Note: this is a post written by Horse and by me. It’s a duo post – the opinions of an offensive player and the opinions of a defensive player, you lucky ducks.
From the Offense (Horse):
A year ago, our pickup games went like this:
Person with ball shoots.
Person with the ball shoots.
Person with the ball shoots.
Person with the ball shoots, repeat until 5 goals or time.
Then we discovered (everyone but me) the pass.This was great because for the first time we actually started performing like something of a team.
The problem was, we’ve kind of stayed there, with our focus remaining solely on that one phrase, pass the ball. I think we may have skipped a step.
Besides the friendly aspect of pick-up where you want everyone to be involved, let’s think about the purpose of passing during a play. If player A has the ball, and is well covered by a defense player and has little options, then it makes good sense to pass the ball to player B or C.
But what should player B and C do in the meantime? The difficulty arises when players B and C spend their time ‘getting open’ for a pass. You’re basically playing as 3 individual players with a common goal (scoring) instead of a 3 person team. So you have one guy with the ball (A), and two guys riding around hoping the ball comes their way so they can do the same, repeat until goal or turnover.
If a player comes up court with the ball, the other players on their team should keep an eye out for opportunities to create a path for that player, or an open shot. This means playing defense in the offensive zone. It also means playing the lineman instead of the wide receiver (if you wanted a football related analogy) which is a bit less glamorous.
What this doesn’t mean is that one guy runs up the court while the other guys play sacrifice so that he can score, every time. There are still going to be a ton of times where blocking the defense doesn’t work and shots don’t go in. You’ll still need to be aware of the pass. It’s just shifting the focus from getting the pass as your SOLE objective, to making a team play. Help the guy with the ball out, get him a clear shot, and give him a lane. It cuts down on turnovers, and also helps the guy with the ball make a smart shot, instead of a wild corner shot that has a slim chance of hitting anything especially net.
From the Defense (Crusher):
The defensive player, in our club at least, is often relegated to the goal (which make sense, don’t it?), but this has caused some confusion and lost opportunity. Point in fact, a player who has a strong defensive awareness is just as valuable in the offensive zone as they are in the defensive.
Much as my esteemed equine friend pointed out above, we’re at a point where we are three folks trying to all score on offense- and like any situation where three guys are trying to score on one thing, we generally don’t help each other out.
I get the feeling that (again, much like Horse), we’re at a point where we have to start acting like a team of players. This means you work with the play that is in front of you – not the play that might occur when the guy who has the ball doesn’t make a goal.
Now I know what you’re going to say (I don’t, actually, it’s a phrase I want to use though): “but that’ll take away the fun of pickup – all that fancy thinking!”
Well, I have to disagree with you. It will add another dimension to our pickup games, but it will likewise make us stronger players as a whole, a stronger club, and a stronger group in tourneys.
So how do we get there? How do we go the next step – the forgotten step – and progress as an entire club? I think it comes down to thinking as a group.
Instead of “I will circle here and wait for X to mess up or pass me the ball”, start figuring out what choke points you can create to get player X a clean line towards the goal. Are there opportunities we’re missing by not setting up picks or misdirecting defensive players?
The point is, not every play needs to make you a star – sometimes the smarter play comes with helping orchestrate the overall effort. Should you always play the defensive player on offense? Absolutely not – it’s something that develops by situation and not role. It’s a mindset: the finesse that is seen by podium teams comes from the rehearsed effort of making the play succeed, not your play succeed.
Being a defensive player by habit, I see the inherit good in this mindset. My own skills are more well suited to stopping offensive plays and disrupting the other team enough to create an opportunity (at least that’s how I like to frame myself). By having team mates who I enable to make plays in the offensive zone – knowing that I am supporting them rather than waiting for them to find the need to pass – I believe better plays can be made.