The following post is adapted from “Building the Modern Defender,” a US Lacrosse coaching resource written by Johns Hopkins women’s coach Janine Tucker. Purchase a copy through the US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program online store today.

Feeding is the ability to pass the ball accurately to a teammate, giving her a quality opportunity to score. Great feeders are “set up” masters. They love to make moves to draw the defense and then quickly and efficiently dish the ball off to a cutting teammate who catches, shoots and scores.

There are five main components of a successful feed:

1. Vision

Encourage your players to always have their eyes up when handling the ball. Having their eyes up allows them to take a mental picture of where their teammates are on the field, so they can anticipate cutters and make eye contact with their teammates as they look to set them up. This is where the combination of vision, stick skills and game sense all come into play.

2. Anticipation

Feel the play develop. “Sell” your moves to the cage so the goalie and defense think you are dodging. They will pay attention to you, and then you can look to set up a teammate. Successful feeders make strong moves to the cage using dodges and jab steps to draw and freeze their defenders. This allows their teammates to slip into the seams. Always be a threat. If you have a high-percentage opportunity to score, take it. Otherwise, look to get your hands free to feed.

3. Hands free

Getting your hands free means creating just enough space from your defender to be able to pass accurately to your teammate. Keep your feet moving as you prepare to feed. Drop steps are a great way to get your hands free. As you draw your defender with a strong drive to the cage, put on the brakes and drop back 2-4 steps at an angle so you can get your stick free to feed a cutting teammate. Think about a quarterback taking the snap and dropping back a few steps to find his receiver. Maintain a shoulder-shoulder-stick triple-threat position, with your body between the ball and your defender, to keep your stick protected.

4. Timing

Timing is critical to become a “set up” master. This comes with a lot of practice. You don’t always want to throw the first pass; you want to throw the best pass to a cutting teammate who has a good opportunity to catch and score. Remind your middies that the first option they see may not be the best option. If they stay patient, they will find the second or third cutter who is even more wide open!

5. Accuracy

It’s all about pace and placement. Accuracy is often the difference between a goal and a turnover. Remember, the most important thing in feeding is throwing a catchable ball. You don’t want to gun the ball in there too hard, and you certainly don’t want to lob the ball where a defender can intercept it. Put just enough pace on the ball to get it to your cutter so she can handle it and put the ball on cage. Feed the ball to where the cutter is going to be, not where they are at the moment of the pass.

Advanced Players

As defenders ramp up the pressure and get on the feeder’s hands, the feeder who holds her stick in one position is predictable and often finds they feed the ball right into the defender’s stick. Focus the feeder on changing the level of her stick, moving her feet, adding a fake and being unpredictable so the defenders can’t get a piece of the feed.

Finally, remember to always celebrate a great feed!

Over to you. What coaching tips do you give your players to help them become better feeders? Is there one aspect we mentioned above that you find players struggle with most? Let us know in the comments section.

Building the Modern Defender

Want to learn more about how hotspots play into your defensive strategy? Bring home the preeminent defense-specific women’s lacrosse resource, brought to you by US Lacrosse, as part of the “Building the Modern Player” series.