behind, attacking the ball and any open players, focusing on those closest to the ball first.
- If the ride is successful, meaning their opponent turns the ball over and the attackers get the ball back into the 12-meter, then the zombies win.
- If the fast break succeeds, clearing past the far restraining line, then the humans reign supreme.