September 7, 2007

Sept. 7, 2007

Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of Lacrosse magazine in August/September 2006. If there's a topic you'd like to see covered in the "Classroom," e-mail section editor Matt DaSilva at

by Karen Townsend, Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

What do you do on attack when you don't have the ball in your stick?

A. Watch the player with the ball and hope she scores.
B. Run around the 8-meter like a lunatic trying to get rid of your defender.
C. Make numerous, uncoordinated cuts through the lane in an attempt to get the ball.
D. Time your movements with your teammates and set picks to get yourself and others open for a good shot.

If you answered D, you just recognized one of the most effective ways to develop a solid, team attack. A pick (or screen), when performed correctly, can open up a clear lane for an attacking player to receive a pass and go to the goal, or it can take a defender off a player so she can go to goal herself.

It requires a concerted effort on all players involved, as timing is the most critical factor in whether or not a pick is successful.

Pick Technique and Terminology

The feeder is the girl with the ball.
The picker is the girl that will set the pick.
The cutter is the girl waiting for the pick to be set so she can make a cut to the goal and receive the pass from the feeder.

Picking Away from the Ball

The picker should approach the defender and stand at her side. It is imperative that she stands strong with her stick held tightly to her chest and her feet planted firmly on the ground. Movement to readjust your pick could result in a moving pick violation, which is a major foul. The pick must also be set where the defender can see the picker in her peripheral vision. If she does not see you, an illegal blind-side pick could be called, which also is major foul.

The picker should remain in the holding position until the cutter has run off her side and cuts to the goal.

The most important elements are the exact timing and spacing of the cuts. The cutter must wait for the pick to be set on the defender's side and allow the picker to set up and get a good position. Do not leave too early. If the cutter does, the defender will be able to get past a bad pick easily, and it will be a wasted opportunity (thus, a wasted pick and cut).

Make sure the cutter runs right off the shoulder of her picker -- practically rubbing against her. The feeder should be aware of the pick being made and look to pass to the cutter as soon as she comes off the pick and cuts toward the goal.

After a stationary pick is set, it's incumbent upon the cutter to rub the picker's shoulder to maximize the pick, then cut to goal or open space with a sufficient target displayed. (Photos: John Strohsacker)

Picking on the Ball

This pick is pretty much the same idea, but this time the picker is screening for the feeder. This pick must be clean because all eyes are on the ball and the umpires will notice any movement or blind picks.

After the picker sets the screen on the feeder's defender, she should run right off the picker's shoulder. Ideally, she should have a clear shooting lane, though it will be brief as the defense will collapse.

At this time, the picker may take the collapse of her defender as an opportunity to roll towards the goal herself and receive a pass from the feeder. This is referred to as the pick and roll.

Keys to Remember

In either situation (on-ball and off-ball picks), a successful pick should result in a clear lane for a cutter or feeder to go to the goal, and for a picker to roll off and provide a target for the girl going to goal.

However, not every pick will be successful, so it is up to the team to work the ball around the perimeter and be patient for the right cutter to pass to or the right moment to go to the goal. This keeps the defense moving and could possibly open up scoring opportunities as players change attack points around the 8-meter.

Even the best defenses can be picked apart by proper timing and technique of the pick. Good luck!
Karen Townsend is a former All-American at Drew (N.J.) University and the 2000 IWLCA Division III Midfielder of the Year.
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