Outside of the fundamental footwork described in our FREE "Fundamental Lacrosse Practices," landmarking the top-shoulder of your check (the person you are covering defensively) while in a "closed stance," is the proper defensive technique when checking a player on the ball-side of the defense.
Denying underneath while playing “top-side” defense at the crease position during the 2007 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Halifax
Players need to learn how to play top-side defense while defending at all 5 positions of the "House" which is essentially the inverted coverage of the prime scoring area, in the shape of a stick-figured house (box + triangle). It covers both crease positions (low), both shooter positions (high corners) and the point position (top-centre), both on-ball and later off-ball. It is often useful to first show this basic defensive framework to the players before having them practice defending each of the different areas of the floor.
A "House" defense is a zone defense and the most basic system used to teach defensive principles to beginners
The drill below gives players a chance to "shadow" the movements of the offensive player while playing top-side defense. The offensive player must stay behind and between the two pylons (which are set up at the crease and shooter positions) for the first 5 seconds, before a second whistle signals that they may now take it to the net (1-on-1). The offensive player then gets another 5 seconds to get a quality shot, perhaps using some basic dodges learned in a previous practice. The defenders job then becomes not to get beat over-top, nor to get beat underneath, and otherwise to contest any shot taken from the offensive player’s proper-floor-side.
Defenders must stay square to the top shoulder of the ball carrier as they make "moves" between the pylons and the coach blows the whistle for a 1-on-1 after approximately 5 seconds
Inevitably defenders will find themself trailing the offender, having been beaten top-side. However, the play is never over and it is possible to reclaim the top-side by taking the right angle when recovering. The last resort is a trail check scenario, which is a more advanced concept. Beginners should just concentrate on realigning with the offensive player’s top shoulder and they will be successful.
This drill starts with the defender underneath the offensive player, hip-to-hip (shoulder-to-shoulder), at the crease and shooter positions on both sides of the floor. The defenders job is to reclaim the top side and avoid giving up a quality shot.
Inevitably a defender will get beaten top-side and needs to know how to “recover” while at the crease and shooter positions, which is the focus of our second staple drill
This drill incorporates all of the concepts of the previous drills in terms of playing "top-side," except it allows for more reps for more players, in a shorter amount of time.
Variation #1 sees the player play offense, then defense, at either the crease or shooter position on their proper-floor-side, switching lines after playing defense. Variation #2 is more consolitory in nature, meaning that after players have shown good "top-side" technique while relatively fresh, players are now forced to play defense against all 4 corners consecutively, which adds an element of fatigue to the equation.
Final 1-on-1 skill/drill consolidation can happen by checking an individual corner at a time and then rotating, or for more advanced players, checking all 4 corners consecutively
This sequence of drills is a great foundation for better defense at the beginner level. It is limited in that it has no elements of off-ball defense and team defense as a whole. Likewise, for a group of beginners, this might be the extent of the defense that gets taught (perhaps over several practices instead of all in one) over the course of the season. The other fundamentals of loose balls, ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting, and basic offense, are equally as worthy.
The next step is playing good team defense and helping each other out where possible...