The Initiation – The Artful Dodger and the Art of Dodging. PART 1

Updated Monday January 9, 2017 by Richard Schwartz .

The Initiation – The Artful Dodger and the Art of Dodging. PART 1

Like soccer and hockey, lacrosse is a game of mismatches.  While there are an equal number of players from both teams, each team usually has an extra player on defense (the goalie).  That means the defense starts with a mismatch on every offensive possession.  Absent some overtly overwhelming athletic ability of the offensive players over the defensive players, every lacrosse offense has to overcome this “man down” situation in order to have a productive offense.  But an offense does not need to simply equalize the numbers, it has to create a mismatch in its favor.  How do you get six offensive players to get a one man advantage over a seven man defense?  No trick answer here…you have to neutralize two defensive players.  No easy feat...

…unless, of course, you know how to initiate ball movement. 

The first step is to neutralize the first of two defenseman.  This is done through the “Initiation” process, which requires some athleticism, a lot of practice and a quick decision.  The objective here is to be a sacrificial lamb.  We take a player with the ball, and we have him dodge past the defender covering him.  In response, the defense will have to assign, or slide, another defender to stop our dodger.  A successful dodge always ties up the covering defender and draws a slide from anther defender; in effect a double team against our dodging lamb.  If successful, the dodger will not only tie up his assigned defender, but occupy the efforts of another defender…effectively neutralizing that second defender for a moment since he has to leave his coverage assignment to stop the dodger. 

First step accomplished. 

Before we discuss the second step in PART II, we need to understand all the things that went into our successful dodge.  Simply making an effort to dodge doesn’t mean you will succeed in drawing a slide from a second defenseman.  The Dodge has to beat his defender and be a shooting threat.  Certainly, blazing speed can be a huge help, but if teams are properly matched, then speed alone is usually not enough.  The ticket to a successful dodge, and hence a successful Initiation, are the Dodging D’s. 

Distance:  Dodge from a distance.  This allows a player to alter and modify speed at his whim.

Deceptive:  To succeed, every dodge has to be deceptive.  Rolling, spinning, splitting are all techniques our dodger needs to master in order to deceive his defender.  A deceived defender will lose a step or two on his dodger…necessitating a slide.

Decisive:  All dodgers have to make a decision and stick with it.  How many times have we seen a player try to dodge, only to decide in the middle of the dodge to go a different direction.  The, Initiation turns into a macabre dance ritual, and all momentum is lost. 

Deliberate:  Dodge with a purpose…no defender is going to be fooled by a player moving at constant speed…change it up, make the defender want to go one way when you know you are going another.

If you’re a coach, build these skills into your player’s lax IQ data base.  Work them through zig zag drills, 1 v 1, 2 v2, 3 v 3 or any even man drills.  You will find that your player will be as useful on the field as the Artful Dodger was to Oliver and Fagin.

The second step is to neutralize a second defender.  That is always the Goalie.  We will discuss that in PART II.


Richard Schwartz