The hardest thing for a seasoned player and coach to do is break away from traditional thought. But when you are trying to give your team an edge, often times you have to think outside of the box to create opportunities. Lucky for many of you, in this instance, you don’t have to step too far out of that box. So we are going to talk about fronting the wing, of the 1 and 5 position.
I was discussing this very subject with a fellow coach of mine who is playing the role of assistant coach in her coming season, and she told me she was going to have a hard time convincing her head coach that this was they way to go. Her question to me, “Can you help me understand why you would prefer to leave a right hander open at 1 rather than always press there at the deep wings?”
So in traditional Coach Dave long-winded fashion, let me explain. Sit your defender in the passing lane to the 1. Now try and pass to them. The only clear path would come from the 5 or the hole. You're not allowing the ball into the hole, so there goes that pass. The only clear pass to take away is coming from the 5. The wing defender can see this pass coming from a mile away, and easily move themselves into position to break that pass up. Plus, if ANYONE is passing from 1 to 5 or vice versa, they deserve to lose the ball, unless there is NOBODY there. Therefore, any pass that goes to the wing has to go over the defender's head likely resulting in an overthrow, leaving that winger WAY out of position, or an under-throw, which should be taken by the defense. Finally, even if the Wing DOES get the ball, they have the absolute WORST angle in the entire pool to shoot from. As a coach and player, you have to trust your goalie can stop that shot. So, in playing this gap position and deterring the pass from even reaching the wing positions, it puts the wing defender in a great position to get the jump on their attacking counterpart, and a lot of the rest of the field. Watch what happens when a defense maintains the front and press defense and forces the shot to come from the perimeter later in the shot clock.
I’m only showing the front half of this transition to drive home the idea of the kind of jump that the wing defenders can get on the entire field just by fronting that position. How you get the ball to one of those breaking defenders, well, you have four other players in the field to make that happen, but it has to be quick. After all, you have two wingers that are going 5th gear, full throttle to the other end of the pool.
Now, this doesn't mean that the wing defenders can let that winger walk the ball all the way to point blank range. Eventually, an angle will be created, and this turns into speed vs. reaction (shooter vs. goalie respectively). Additionally, you have to watch the backdoor drive, and stay in the passing lane. If you do that you neutralize the wing positions. And combine this with fronting the Hole position, you can't get the ball to the wing to pass it into the Hole. Then, when you go into transition, you have inside water and may likely have a jump on a lot of other players in the field. Score MANY for the Wing defender.
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