Choosing a shoulder by Mish Phillips

Good body positioning is the key to downfield defence. Here we discuss limiting the cutter's options.

Many defenders position facing their player square on. This allows the offender to attack either ‘shoulder’ of the defender – ie. to take the inside line or the outside line. Because the defender doesn’t know which line the offender will take until very late, they cannot make a turn early enough. They have lost this matchup.

Fig. 1: Defending square on allows a cutter to attack either side

Fig. 2: Defending square on allows a handler to attack either side

We must flip the way we think about defence. We no longer ‘react’ to our player. We are in control, and we choose where the offender can go.

Fig. 3 shows how we should be guarding a downfield cutter; starting by showing one path that we want them to take. As the cutter moves, see how the defender turns their body, aiming to keep their hips facing the cutter.

Fig. 3: Use body positioning to prevent one option, then try to keep your hips facing the cutter to push them as wide as possible


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