At the intermediate level, the best three or four scorers and ball handlers should be put at the attack position. Attackmen need to be able to control the tempo of the game offensively and take care of the ball. Players who want to play attack at this level should be good cradlers, should be able to catch and throw above average, and should be decent at shooting.
Players do not need to be any particular size at this position, but they should be able to run fairly well and have good quickness. Players should have the mind-set at this position that they are team players and that an assist is just as good as a goal. The ideal attack would be three players who can mesh well together and who have different strengths. If you have one ball handler/ feeder, one shooter, and one dodger/finisher, then you are going to have a great group of attackmen who are very complimentary to one another. The main concepts to concentrate on for attackmen at this level are: dodging, feeding, finishing, and two-man games.
Attack is a very complex position and takes a great amount of skill to excel at. These concepts give young attackman an idea of what they should be looking to do out on the field. If an intermediate level attackman can learn these concepts, then he will have a pretty solid foundation on which to build.
There are a number of different dodges that intermediate attackmen should learn. At first, coaches should have their attackmen dodge from behind the goal because this is where they are going to spend quite a bit of time with the ball and where they will need to be comfortable. The first dodge that attackmen should have down pat is the split dodge. This dodge will allow them to set up a variety of moves. The split dodge is similar to a stutter step in any other sport. It would be the equivalent of Kobe Bryant doing a cross-over in basketball or Michael Vick juking a linebacker in football. In its most simple form, the split dodge is used to make the defender think the ball carrier is going one way and then going the other.
The ball carrier can either use a same-hand split dodge or a change-hand split dodge. With a same-hand split dodge, the player carries the ball in his right hand and attacks his opponent’s right foot (We say he attacks his right foot because his objective is to make the defender take a drop step. If a defender drop-steps, the player successfully sold the fake and freed himself for a shot or pass). Just before the ball carrier makes contact with the defender, he plants hard on his left foot and cut back across the defender without changing hands or slowing down. This example of a same-hand split dodge is a right-to-right split dodge. The same dodge can be performed as a left to left split dodge.
The other option is to use a change-hand split dodge. In a left to right split dodge, the attackman runs up to the defender with the stick in his left hand, plants on his left foot attacking the defenseman’s right foot, changes hands with the stick close to his body, and then explodes to the right of the defenseman. The same dodge can be changed around for a right to left split dodge.
When using this dodge, it is necessary for the dodger to go right at his defender and accelerate through the dodge towards the goal. Many times young players try to dodge a defenseman too far away or will fade away after making the dodge. The split dodge is made about a yard in front of the defenseman and then the dodger’s shoulders should nearly brush the defenseman as he runs by. There are two main objectives for a dodge. The first one is to fake out the defenseman. The other is to set up a shot or a pass. Neither of these goals is accomplished if the dodge is not made hard at the defenseman and straight towards the goal.
Another dodge that can free an attackman from his defender is the change of direction dodge or COD. Some players are taught another version of the COD dodge early in their careers, the roll dodge. However, as players advance, the effectiveness of a roll dodge becomes increasingly limited. The COD dodge is usually set up with a split dodge. Once the offensive player leads his defender in one direction he quickly plants and turns with his stick away from the defender, accelerating in the opposite direction. A well-timed COD dodge creates time and room for a pass or shot.
After the attackmen split or COD dodges his defenseman behind the net, his next goal is to get to five and five. Five and five means five yards out from the post of the goal and five yards up field. This spot on the field gives an attackman a number of options. At this point he has good angle to turn and shoot with either hand. The attackman also has a number of dodges he can make from this point to either get a shot or make a feed. This is a spot that attackmen are most dangerous from and they want to find a way to get to this point on the field and feel comfortable there.
One dodge that is very effective from five and five, especially at the intermediate level, is the inside roll dodge. If the player gets to five and five on the right side of the goal with the stick in his right hand, he plants his left foot, and spins his body, with his back towards his defender, to the inside of the field. Unlike a COD dodge, inside rolls require more contact with the defender. A good inside roll will knock a defender off balance and create separation for a shot. At this point, the attackman keeps his stick in his right hand, but must be very careful not to hang the head of his stick behind him for the defense to check the ball away. This dodge usually leads to a quick shot right out of the dodge.
If a right-handed player gets up to five and five at the same point on the field and changes to his left hand as he turns, we call this a question-mark dodge. The benefits of a question-mark dodge over an inside roll is that the stick stays to the outside making it more difficult for the defender to check and making the attackman a better feeder. The downside is that the player has to change hands and loses angle on his shot. Nonetheless, the question mark can be an effective move for attackmen that reach five and five and have good stick skills with both hands.
The other dodge that an attackman can use at the five and five point on the field is the rocker step dodge. With the rocker step on the right side of the field, the player drives hard to five and five with his stick in his right hand. When he gets to five and five, he again pivots on his left foot. He then fakes the inside roll or rocks back to get the defenseman to bite and then drives back to the middle of the field to the top side of the defenseman. This dodge can either set up a quick shot right off the rocker step or the attackman can keep the ball in his stick, draw a slide, and dump the ball off to one of his teammates.
Basically, the attackman has five different options from five and five. From the five and five point on the right side of the goal, he can inside roll and keep the stick in his right hand for a shot. He can inside roll back in a question-mark and switch hands and look for a feed towards the middle of the goal or on the backside of the goal. He can rocker step for a quick right-handed shot. He can rocker step and beat his defenseman towards the top side (the middle of the field) and look for a feed. Finally, if he has nothing and his defender is playing good defense, he can throw the ball back to X (the middle of the field behind the goal, where an attackman should always be). An attackman at five and five is the most dangerous there is. It is important for young attackmen to learn how to dodge to get to five and five and what to do when they get there.
The other reason that the split dodge is a great dodge for attackmen is that they need to be able to learn to use it from the wing. Being able to dodge from the wing is a great skill for attackmen to have because it offers them a variety of options. From the right wing on the field (the wing is considered to be the section of the field on each side of the net and ranges from about the goal line-extended to about 10 yards above goal line) the attackman can use four different dodges. With either a left to right or right to right split dodge, the attackman is trying to beat his defender top side or towards the middle of the field. When an attackman is able to beat his defender top side, he is most dangerous. With the stick in his right hand running towards the middle of the field, he will have great angles for a shot or for a backside feed.
The other two dodges that an attackman can use from the wing are a left to left split or a right to left split. From the right wing, with the stick in his left hand the attackman will be going down the alley and will most likely not have a great shot. However, he does have his hands free from this position and can be a threat to feed the crease or the backside. He can also move the ball to X.
The final dodge that a youth attackman should have in his repertoire is the face dodge. Many youth coaches teach the face dodge to their players by having them run at their defenseman and bring their stick across their face while keeping the stick in their same hand. Rarely is this dodge going to beat a defender who is in good position and ready for a dodge. It is a slow dodge that is too easy to read and fully exposes the offensive player to both a body and a stick check. However, it is a very good dodge for an attackman to have for when a defenseman is sliding hard at him. Many times an attackman catches the ball and sees a defenseman running hard at his stick to prevent him from shooting or getting to the middle of the field where he is more dangerous. As the attackman catches the ball, they can fake a shot and pull their stick across in one motion, which causes their defenseman to over commit. Once the defenseman goes running past him, he should have a clear path to the goal. Remember to have awareness as the defender you just beat probably will be coming from behind you.
Many youth players are taught most of these dodges, but they are not taught how and when to use them. Thus, they end up becoming bad dodgers because they do not understand the point of different dodges and how to set them up. The goals of a dodge are:
It is that simple. The earlier youth players understand that, the better off they’ll be. It is also important for youth attackman to run at their defenders and not run away from them. They have to be aggressive and confident in their dodging if they are going to help their team score goals. Furthermore, a defenseman thrives off of seeing their man run away from them. Attackman can keep the defense on their heels by going hard at them with their dodges.
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