This is an excerpt from Men's Lacrosse by Don Zimmerman & J. Peter England.
Imagine that a dodger, cutter, and feeder are all attacking the goal. If you are the feeder, you will typically be behind the goal; therefore, you're looking to feed the ball first, but you're still attacking the goal. Your head is up, and your eyes are scanning the field for cutters. You want to feed the ball on the run. A moving feeder is more difficult to defend than a stationary feeder. When you're moving, your defender has to keep up with you, and it is also more difficult for your defender to block your feed or get to your gloves. You can use change of speed and change of direction to separate yourself from your defender at the appropriate time and position. Your primary goal is to get your hands free. You don't want to feed through a poke check because this increases the likelihood of a turnover. If your opponent is playing a zone, then getting your hands free is not as important. Against a zone, you already have free space to operate.
When feeding, you usually want to have the stick in the box position where the cutter can see the ball. However, not all feeds will come from the box position. To avoid a defender's stick, you might have to dip your shoulder and bring your stick head lower to your side. You dip your shoulder, and your stick adjusts to your body. You don't just lower your stick position. You need to have your stick in a position where you can make an accurate pass without telegraphing the feed. You should limit cradles and make sure the ball is in the proper pocket position to feed.
You also want to have your body weight back so you can shift your weight through the feed. Your hands should be back so your stick is ready to release the ball at any given moment. If your stick is always loaded, you will be able to release the ball when the opportunity presents itself. At the moment of truth, you should look at your target and decide where you want to put the ball.
The feeding motion is similar to the throwing motion. The pace of a feed is somewhere between an exchange pass and a shot. It should be a little stronger than an exchange pass but not as hard as a shot. The feed has more urgency than a regular exchange pass because it's most likely being placed in harm's way, but it has less velocity than a shot because the intent is for the feed to be caught by the cutter. Feeding is based on putting the ball in a location where the cutter has the best opportunity to catch the ball, have his hands free, and be open for a shot on goal. The feed must be away from the defender covering the cutter. Sometimes you have to put the ball where your teammate can go get it; thus, the feed doesn't always have to go to the box position. For example, if the defender is playing the cutter up high, the open area would be down and out to the side. The feeder places the feed out to the side, and the cutter goes out and gets the ball.
So, players use two basic types of feeds: (1) feeds that are put on the stick and (2) feeds that are thrown to an area (called a spot feed).
In a traditional feed, the feeder puts the ball on the stick of the cutter (see figure 4.11). If the cutter is stationary, you should put the ball right on the target (i.e., the stick). This is similar to when a football tight end does a curl pattern and the quarterback throws the ball right at his numbers. The quarterback sees the numbers and buries the ball. An example of an on-the-stick feed is a skip pass. A skip pass is made to a nonadjacent teammate with the intention of creating a shot opportunity for the catcher. A skip pass is more on a straight line, and the feeder is throwing the ball through the defense. Therefore, a skip pass is an on-the-stick feed.
Open-Area Feed (Spot Feed)
The feeder sometimes needs to pass the ball to an open area. If the cutter is moving, you have to lead him. The exception would be if a player is cutting right at you; in that case, the cutter's stick position never really changes—the stick just gets closer to you. However, very few cuts are right at you. Most cuts are at an angle, and you have to feed the ball to a spot. Most feeds are spot feeds, and some are more imaginative than others. When you feed, you should look to a spot where you want the ball and the cutter to converge (see figure 4.12). In a spot feed, the feeder sees and puts the ball to the open area, and then it's up to the cutter to keep moving his feet so he can get to the ball. Most feeds involve timing and placement. You want to lead the cutter to an open area and let the cutter run to the ball.
Another example of a feed to an area is a lob feed. Imagine that a midfielder is staying deep, away from all of the movement inside on the crease. In this situation, you can throw the ball short so the midfielder runs under the ball, sets himself up for a quick release, and catches the ball in stride for a room-and-time shot (described later in the chapter). You're putting “air beneath the ball” so that the midfielder can run in to the ball. It's similar to an outfielder in baseball staying deep on a short fly ball with an opponent on third base. The outfielder waits, aggressively approaches the ball, and uses his momentum to catch the ball in stride. A lob feed has more trajectory than a skip pass, and you're throwing the ball over the defense. (A skip pass is a nonadjacent pass to a teammate that is not expected by the defense.) A lob feed can be used to set up a teammate for a room-and-time shot. Room and time means that the ball receiver has sufficient time to take a shot and has enough space from the defender to be unopposed in his shooting motion.
Five-Cone Feeding Drill
To learn the basic feeding technique from behind the goal.
Five cones are arranged in a Y pattern behind the goal. Cone 1 is placed on the end line behind the goal, and cone 3 is placed near the apex of the crease. The player has the ball at cone 1, and a teammate or coach is standing in front of the goal on the crease.
The player creeps forward and strides to cone 2. At cone 2, he uses choppy steps to prepare for a change of direction at cone 3. At cone 3, he breaks to either cone 4 or cone 5 on either side of the crease. He drives hard to cone 4 or 5 in the triple-threat position, with his hands back ready to pass. When the player drives near the goal line extended, he throws a pass to the stationary coach or teammate on the crease.
This drill teaches the importance of first using your legs when feeding. You should use change of direction (with choppy steps) and change of speed to get separation from a defender. The primary goal is to get your hands free so you can make an accurate pass to a teammate.
Read more from Men's Lacrosse by Don Zimmerman and Peter England.