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Playing defense is not complicated: stay in front of your man, move your feet and stay in his hands to make him uncomfortable.

Use this three-step progression to coach shutdown defensemen.

1. The Approach

Players must approach the ball in an athletic position. They must defend in an athletic position. And they must recover in an athletic position. The simplest way to coach an athletic position:

  • “Butt down.” Athleticism begins with a good base. Sit in that chair.
  • “Chest up.” As soon as their chest leans over their toes, they are toast!
  • “Stick out.” Not around the opponent’s head. Not poking. Just out in the opponent’s gloves. I call this the “leave it there” check.

2. The First Steps

Defenders should take three to five quick choppy steps back. If they can match the offensive players’ initial dodging speed with quick choppy steps back, while keeping the “leave it there” check engaged, they are already winning the battle. The offensive player has to wait longer to make his move, the defenseman’s stick is in his gloves and he isn’t running past our backpedaling defender.

3. The Engagement

“Drop and drive.” Drop means drop step, or the defender opening his hips to run with his opponent. He needs to beat the offensive player to a spot so that he can then drive the offensive player’s hips, forcing him away from the dangerous area of the field.

Pushing is a penalty, but driving using the legs, arms locked at 90 degrees, stick and hands on the opponent’s hip, is allowed at every level.

Butt down, chest up, stick out. Quick choppy steps back. Drop and drive. That’s it!