Defensive Tactics: Part 2

Robert Gaughran
California All Sports Clinic

In discussing defense I am going to spread it thin and hit on individual and also general team ideas on defense.The following points I feel are needed if one is to be considered a basically good defensive player: 1) anticipation, 2) forwards assuming an immediate defensive position, 3) watching the ball, 4) playing the ball and not the person, 5) performing a grab block, 6) performing a lunge block, 7) positioning while swimming, 8) positioning for release, 9) stealing the ball, 10) guarding the 2-meter player, 11) contesting all passes. In part one I will discuss the points 1 - 6 and in part two the points 7 - 11.

Positioning While Swimming

This tactic is used when going for a loose ball, when going for a face-off, or when covering a player attempting to go to a scoring area. The idea of this move is to gain a defensive advantage by making the offense turn, to avoid fouling the defender. The move is one of sliding in front of the opponent by slipping or diving under the rear arm. The key to the move is the head. It must be placed between the arm and the body of the opponent. From this point the defender should wiggle forward and beat the opponent.

In a face-off the mechanics of the move must be changed. The player should now attempt to gain the top arm position as the face-off is about to take place. As the ball is thrown in the water, the player's initial move should be a diagonal move in front of the opponent. This will force the opponent to back off and should result in the player making the diagonal move getting the ball. In the event that the opponent doesn't "back off" he or she will more than likely be called for a foul.

Positioning For Release

The position which is most desirable for the defender in a full press situation is a ball side position in relation to the offensive player he or she is covering. Simply assuming this defensive position will present two major problems to the opponent.

1) It will cause a passing problem because any pass to the guarded player must be thrown over the defender.

2) If the ball changes hands the offensive player is beaten on any "fast break" the guard decides to go for.

This position will also cut down on the number of fouls which a defender will receive. The lack of body contact between the defender and the player he or she is guarding results in fewer fouls. When covering the 2-meter position, the goalie can be used as an aggressive player to combat or steal the passes to the 2-meter player.

Stealing The Ball

If a coach will instruct his players in this small phase of the defensive game, an appreciable number of steals can be accomplished. This particular skill will benefit the team in two major ways:

1) It eliminates the automatic foul call by the referee when he or she sees a player reaching over the offensive player's shoulder for the ball.

2) The defensive player who will go for the under the arm steal "often" during the game will accomplish at least 5 or 6 steals during any game against teams of comparable ability.

The particulars of the steal move are as follows:

1) From a square rear defensive position, move to the side a bit, reach under the arm and slide your hand forward to the ball then flip at the ball with your fingertips from beneath the surface. There should be sufficient force to the flip to cause the ball to be knocked over the forward's head to a position where the guard can retrieve it.

2) The under arm steal from, the opponent when he or she is swimming and dribbling the ball is accomplished as follows: As a defender gets to a position close enough to steal the ball, the defender should reach with his or her forearm under the arm of the dribbler and attempt to flick the ball away. If the defender is successful in stealing the ball, he or she goes for the loose ball.

If defender fails to get the ball then the defender is by nature of the tactic, able to continue swimming without losing ground to the offensive player.

Guarding The 2-meter Player

The most effective method to limit what a 2-meter can accomplish from his or her position is for the 2-meter defensive player to play in front of this player and, of equal importance, is for the rest of the defensive team to pressure their players. This will force the offensive team to do one of two things:

1) Change their style of offense which will result in their being less effective because of new people being forced to take on different offensive responsibilities, or

2) Force their passes into the fronted 2-meter player which can result in interceptions by the defender doing the fronting.

It must be emphasized here that in order to make fronting the 2-meter player effective, teammates must pressure their players.

Effective guarding of the 2-meter player from the rear is very difficult, if not impossible, under rules that favor the 2-meter player. However, assuming that the defender has been forced into this situation by chance or the 2-meter players moves rather than choice, here is what I would recommend.

Know which hand the 2-meter player uses to shift. Then position yourself to be able to grab the shooting arm before the forward can generate any momentum. The guard must stay up as close as possible, almost cheek to cheek. A player must keep one eye on the ball and one eye on the 2-meter player's arm and the player must "feel" the 2-meter player's body for any tell-tale motion which might tip off a shot.

As the right handed 2-meter player begins the shot, (assuming for simplicity that the forward will be shooting a sweep or scoop shot) the defender should grab the 2-meter player's shooting arm with his or her right hand. The defender should then reach around from, the left side with his or her left hand and attempt to grab or deflect the shooter's arm down into the water. The purpose of the left hand is primarily to deflect the ball down and to take off as much steam as possible before the 2-meter player can release the ball toward the goal.

Another effective rear guarding method is accomplished after the forward has taken hold of the ball. Grab the shooter with the right arm around the waist and hold to eliminate any rotation on the part of the shooter. Then reach around the front of the shooter with left hand to knock the shooting arm down or to stop its motion altogether.

A third method is to reach with the right hand under the armpit and hold the shooter's throwing arm on the inside of his or her bicep. Then once again reach around with the left hand to catch the arm if it should get away.

It is vital for the success of any of the above methods that the defender play to stop the arm of the shooter. Playing the shooter's head or swinging wildly will do nothing to stop a shot. This rule must be impressed upon a player early in his or her career.

Contest All Passes

A good defensive team should be required to contest all passes. Never allow the opponent to simply sit and wait for the ball with no fear of the pass being challenged by the defender. This has been discussed for the 2-meter defender in his or her defense of the 2-metter player, but this should also be an integral part of the play of all of the members of the defensive team.

The player in the middle of the tank should sit side by side with his opponent and be ever alert, through anticipation and by keeping his or her eye on the ball, to trying to intercept a pass. When a defender is guarding a player in the 1 or 5 position, he or she should be in the passing lane contesting the possible pass.

When an offensive player is closely guarded by a teammate, the defender should be encouraged to gamble and go to the ball side of his or her player and try to steal the pass to his or her player.The likelihood of the closely guarded player getting off the perfect pass is much less than the likelihood of the potential steal.

This ball side move is recommended for a defensive player almost anywhere in the tank, especially when the defensive player has good reason to anticipate a pass being thrown to the player he or she is defending.



(For the most part I tried to keep the content of Robert Gaughran’s original hand-out "Defensive Tactics" intact; however, I did take a few liberties with the original work. I changed the outline form, updated some of his terms (for example changed the term "Guards" to "Players in the 1 and 5 Positions" and the term "Forwards" to "Players in the 2, 3, and 4 Positions"), and edited a few sentences for my own clarity. Robert said essentially that I could do with his hand-outs what I pleased, and hopefully, what I did would please him. - Doc)