The help line is an imaginary line than runs through the middle of the field from goal to goal. Teaching youth players about the help line will help them understand how to push their opponent away from the goal and where to go in an emergency. The diagram below details where the help line is:
Splitting the field in half gives your defense a “no man’s land” that exists directly in front of the goal. When playing one-on-one, or man, defense, players should focus on pushing their opponent to the left or right of the help line. This keeps the offensive player from getting an easy shot on goal from dead center, which happens to be the highest percentage area for a shot. By pushing the offensive players down the left and right side of the help line, the angle of each shot degrades with every step.
The help line is also an emergency beacon. Each youth player I work with learns about “Going Home” when things go bad. I define bad as you: lose your man, forget where to slide, don’t know where the ball is, or are completely confused. Any of those situations should have alarm bells ringing in the player’s head that something is awry.
“Going Home” means drop everything you are doing and get a few yards in front of the cage. No defenseman can defend anything is he is lost on the outskirts of the restraining lines, but, if he goes home, he will at least be close to where the action is generally high. Once home, the player can focus on finding his man. Plus, while he is finding his opponent, he can slide, knock down passes, or check sticks if a pass comes through the crease. Remember players, if you are lost “Go Home” first and then work from there.
Lastly, the help line builds as players grow older. Some higher-level defensive packages rely on splitting the field in half and directing offensive play away from the center of the field. If your players are exposed to the help line early, they will understand the intricacies that come later much faster.
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