One of my favorite parts of the game of lacrosse is the ride, or transition defense. There are many types of rides, but the ride we use with the USA team is the one that begs the question “why ride?” The high-pressure nature of the ride leads to many caused turnovers, but also gives up some easy opportunities – high risk, high reward. There is a method to the madness.
Photo courtesy of US Lacrosse
Regardless of the ride you decide to implement, it is the only aspect of the game where every player on the field, regardless of position, has to be engaged at the same time for it to be effective. The attack dictates the success of the ride with ball pressure, the middies are the glue that allows the pressure to continue by taking away quick options, and the defense and goalies are the conductors, communicating and directing so the entire team moves in unison – an orchestrated attack. Even if your goalie is not active outside of the crease, their voice is imperative. The ride only works if there is a complete buy in at every position and brings the team together like nothing else you do on the field.
Contrary to popular opinion, a turnover is not the ultimate goal, rather a by-product of the constant pressure. This mentality allows the players to commit to something without worrying about the results. In fact, many of the turnovers that do take place, occur once the clearing team has the ball over their offensive thirty. The level of physical and mental pressure continues into the offensive end.
The constant pressure literally wears down your opponent both physically and mentally. It is not the ride itself, but rather, the constant pressure to focus and execute. The clearing team must focus on clearing the ball and can never rest. If there is a turnover, during the clear or quickly into the offensive end they are back on the defensive. It leads to a mind set that giving up a goal is preferred to a save because they need a break and the only way to get one is to go to a draw!
Sure, there are some easy opportunities, and even open goals given up. But philosophically, we would rather have our opponent score in ten seconds than possess the ball for a minute. If they score, we go back to the draw and continue to the relentless pressure. The reward is far greater than the risk, in my opinion.