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Chris LaPierre And The Art Of Shot-Blocking

Since Sunday was Mother’s Day, I spent the afternoon at my non-ESPNU-having parents’ house, constantly checking twitter for my Virginia-Princeton updates. Towards the end of the game, my feed blew up: Chris LaPierre had done something amazing, and people were losing their minds. They raved about his defensive effort and selfless play. They said he saved the game for UVA, and demanded his play earn a spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10.

Based on the tweets, I assumed LaPierre jumped in the cage and made a save when the goalie was out of position. I never would’ve guessed that he did this:

Judging by the online response, my reaction to seeing this wasn’t the most common one. I was genuinely worried for him, because the first thing that came to mind was commotio cordis, the impact-based cardiac arrest that you’ve probably heard about if you’ve followed lacrosse for the past few years. For a moment, I completely forgot I was watching a recorded game, and just hoped he’d get back up.

Later I thought about all the kids who watched that play, and wondered if any of them would try to emulate that move. I’ll be honest: If I saw LaPierre make this block when I was younger, I’d start throwing my chest out and jumping in front of every shot I saw exactly the same way.

Everybody calls me a hero, and all I have to do is take a lacrosse ball to the sternum? Sign me up. I wouldn’t give it a second thought, which is why we should probably use this play as an opportunity to address proper shot-blocking technique.

Maybe (and hopefully) I’m in the minority here, but growing up, none of my coaches ever discussed blocking shots. Most players, especially in youth leagues, naturally just tend to use either turtle style (player drops to the ground and crouches), or flamingo style (player lifts one leg for some reason and turns to the side). I wouldn’t recommend either of those approaches though.

Personally, when I’m about to get hit by a shot (and I get hit all the time; don’t ask me why), I prefer an exaggerated goalie stance: knees bent, feet spread apart, hands close together and away from the body. I take up a comparable amount of space, I don’t give up any position in case he’s throwing a fake, and my upper torso is, at least partially, obstructed by my gloves.

Again, that’s just my personal preference, and there may be some expert advice on shot-blocking that I just haven’t heard.  If you have any thoughts on the technique, PLEASE supply them in the comments section!

In the heat of the moment, Chris LaPierre opted for a much different technique.  I’m not bad-mouthing him for it, and hope this post didn’t come across that way. I’m glad it worked out well for him, and it’s taught me that blocking a shot (and doing it in the best way possible) is a topic that bears discussion.

So with that in mind, were you ever taught a right or wrong way to block shots? Is there an approach we should mention when teaching defenders?

If you’ve heard of an official technique, and you’re a lacrosse instructor, maybe you should discuss it during an upcoming practice while the topic is fresh on everyone’s minds. And if we haven’t reached a consensus on proper shot-blocking technique by now, we definitely should.