Invisible Plays Part I: The Seperation from Parity

The landscape of college lacrosse continues to display the increased depth and development of athleticism, skill, and lacrosse IQ. The plays we see week after week are the result of stick-work, agility, strength, toughness… all the qualities that we love to see in sports. We spotlight the behind the back, the dive shots, the upper-90 step downs. We magnify the over-the-head check, the rusty-gate, and the can-0pener. As I’ve grown with the game and determined what I value most in my teams, I am drawn towards what I describe as the “Invisible Plays.”

These plays, to me, are the glorious acts of valor during the game that cannot be quantified in the Statistics book. They are the nuances of defense, the outlet off of a tough ground ball, the diving contested shot. I am here to glorify these plays. I’ve always come to find that the teams that are willing, and able, to make these plays are the ones that separate themselves from the pack in the most critical competitive arenas. To me, These plays can make the difference; in both the short and long run, between winning those elusive close games.

As coaches, we are always looking to create our identity. To find ways to separate ourselves from the competition. What plays do we celebrate? What do we consistently provide positive reinforcement to?

Contested Shots

North Caroline & Zach Powers, 2016 National Championship. Connor Kelly had dissected the Tar Heels throughout his career. Overtime finds the ball in his stick, with the opportunity to step-down and end the game. Out of apparently nowhere, Zach Powers, a man-down technician, goes airbone to sell out in a way many of us cannot describe. He sends his body at the shooter, disturbing his release and follow-through mechanics. One of the most accurate and lethal shooters sends his shot to the middle part of the goal, a regression from the mean. The ball is less accurate because Kelly’s ‘finishing touch’ has been altered. The shot has less velocity, as the shooter no longer can follow through after the release, his arcing technique cut short by the obstacle in his path.

Contested shots are valued at a high-level in the sport of basketball. Translated to lacrosse, shooters should find themselves at a lower percentage in shooting efficient when defenders can deter a shooter’s stroke. As a defender, much like a cornerback or defender in basketball, scoring opportunities will occur. The quality of the scoring opportunity can be mitigated by closing out on the space that the offensive player can utilize to maximize their shooting mechanics.

Tough Ground Balls & Outlets: “Spike”

The tough groundball. What classifies it as ‘tough’? We run through the ball, we take a check over the wrists, we keep it going our way. My favorite ground balls are displayed in this fashion. There is a conscious moment where a player must decide whether they are willing to take a hard check to the wrist in order to scoop through a ball and gain possession for their team. In these scrum situations, the opponent does not relent, they will continue to pursue.

The key moment occurs after the tough one. Where do I go from here? The great teams provide great outlets, or suppport to their valiant teammates to relive pressure and utilize the ground ball game to create offense. A well known tactic, yet rarely executed consistently is the ‘Move it Twice’ mantra. The great West Genessee programs, have always utilized this selfless tactic to take advantage of the extended field and open space that occurs in the time after these great plays.
Communication starts the chain reaction. “Goose Right, Goose Left, ‘6-6-6’: Give direction to the player so that he can anticipate where his ‘support valve’ is on the field. Effort is a pillar. Plays must work to create space between themselves and their defener, to provide enough space so that their teammate can relay the ball towards the sideline.

Technique is paramount. Can we scoop it up, bring it to our ear, keep our feet moving towards green space and deliver a ear-to-ear pass in one cradle? Can we receive that pass, roll away from pressure, get our eyes up to scan the field, and than move the ball to our next teammate in line.

Anticipation comes next. Where is the open space that our teammate will run into? How can I set my defender up to create space on a V-Cut? If I am the second player in line, where will the 2nd pass be best suited.
Optimism is key. We must have a positive mindset that our teammate will come up with the first-time ground ball. All else fails if we do not have the confidence in our teammates that they can perform their duty and get that thing up for your team!

Dive-Outs

Yale Lacrosse 2018. I do not think enough of the credit has been attributed to the possession reallocation that diving for an endline shot can provide for a team. In the NCAA Lacrosse tournament, there are tremendously efficient offenses and defenses, units that have developed a standard for how they look to affect the scoreboard. Within the efficiencies of these units, the possession battle becomes glaring. Within the game of lacrosse, you can upset the balance of possessions in a variety of ways: Faceoffs, Ground Balls, 10-Man Rides, Caused Turnovers. Within the realm of caused turnovers, I look at Dive-Outs as a key component to adding up to 3-4 possessions to your team category on both sides of the field. Within the psychology of the referee, how can one decide as two players race towards a shot at the endline, shoulder to shoulder, in a tight race. What can be a determinant to swaying the referee’s perception? The Dive-Out absolute has that power.

See Yale during their 2018 Playoff Run and the effectiveness of their Diveout Mentality.

{ADD CLIPS HERE}

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