How to Get Your Hands Free: U.S. Midfielder Kelly Rabil


U.S. midfielder Kelly Rabil had four goals in her team's 20-7 win over Canada in the final exhibition before the FIL World Cup.

In Team USA’s final exhibition on home soil before heading to England for the 2017 World Cup, veteran midfielder Kelly Rabil led the U.S. offense with four goals in the 20-7 victory over Canada on May 27.

The dominating win showcased a powerful U.S. offense, featuring nine different scorers, who took coach Ricky Fried’s advice to heart — don’t let your opponent dictate the game.

“Ricky has taught us since we’ve been with him to make sure you dictate what you want to do on offense,” Rabil said. “He’s always saying, ‘Get your hands free, get your hands up,’ and that’s just a mentality we try to approach on offense. Those two things specifically put you in control as the attacker.”

Rabil tries to meet opponents’ contact with equal pressure.

“There’s always contact, so you need to use that to your advantage as the attacker,” she said. “It’s a good thing to remember not to just dodge with your stick, but dodge with your body, because all too often, especially at the youth level, they try to just run by the defender rather than dodge by the defender. It’s really important to put a full dodge in with your upper body and lower body, with footwork and hips.”

But you can’t dodge without protecting your stick.

“You can make a beautiful move and then hang your stick and it’s all out to dry,” Rabil said.

Dodging Through Contact

  • Determine what you want out of your dodge. As you approach the defender, make sure you’re dictating what you want to do rather than your defender dictating it.

  • Keep your head up. Initially, check your defender’s position, but keep your eyes up, whether that’s toward goal or looking for a teammate.

  • Plant and explode. Choose which foot you will plant with. Dodge with your feet and your hips. Lean into your first plant and explode out of it. Once you plant and make that first initial move, it needs to happen quickly to catch your defender off guard.

  • Protect your stick and seal off. Once you run by your defender, make sure you’re driving into her, sealing her off and protecting your stick by bringing it with you.

  • Get your hands free. Keep your stick away from your defender so your hands are free to work with. First, protect your stick. Second, think quickly for your next move. Don’t hang onto the ball too long – shoot, pass or get out of trouble.

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