Dribbling up the baseline and soft short corner hits
I enjoy reading your tips on the Obo website. I have questions about two specific topics: 1. Opponent dribbling up the baseline. If an opposing forward is dribbling the ball on the baseline and heading for the goal with speed, how should I defend? I’m assuming that I have one defender back and the forward has the option to pass to someone near the penalty flick spot. Should I try to tackle the ball carrier myself? If so, how long should I wait before going out to get him? Otherwise, if my defender is to tackle the ball carrier, how should I defend against the centring pass? 2. "Soft" short corner hits. The short corner striker (deliberately) hits the ball at medium pace. I lie down in anticipation of the direct hit. Usually if the ball is hit hard, it has enough power to be deflected safely out of bounds by either my stick or LHP. However, if is hit softly, then it just hits my stick or glove and sits near the goal just out of my reach (but maybe close enough for an opposing forward). In this situation, should I try to control the ball so that it stays closer to my body?
In regards to endline balls, there are a ton of variables you need to consider. Where is your defensive help on the ball? If there is a player at the penalty spot, is he marked? How much speed, vision and control does the ball carrier have? Finally, what side of the circle is the attack from, left or right? All of these have an impact on what’s going to allow you to be successful.
First off, there are no absolutes. Sometimes staying at the post works, sometimes taking the ball works. Having said that, there are guidelines for giving yourself a better chance to be successful. If you’ve got a defender in good position on the ball, i.e. . he’s even with the ball and keeping the player pinned to the endline, let the defender take him. Communicate that. The attacker at the penalty spot is the danger player, but only if he’s not marked. If he’s marked, then everything’s under control.
I think the most important thing in endline balls is everyone having a common understanding and that comes through repetition and talking through the situation in practice so it’s automatic in games. Typically problems come when the defender on the ball isn’t in good position or has been eliminated and there’s confusion between the keeper and the other defenders who’s taking the ball. The defender who has the player at the penalty spot goes to the ball and the both of you are done as soon as the pass goes.
Depending on where the cover defender is, he may be able to take the endline ball, especially from the attacker’s left side, your right. If the defender on the ball is beaten from their right, you’re left, you’re better off taking the ball. What taking the ball means, goes back to speed, vision and control. Look at the OBO tip on slide tackling. I think the principles are there. You give yourself the best chance to succeed when taking the ball when a forward has the ball with speed, the ball off their stick and their head down. By the same token, you set yourself up for failure when you go out at a forward who has the ball on their stick, their head up and the time and space to slip the ball past you. Hopefully that gives you some ideas.
As far as medium paced hits on corners, they can be a problem. Depending on your strengths, there are a couple of different ways to handle them. If the ball is between your chest and head as you’re down and can control the shot close to you and can clear the ball yourself, that’s one option depending on the defence the team is playing. Medium paced hits play on the gaps in a defence. They’re not designed to score, they’re designed to create rebounds between defenders. If you can control and clear the ball yourself, that’s one way of eliminating the rebound.
The other way you can handle the problem is using body angle and position to take the ball to safety. For balls hit at your legs, you can either angle your leg to take the ball around the post by bringing your knee forward and feet back. You can also bring your feet forward to angle your legs to take the ball to a safe space. By the same token, you can also angle your body with your feet slightly forward and upper body slightly back. You can use the same mechanic for well hit balls. It gives you a better angle for taking the ball around the post on your stick side.
I think one of the best ways of dealing with medium paced balls hit at your upper body is with your LHP. For balls from chest to head, angle your LHP so that the palm is way forward and your fingertips back. For balls between your waist and chest, you want to bring your palm/bottom edge around to the turf so that your fingertips are to your feet. This creates a sweeping motion that allows you to angle the ball out to your right. With either skill, you’re starting with the LHP at your chest as you’re down and are adjusting as the ball is coming in.
Obviously the most important thing with medium paced balls is saving the first shot. You look pretty silly setting up to a complicated save/clear and then have the ball just deflect off you and into the goal. It may be just a matter of repositioning defenders to better help you to clear rebounds.