June 23, 2009

This article originally appeared in the "Your Edge" section of May's Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your complimentary subscription.

Your Game: Check Plus

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Most of you have heard some foam-lipped coach implore you to “slide with your body, not your stick!” But what the heck does that mean, anyway?

Sure, there’s the occasional buddy pass that makes it easy to blindside some hapless chap venturing under its path. But the most common use of body checks occurs in sliding and loose-ball situations.

We asked Denver Outlaws defenseman Zac Jungers to give us the particulars of executing a legal, safe and effective body check. Keep these tips in mind to dislodge the ball and avoid getting flagged or hurt.

1. Lower your shoulder, not your head. Consider this the Cardinal Rule of body checking: keep your head up. Most head and neck injuries occur when leading with your head. Lead with your stick, follow through with your shoulder, but never use your head as the point of impact.

2. Keep your hands in tight. Any extension of your hands prior to contact could constitute a penalty, namely cross-checking if your hands are too far apart on your stick. Plus, keeping your hands closer to your body will help you generate more impact when you spring a hit.

3. Align your body inside your stick head, not to the side of his body. “As a rule of thumb,” Jungers says, “you want to lead with your stick and follow through with your body.”

4. Square your legs and shoulders to the target. Much like a shooter squaring for his target, make sure your legs and shoulders are pointed directly at your opponent, front and center, so to speak. If you can’t square up on an opponent, odds are you’re not in a legal position to hit him. (Body checks from the side or behind are mostly flagged as illegal.)

5. Generate power from your legs. A body check is best executed from a base defensive stance, with knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Coil back and explode from that base.

6. Aim for the numbers. This will keep you from hitting an opponent below the waist or above the shoulders, both of which are illegal.

7. Follow through with your hands and shoulder. Remember: the goal is to dislodge the ball and alter your opponent’s access to the goal, not necessarily to plant him. Lead with your stick, make contact with your shoulder, and follow through with your gloves while continuing to drive your opponent back with your legs and shoulder.

What’s Illegal?
An illegal body check constitutes any of the following:

• Body checking an opponent who is not in possession of the ball or within five yards of the ball.
• An avoidable body check of an opponent after he has passed or shot the ball.
• Body checking an opponent from behind, or at or below the waist.
• Body checking an opponent above the shoulders.

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