EVERETT — The Washington Stealth are behind by two goals with less than a minute to play. They score once, but with precious few seconds remaining, have to win the faceoff in order to have a chance to tie.
It’s a scenario the National Lacrosse League team has faced more than once, and every time it comes up, the Stealth can be thankful they have Bob Snider.
“You know 65 to 70 percent of the time you are” going to get the ball back, Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “It either has the ability to stop momentum for the opposition or give you yet another instant opportunity if you are chasing.”
In other words, a good faceoff man can be a game-changer.
“I find that is sort of what my job is on the team,” Snider said, “to create those momentum swings and stop momentum swings.”
Over the past three seasons Snider has become one of the best draw men in the NLL. After winning 53.6 percent of his faceoffs in his rookie season of 2010, Snider exploded on the scene the next season. In 2011, he played in 11 games, won 71.1 percent of his faceoffs and collected 102 loose balls. He improved on those numbers in 2012, winning 73.7 percent of faceoffs and picking up 202 loose balls.
Even though 2012 was Snider’s best season in the NLL, he finished second in the league in both faceoff percentage and loose balls to Calgary’s Geoff Snider — who just happens to be Bob’s older brother.
Calgary’s Snider finished the 2012 season with a 78.4 percent faceoff percentage and 232 loose balls and is regarded by many lacrosse insiders as the best faceoff man in the world.
The younger Snider said he learned a lot from his older brother, but the tips stopped coming when he made it to the NLL.
“He’s always been a great outlet to learn from and develop from and learn some new skills,” Snider said. “He actually helped me out quite a bit in college, not so much anymore now in pro since we compete against one another.”
Bob has become Geoff’s closest competition in the faceoff circle, but Geoff has no regrets about sharing trade secrets with his younger brother over the years.
“Not at all,” Geoff Snider said. “He’s really making a name for himself in the league and he’s a big part of the success of the Stealth team. It’s nice to see him succeed and see him do well.
“I haven’t told him everything, though. I knew this day was coming and that he’s a competitor and I have to make sure that I’m not giving him all the tips.”
For the Stealth, Bob Snider’s value isn’t just in winning the faceoffs, but in what he can do with the ball after he controls possession.
“I think the other thing that has really grown his game is his ability to handle the ball well after he wins a faceoff and picks it up,” Hall said. “Most teams try to double- and triple-team him right away. They know they can’t win the draw on him, but they try to double- and triple-team him to try and strip the ball before he can either take it to the goal or get it to somebody else on our team.”
The Snider brothers will literally face off against each other Saturday night at Comcast Arena when the Stealth take on the visting Roughnecks.
“I treat it like any other game,” Geoff Snider said. “We’ve had to compete against each other for a long time. It’s become just normal that we compete against each other now. We don’t talk a whole lot before the game and depending on how either team does, we might not talk the next day.”
Bob and Geoff didn’t become the premier faceoff men in the NLL overnight. Both players said there are several keys to becoming successful at the position.
It all starts with practice. In the NLL, where teams practice only once a week, finding the time to work on the necessary skills — either at practice or before games — is the key to success, Bob Snider said.
It also helps to be familiar with your opponent. Gaining that familiarity can be difficult with limited opportunities to watch other teams play and a lack of game-film on other teams. Snider said it is important to utilize whatever resources are available to study an opponent and his tendencies in the faceoff circle.
“Nowadays I think more teams are capitalizing on it and putting more emphasis on having a strong faceoff guy,” Bob Snider said. “I think it is important to do some homework on opponents.”
No matter how much success a player finds in the circle, there is always room for improvement.
“With confidence, you get a little too cocky and at times you might go in a little too confident,” Bob Snider said. “Being a dominant force, you are on team’s radar for sure. Teams are definitely taking that into consideration that you will create opportunities if you get a chance to in the faceoff. To counteract that you have to understand that those teams are treating you as a threat, so you have to adapt and evolve and just get even better at your craft. You can’t really just go in and think you are going to win every draw.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.