Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Re: Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Postby picknroll » Tue May 18, 2010 2:46 pm

BLCJoe wrote:My question is, how do you coach the kids to follow the rulebook and make only bump contact and consistent pressure when some teams are delicate, and others play prison yard style and outsize your guys by a foot and 40lbs?


Here’s what I do.

Set out cones in a zig-zag pattern spaced out about 10 yards about from the face off X at midline to the crease.

Put your whole team in a line at the face off X with balls in hand. Have each of them traverse the cones using a one-hand cradle, rolling back and changing directions at each cone. They start with a righty one-handed cradle while approaching the first cone. Then plant with the left foot, roll back while changing hands to left, then continue with a one-hand lefty cradle to the next cone and so forth until they reach the goal. Once they get to the goal the players circle back, get in line and start again. When one player reaches the first cone, the next player in line should start. This way there is a continuous flow of ball carriers working on one-hand cradles and changing hands, zig-zagging across the field while advancing midline to goal. It’s important to have the goal as a reference. While the players are going through the drill the coach should be emphasizing tight cradles with the stick held close to the body. When the player changes hands he should make a hard cut into a roll. Cutting is difficult for young players so this needs to coached/emphasized. They’ll try to round off around the cones instead of making hard cuts unless this is coached. Also emphasize changing hand during the roll to keep the stick protected and keep the butt end of the stick between the legs during the roll. Many young players time their hand change wrong and expose their stick to the defender instead of using the roll to protect their stick.

After all of the players have cycled through 4 or 5 times, get them all to drop their ball at the face off X. Now they will switch roles and become defenders. Now have each of them flip around with their back to the goal, still using it as a reference point. We now teach “poke, shuffle, drop”. The players must be in a proper defensive stance with their butt lowered, knees bent, and shoulders back. They’ll use shuffle steps to move from cone to cone without ever crossing their feet, throwing poke checks along the way. When the defender reaches the cone then he uses a drop step to change directions and continue his “poke/shuffle” across the field. The key coaching point here is getting the butt low and moving the feet. The worst problem that we have for youth defenders is standing flat footed and throwing wild slap checks. We want them to move their feet in this drill. Footwork is the biggest key to defense and it has to be taught and drilled at the young levels. This comes natural for some players, but not all. You also really have to emphasize the defensive stance as they will all be too high initially. You really have to work on getting them to bend their knees and lower their center of gravity.

Send them through another 4 or 5 times with this “poke, shuffle, drop” defensive routine (with no ball carrier). Now blow the whistle and regroup all of the players at the center X. Now we’ll combine the offensive and defensive skills. The first player in line is the defender and the second player is the ball carrier. Now the defender is using the “poke, shuffle, drop” method that he just learned to stay with the ball carrier. There’s no need to introduce contact yet. We want to teach the defender to play hip to hip with the ball carrier while always keeping is stick in front. We also teach to use the full extent of the stick as a buffer while constantly throwing poke checks to the hands. At this point this is still a bit contrived, but you’re teaching some valuable skills on both sides. Once you’ve got this down you can progress on to contact, but I would work on these three steps first until there is a base level of proficiency on both offense and defense. I would do these steps at every practice for a minimum of two weeks before working up to contact.

Now the next progression in the drill is teaching the defender to turn back the ball carrier instead of just staying with him through footwork. For a righty defender on a right ball carrier we’ll use a forearm hold and for a righty defender on a lefty ball carrier we use a butt -end hold. As the ball carrier starts with his righty one-hand cradle and advances toward the first cone, we’ll now teach the defender to use body contact to stop the ball carrier from advancing to the first cone. We’ve already taught the poke check so a forearm hold is a natural progression from a poke check if you teach the defender to keep his right forearm high while poke checking with his bottom (left) hand. As the ball carrier approaches the cone we want the defender to turn him back using his right forearm (still keeping the stick in front). Have both player go half speed initially and focus on technique. You don’t want them killing each other, but rather you want the defender to learn how to use contact to channel the ball carrier. You’ve already taught the ball carrier how to roll (without pressure). Now he can use that offensive skill to roll away from the contact that is being applied by the defender. As the ball carrier rolls away the defender will now need to rely on the drop stop skill that he learned to stay with the ball carrier. Once the ball carrier is going lefty the defender will then turn him back at the next cone by getting his fists together and applying contact to the hip of the ball carrier. The ball carrier rolls back right and the drill continues on and on. Now you have a step by step methodology to both teach your defender how to use contact and also to teach your offensive players how to roll away from contact.

This will look ugly the first time you try it. Stay with it. You need to teach this 5 or 10 or more times before you start seeing results, but once it starts to click this is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your kids. I ran this drill every day for two years when I was coaching a young team. It really works.

Once you get this down start moving to more free-form 1v1 drills. As my team got older we worked on these same skills through basic 1v1 drills that were not so contrived and structured. Young kids need the structure though.

Lastly the ref'ing is inconsistent, but I try to make my coaching consistent. If a player is getting called for a penalty while using the technique that I decribed above I will go to the box and tell he's playing good defense and go back out on the field and do the same thing. On the other hand if he's in the box because he was standing flat-footed and throwing wild slap checks ... well - he'll hear about that. You can't change your coaching because of the refs. If youv'e got a lousy ref it is just more opportunity to teach man-down defense (a whole new topic).
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Re: Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Postby SkylineCoach » Tue May 18, 2010 4:58 pm

picknroll this is pure gold. One of the best posts ever.

Thank you
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Re: Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Postby lax4real » Tue May 18, 2010 5:06 pm

Agreed! Just great stuff. This is a prime example of how to use the forum to benefit all. Simply fantastic Pick. I'll point all our Phantom coaches to this one for sure!
Thanks
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Re: Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Postby picknroll » Wed May 19, 2010 12:04 am

Thanks guys. A defensive coach for Santa Clara University gave me the progression above when I asked him how to teach defense to youth players several years ago. Unfortunately I've forgotten the name of this very helpful fellow.
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Re: Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Postby BLCJoe » Wed May 19, 2010 3:51 pm

I had the benefit this year of having an assistant coach that worked defense very well, and we did teach them a style of "boxing the hips" to turn away the attackers and lead the ball carrier, and this worked very well. My defense had wild moments, but most of this stemmed from my starters being first year players and learning to control their stick. They all worked the hip turn and controlled very well with their forearms.

My biggest question regarding the "how do you coach.." thought was more along the lines of, when you play a game and a ref is fine with your guy getting railroaded by a opponent charging full speed from the faceoff X to the sideline, and the next time your own players shoulder bump or push another player out of the box, and they get called for roughness, how do you justify beyond giving them a pat for handling themselves properly?

While I've definitely done my absolute best to remain consistent in what I teach them, I know I've also caught myself telling them to lay off what would normally be a clean check because the ref is "calling everything". I would much rather be able to say this is what you can do, this is what you can't and be done with it.
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Re: Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Postby chmdave » Thu May 20, 2010 3:20 pm

You have my sympathies Joe...the good news is it sounds like you only experienced one prison yard game...

The quality of coaching and officiating has been improving geometrically each of the past five years I've been involved in our league...I coached at the U13A level this year and candidly we weren't very good...but we only had one prison yard game like you've described...

At one point I called a TO to calmly ask the ref what he'd seen on a call he'd made a minute or so before...

I thought my approach was right out of the PCA handbook...this gentleman told me to shut up and coach my team...

At that moment I think you just honor the game for the sake of your kids...finish it out...get out of town...and use it as a teachable moment...sometimes officials don't appear to be as fair as we'd like them to be...but we continue to honor the game...

Then you go and grind your teeth...send Steve Walker a note...and thank the Lord that situations like this are getting MUCH fewer and further between...

Best of luck to you next season...
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Re: Body Checking at U11, U13, & U15

Postby picknroll » Thu May 20, 2010 3:37 pm

In youth you just play to what you know is right and don't worry about the calls.

I think most HS teams scale their play to the ref, but that is a very difficult concept for youth. We use the concept of a "coach's penalty" meaning if a player is doing all the things that they were taught and get a penalty it's a penaly ton the coaching. That's a useful device. We also have "coach's goal". Same thing. If the defense executed all the slides that we coached and the opponent scored then the goal can be chalked up to the coaching. Takes some pressure off of the kids.

My real pet peeve about ref'ing is the lack of slashing calls. As soon as someone falls on the ground a flag gets pulled for "roughing" or "illegal body check" etc. but on the other hand you see kids taking these wild slap checks that land on the stomach, back, knee and the ref will let them slide because he was "going for the hands". I hate this because it just leads to bad defense. Most of the time if the kid is chopping lumber like that he's not moving his feet. Throw him in the box. Make him learn defense with his feet. I'd be all for making slap checks illegal all together, like box lacrosse. Just my soapbox thing.
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