Michael Ehrhardt’s calling card has been his versatility — a strong defender with impressive offensive skills. That reputation followed him from Maryland into Major League Lacrosse and then onto the international stage with Team USA in the summer of 2018, when he became just the second defensive player ever to be named FIL World Championship MVP.

“Mike VP,” as his U.S. teammates called him, made his presence known when he sent Lyle Thompson’s stick twirling during the opening game against the Iroquois Nationals. Over the next 10 days, nothing changed. Ehrhardt’s stick was like a magnet corralling ground balls. He delivered crushing hits, he knocked down passes and he even went to his MLL forte, firing in two goals in the semifinal victory over Australia.

This past summer, Ehrhardt followed his former Charlotte Hounds coach Jim Stagnitta into the Premier Lacrosse League with the Whipsnakes, helping the team win the PLL championship.

“He’s a threat as a defender. He’s a threat as an offensive player,” Stagnitta said. “He’s so multi-faceted, it’s amazing.”

Use these seven tips from Ehrhardt the next time you run the break as a long-stick midfielder.

1. Survey the field.

Look to see how the defense is shaping up to defend the break and where the point man is on your offense. Sense if there is an offensive or defensive player trailing you.

2. Be a threat.

The ball carrier draws the slide from the point man. Drive the alley opposite the point man to get the defense rotating. “You do not want the defenseman to be able to play both the ball carrier and the point man,” Ehrhardt says.

3. If the point man does not slide...

Get to 12 yards or closer to set your feet or shoot on the run.

4. Shoot overhand.

The length of the pole creates a trajectory that’s hard for the goalie to discern. Shoot low or bounce it. “You don’t get extra points for a good-looking goal,” Ehrhardt says.

5. If the point man slides...

Turn your shoulders and make an accurate pass to the point attackman. “The ball moves faster than your feet,” Ehrhardt says. “Once you get the defense rotating, you have done your job.”

6. Make smart decisions.

Never force the ball to an attackman or take an unnecessary shot.

7. If you turn the ball over...

Hustle back to the hole to play defense again.

A version of this article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 print edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, an exclusive benefit for US Lacrosse members. We appreciate the support of our nonprofit organization through these challenging times by a making a donation or joining/renewing your membership with US Lacrosse. We look forward to continuing to share new and useful resources with the lacrosse community.