Best Check vs Worst Check
Best Check: Lift Check
I think the best check in lacrosse is the lift check. The lift check is where you get the head of your stick under the other player’s glove and simply lift up. It is very simple but can be extremely effective. Lacrosse players can be rendered virtually useless with the inability to get their hands free, meaning they pretty much can’t do anything without their hands offensively.
What’s great about the lift check is that it doesn’t take much effort on a defenseman’s part. The idea is to just be running with an opponent and just have your stick “living on his bottom glove”. When he goes to make a pass or a shot, that’s when you would lift through his glove, elbow, or even into his armpit. This will disrupt his mechanics and motion causing a poor shot or pass. There are a couple of things you could do to get out of lift checks, but it certainly puts you in an awkward position really quickly and really easily. This check has the ability to disrupt opposing players without taking the defender out of position, which is why I dislike the wrap check as much as I do.
Worst Check: Wrap Check
In contrast, the worst check in lacrosse would have to be the wrap check. The wrap check is when a short stick defenseman, middy, or a riding attackman wildly swings his stick around the player who has the ball. It requires that you take one hand off your stick and you just wrap it around a guy’s waist in the hope that you luckily hit his stick. There’s so much upper body movement going on that you tend to stop your feet, and any good player has been taught to simply run through the check. Defensively, if you’re playing with a long stick, you’re keeping two hands on the stick, and you’ve got to throw your top hand and snap that bottom hand to make that wrapping motion. It’s a really long and violent motion, and it takes a lot of concentration. And again when you’re focusing on your upper body, you’re not moving your feet and defensemen tend to get run by. If you’re a righty sweeping in on a guy throwing lefty, it’s not as hard. But if you’re a righty throwing it on a righty (which is what happens 90% of the time) you’re throwing it over his back shoulder. So not only are you already giving up good position, but you’re actually almost pulling yourself out of position for the check. All in all, it is just not a good move.
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Best Dodge vs. Worst Dodge
The best dodge is a split dodge or a crossover, which is when you’re carrying in with the right hand and then cross over to your left hand (or vice versa). The worst dodge is a swim dodge or a swim move.There are lots of ways to do the split dodge, but the key to any dodge is speed and deception. So if a player is running into their dodge at 80-90% and they get in a couple of jab steps and fake as if they’re going to their left, and then split to their right and come at the goal 90-100%- that’s always going to be a very successful dodge.
The most common mistake players will make is having their hands in a bad shooting or passing position when they come out of the dodge if they need to shoot or pass, or if they need to carry more toward the cage they won’t have their stick in good stick protection so defensemen can check the stick.
Sometimes players don’t go into dodges at full speed or just below, and as a result they don’t come out of dodges at full speed. You can have a successful dodge going in at half speed and rely mainly on your deception, and then explode out at 100%, but you can’t be successful with a dodge coming out of it at anything less than 100%. Even if you shook someone out of their jock, they can still drop step and recover defensively, so coming out of a dodge full speed is really important.
There are really two different styles: there’s guys that come in slow and really get their hips swaying and stutter-step a lot and explode out of a dodge which is fine, and there’s guys that come in fast, as I prefer to. I come in as fast as I can keep my body in control- so I keep it at 80-90% of full speed so I’m not just spazzing out in my dodge. I generally like to step in the direction that I’ll eventually be going and then jab step away from that, and then come back to where my first jab step was, so it’s almost like a right-left-right if I’m going to my right, or a left-right-left if I’m going to my left.
Footwork is extremely important in everything- dodging and shooting- but if you’re not being deceptive with your footwork it’s not going to do anything. Lots of kids who are stutter-step dodgers will come in and just chop their feet up real short, then take a jab step out and go the other way, and that works really well also.
In a split dodge as you change from your left to your right you should rock your shoulders as you’re switching your hands so that you’ve got shoulder protection between your stick and your defenseman at all times.
The swim move is the worst dodge because it’s misused 90% of the time. If you do a swim dodge perfectly you’re probably 6 ft- 6’5”, because it’s a taller guy’s dodge, and what you’re doing is you’re essentially bringing your arm (your tricep) over someone’s helmet, so your stick is on the other side of their body, and bringing it across to your other hand- it’s a crossover. Essentially if you get too close to your defenseman, and he’s closing and you want to go the other way, you bring your stick over and around him and into the other hand. 90% of people can’t do it. It’s very difficult. When you do a successful swim, the bottom of your stick is facing the turf the whole time. But what kids will often do is- I call it the rainbow dodge- and they will just throw their butt end over someone’s head so it’s pointed at the sky so they can say they did it.
You can see in the photos to the left how exposed Rabil’s ribcage is. With the swim at higher levels, you’re likely to get your ribs broken. To get your stick up over someone’s head you have to expose your ribcage- and guys will just blast you and break your ribs. Even if it’s done to perfection, even if you crush a guy and do it perfectly—say if you swam righty, now you’ve got your stick on your left-hand side of your body in your right hand, so now you’re either stuck in what they call a Canadian crossover if there’s heavy pressure and you’re really limited in what you can do, or you have to switch hands before you can shoot or pass, which makes it slow.
The most important thing about dodging is being able to come out in a triple threat position where you can pass, drive, or shoot. And with the swim, the only threat you’re coming out with is broken ribs… Yet kids love it—they think it’s the coolest. But it is the worst. Scoring goals is what’s cool. Doing a swim dodge at the 50 yard line is not cool.
Sure, when people successfully do the swim dodge, it looks amazing. Like Paul Rabil loves to do the swim dodge—he’s one of the best professional lacrosse players. When he does it, leaving a guy in his wake while he’s clearing the ball, it looks really graceful and cool. But when Mikey Powell throws a hard up field jab step and splits you inside- that looks great too.
But, I don’t know, for some reason kids think the swim is the end-all, be-all. The split is like the crossover in basketball—it’s just the best move out there. It’s simple, it’s deceptive, and you change directions, and you change directions quickly. I like it better than the roll, too, because in that you change directions and your back is facing all the action and it takes much longer to roll than it takes to split. When you split you’re facing all the action and it’s quicker.
So, guys, remember— what’s cool is scoring goals. And the way to score more goals is to use the split dodge.