Is riding a lost art? Have we become so focused on subbing in specialty players during transition that we no longer have a desire to implement an organized ride?
Several years ago, a college coach recruited an attackman from a team I coached. The kid wasn’t a flashy scorer, exceptional dodger or even the best attackman on the team.
Why did he recruit him? He rode!
We’re not talking about a half-hearted chase after the ball carrier, with a homerun swing at the midfield line. We’re talking about hustling from sideline to sideline, disrupting anything and everything the clearing team tried. This kid genuinely got mad when the defense had the ball and nothing would stop him from getting it back.
Riding also can get players on the field who normally would not play. My team a few years ago used a special group of riding attackmen for our Eagle Ride. They were hustlers who maybe didn’t have the skills or experience to play otherwise, but their athleticism could benefit us. We subbed them in during “horns,” and if they caused a turnover, they were rewarded with an offensive opportunity. They took pride in having this special role and generated at least three extra possessions a game for us.
This ride makes it difficult for opponents to advance the ball past midfield. It starts with your two most athletic attackmen playing low, just inside the restraining box, and your third attackman plus three middies lined up across the midfield line. On the far end, the defensemen lock on their marks. You could line up the riding players sideline to sideline (as illustrated) or stack them.
As the goalie outlets the ball to one side, the riding attack shifts, leaving only the furthest pass open—in this case, a long and dangerous cross-field pass—and forcing the defenseman to either go 1-on-1 or make the cross-field pass.
The remaining riding players “match feet.” I like this term because it encourages players to have their feet on the same side of the midfield as their mark. You can never be offside, unless the clearing team is offside.
As the ball moves across the field, the two down attackmen fall back and bump across with the ball. This keeps the clearing team from gaining the 2-on-1 advantage with adjacent players. Meanwhile, the riding midfielders work to keep their men in front of them. Letting a clearing player behind you exposes the ride and could open up a fast break for the opponent.
The riding attackmen continue bumping in twos until the clearing team throws the ball away or advances past midfield.
You may end up with your third attackman playing midfield. But if he stays with the third defenseman, you should be able to sub him back in over the line, since most teams don’t allow defensemen to play offense.
Rules for Riding
- Never leave a low man for a high man. If an unguarded ball carrier comes toward you, never leave your man to pick him up. That gives the clearing team an easy 2-on-1 and can lead to fast breaks.
- Match feet. Pick a man and cover him. Wherever he goes, you go. You’ll never be offside.
- Play topside defense. Your close defensemen should play in front of their attackmen to prevent him from becoming an easy outlet over the top of the ride.
- Hustle. You don’t have to be a great player to hustle, but all great players do.
TJ Buchanan is the coaching education content manager at US Lacrosse. Suggest topics for future coaching blog posts in the comments section.
Photo Credit: Greg Wall
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