Defending free hits inside the 25
If you give up a free hit anywhere on the pitch you MUST retract 5m from the free hit before you can be involved in the next play. In and around the defending 25 this is even more critical because an infringement to this rule could and probably will, bring a Penalty Corner against your team.
You must quickly move away showing no intent to play the ball or to follow the attacker should they choose to self play and take the free hit quickly. You are allowed to retract towards your own goal but you are NOT allowed to play the ball or influence the attacker in any way until you are outside the 5m exclusion zone.
Be aware of where the free hit is on the pitch and what this implies regarding immediate play into the circle - this helps in determining your defensive organization in and around the circle.
Remember, from a free hit inside the 25 , the free hit taker must move the ball 5m
OR the ball must be played or deflected by ANY OTHER PLAYER (attacker or defender) prior to the ball entering the circle. From free hits outside the 25 be aware for immediate ‘tip in’ options and urgently adjust your defensive position BEFORE such a pass can be made.
To best defend inside the 25:
1. Give the attacker ONLY 5m of pressured space to take the free hit
2. Position your 1st defender on the line between the free hit and the center of the goal
3. Have a 2nd defender in the zone behind the 1st defender in the ‘fat’ side of the circle.
4. Present a strong defensive body position. Have a wide base ( feet wider than shoulder width) and keep your stick on or near the ground with ‘twinkle toes’ footwork. Project a genuine desire that you want to intercept the ball coming your way.
5. All attackers must be marked man to man by a defender and MUST be in a position to intercept any ball that enters the circle and goes towards their player. This means once the initial free hit positioning is achieved, any ball movement (a pass or dribble) MUST see an appropriate positional change by the defender to ensure an interception can be made against their opponent.
6. ALWAYS MARK your opponent from the side that puts you closer to the line between the ball and the goal. (See Diagram #2)
7. Wherever possible the defensive team structure should stop the ball being transferred or ‘switched’ . Keep the ball on the same side of the field. Allowing a change in the point of attack will require a change in intercepting position of each defender. This can cause confusion in defense and will often concede goals if not managed effectively and with urgency.
8. If an attacker has possession of the ball near the baseline BE PATIENT and apply pressure while PROTECTING YOUR FEET. Avoid conceding ‘soft’ penalty corners from these ‘impossible to score’ positions.
Communication. The player behind the defender in front of them should confirm or alter their position with verbal cues. Early, concise cues need to be provided by players from behind whenever movement takes place from attackers. (See Diagram #3)