Q: I am a Middie/Attackman and I am trying to improve my crease offence game. I have been watching films with Bobby Benson, BJ Prager, and Buggs Combs and have learned a lot. But, I want to ask you what could help throw defenders off and get myself open and get a second or two to rip a
shot. So, from a defensive standpoint what do you hate to see crease attackmen do?
Christian Cook: Thanks for the question Dallas. I find that as I’m playing on the crease and trying to cover a crease attackman that the most difficult thing for me to defend against is a player who can find the seams and move around.
There is nothing more frustrating than an offensive player who is constantly moving because it forces his defensive counterpart to concentrate on both his man (the most dangerous person) and the ball (in case he is the slide man or part of the slide package). As an offensive player, you should always concentrate on overloading your defenseman and making him work as hard as possible – giving him more opportunities to make a mistake. In addition if you play a high crease it is more difficult to cover as a defensive player because you are spreading out the field.
Furthermore, as I’m sure you’ve picked up in my other columns, it is a great idea to watch as much film as possible. In addition, watching film with a great crease player like BJ Prager is an even better idea. There are few players who can finish as well as BJ – he is one of the best pure crease attackmen I have ever seen.
It is clear that he also concentrates on his stick-skills with a focus on inside play. What I mean is that he can catch a pass and get it off quicker than any crease attackman I’ve played against. You should do the same. Unfortunately there are a number of attackmen who can get open but can’t finish because their stick skills aren’t up to par. Don’t let that happen to you. Get yourself in the right position and have the stick skills to finish and goals will come. Best of luck to you.
Q: Dear Coach Cook,
My name is Michael and I’m a Defenseman from San Francisco. I’ve been playing only for 13 months, yet was invited to a big time recruiting camp in Maryland and actually did very well. I’ve had a lot of coaches from top D1 schools talk to me about playing for them and it’s been a very fun couple of weeks hearing from coaches. However, how can I reach some schools that have not shown interest in me that I know I could play for? Are films and letters the only way?
Michael Abou Jaoude
Christian Cook: Thanks for the question Michael. If you don’t have the resources or time to make it to any other camps out east or at schools you are interested in, then I find that videos and letters are the best way to get in touch with coaches who haven’t seen you play.
Coaches get recruiting tapes all of the time, so they are used to it. You may also find it useful to try to find someone who can speak to the college coach on your behalf. Coaches are not just looking for good players, but they are looking for good people who can contribute to their program as individuals, not just as lacrosse players. In addition, I wouldn’t downplay the effect of you calling yourself to speak to a coach.
Just realize that you need to be completely professional, as you are essentially selling yourself. Many young players out there are far too informal when they speak to coaches, which is inappropriate. You should always put your best foot forward and in the recruiting cycle, that starts with presenting yourself in a professional manner.
You don’t want there to be any doubt that you are mature enough to handle both the rigors of school and the time commitment of year-round lacrosse. Remember, in college, lacrosse players are student-athletes, not the other way around. Best of luck to you.
Q: Dear Christian,
I switched from attack to middie and I am sometimes having trouble defending the middies up top. Most of the time I just go on athleticism. What are some drills or tips to help me improve body position and stick checks?
Christian Cook: Thanks for the question. This is a problem many new midfielders have – learning how to play defense. Although defense may seem quite daunting at this stage, realize that it is very very simple. As a defensive player your only job is to keep your player away from the goal – you DO NOT NEED TO TAKE AWAY THE BALL. I’d speak at length to your coach about his defensive philosophy so that you’re on the same page. Aside from the team aspect, the most important thing to work on is footwork and having a good lacrosse shaft for defense is just as important.
Play as much basketball as you can – it is invaluable and teaches you the right technique in pushing a player down the side of the field. The reason we split the field in two and keep offensive players running down the side is that every step they take, their angle on the goal is smaller and it is an easier save for your goalie.
Footwork drills (football footwork drills are great), jumping rope, basketball, squash and racquetball are all great things you can do to help your footwork. However, that is only half the battle – the other half is understanding defense. Watch as much film as possible and if you can, watch film with your coach. I’m sure he has a sound philosophy that should make your job somewhat easier as a defensive player.
Last but not least, there is only one check you should ever throw as a short shaft midfielder (it isn’t really a check even): the “lift-check.” Watch film of Princeton and you’ll see it – it is the most under-utilized, most-effective check in lacrosse. Not only does it neutralize the offensive player by lifting his elbow so he can’t shoot or pass, but it allows you to keep moving your feet on defense. Learn it, love it, practice it. Best of luck.