Glossary - Individual Defense  (See Skill Analysis)

  • Athletic Position (See Defense Drill #1):  Feet parallel (hip width apart), knees slightly bent (1/4 squat aka peak power position), staying on “the balls (forefoot)” of your feet, leaning slightly forward, with head/chest up, abdominals flexed (as if about to be punched in the stomach), a “neutral spine” and your “shoulders set.”
  • Neutral Spine:  A “normal curve” or slight concave in the lower back.     
  • Scapular Set/"Shoulders Set":  A positioning of the shoulder blades (scapula) whereby the shoulder blades are rotated back, together and down (simultaneously).
  • Holding The Stick/Alternate Grip/“Lax” Grip:  Beginning players should be instructed to hold their stick with an “alternate” (“lax” grip), on whatever side of their body feels the most natural.  The bottom hand of the player should grasp the stick using an overhand grip while holding onto the knob (“butt-end”) at the bottom of the stick.  The top hand holds the stick using an underhand grip, approximately shoulder-width apart away from the bottom hand (See Stickwork Skills Analysis).
  • "Two Hands":  Players on defense (and offense) should keep two hands on the stick as much as possible and should avoid the habit of taking one hand off of the stick unnecessarily. 

It usually takes two hands to score/pass effectively and playing defense with one-hand is just asking to be penalized.

Reaching for loose balls with one hand is equally as bad (see “two-hand tough”). Players should be held accountable at all times by coaches who see players unnecessarily/inappropriately playing with one hand on their stick.

  • Defensive Players/"Team Defenders"/Defensive Specialists/"Shut-Down" Defenders (See Defensive Skills Analysis):  The number one goal of any defender is not to get scored on, as a team first and foremost, but also individually either on-ball or off-ball. 

Essentially, the defender’s job is to contain, not take the ball away from, the offensive players; “closing the gap” while preventing uncontested shots from the prime scoring area. It takes all players working as a unit to make this happen, which is why Team Defense is the key to overall defensive success. If, as a unit, the team can close the gap, “get on gloves,” “block shots,” keep an offense to the perimeter and force them to make the mistakes (“bad shots,” bad passes, getting “stripped”), the “30 shot-clock” is eventually enough "pressure" to force a turnover.

Although “big, strong and athletic,” has been said to be the ideal in “one-on-one” defense ("shut-down" defenders), it is team defenders that make a championship defense. "Over-checking" “lunging” and not “arriving in control,” can compromise an entire defense, creating penalties and demoralizing the concentrated efforts of the team. There has to be a “trust” and understanding of defensive strategies and positioning, along with the ability to “read & react” to the “situation,” and use good “footwork” to shadow the body language of the opponent.

Usually it is best for a team to have a balance of “big, strong and athletic,” with hustle/hard-work, toughness and most importantly, intelligence. It is up to “coaches/managers” to come up with proper chemistry, as teams rarely have the perfect balance. Players need to get to know the tendencies and attributes of their teammates and opposing offenders, reacting accordingly.

  • “Egg & Spooner”/“Stay Home” Defender:  Beginners and experienced defenders with poor stick skills are sometimes referred to as “egg & spooners,” which in some instances describes the way they look when running with the ball; in other words, very little “cradling” and lacking “ball protection.”  These players are at risk of getting “stripped” and need to be supported with good “outlets” wherever possible. 

These types of players usually bring a lot of other valuable assets to the table other than handling the ball, however, and all skill-sets in need of improvement should be continually developed. “Running hard,” “communicating” well, playing good positionally and being strong/athletic, are just a few of the intangibles that these types of players can still bring to the table. "Stay home defenders" would be the nice way of describing a player that is more or less, defense first (not “a threat”).

Talk should be constant, loud and about anything a player sees happening on the floor. It’s intimidating to the offense and very helpful overall to prevent unnecessary breakdowns on defense. As a general team principle, communication should be commencing at all times on the lacrosse floor, no matter how obvious it may seem.

Defenders need to constantly try to re-establish “top-side positioning” when their check moves, “closing the gap” and/or “getting on hands” as they approach the prime scoring area.

Loose balls should be pursued intelligently and generally only if the player deems that they have at least a 50% chance of getting to the ball first, in order to at the very least, “keep the ball alive.”

Players should never stand and watch what is happening, getting caught up in the play; the smartest players are constantly thinking (“recognizing”) the question, “what’s next?”  The best players are proactive versus purely reactive in nature.

  • Match-Ups/“Assignments”/Proper Defensive Side:  At the more advanced levels of lacrosse, coaches will often employ predetermined “match-ups” of size-on-size and speed-on-speed, responsibilities which should be communicated and implemented on the floor by defensive players.  Offensive players should try to exploit any “mismatches” in this regard, wherever possible.  Otherwise, defenders with a match-up assignment generally don't switch checks ("stay"); only out of desperation, or if the assignment involves several defenders matching up against the weak-side or strong-side. 

Defenders should also try to match-up on their "proper defensive side," which means lefty-on-righty and vice-versa; time permitting, which helps them control top-side positioning in being better able to utilize the leverage of the stick to take away space. However, all defenders, in theory should be able to defend either “hand” of player, utilizing the “cross-handed” slashing technique if need be.

Generally, there are usually more righties per team than lefties on average, a stat which is even more pronounced among American players.

  • Check/Checking (See Cradling Drill #3B):  A “check” is a term for a player that someone is matched up against while playing defense.  Usually it’s the player that is closest to you on the opposing team who is considered your “check,” but this needs to be communicated to avoid potential “breakdowns.” 

Adjacent defenders especially need to communicate who they are “checking,” so they don’t get confused with another teammate checking someone else close by.

When a defender makes any sort of contact with the opponent they are “covering,”body or stick, it is also known as a check (or checking an opponent).

When an offensive player is preparing to make a move toward the net, the defender checking that player has to get into proper position, shadow their movements, while also “denying” the top-side of the floor. This must all be done while also battling around and overtop of “picks/seals,” keeping a “head on a swivel,” and looking to “help” out other teammates where possible.

The more speed, agility, motor memory (“footwork”) and awareness players have, the easier it is for them to cover/beat their check.

  • Shadowing/Covering/Guarding/"Man-To-Man" (See Defense Drill #3A & #3B):  "Shadowing" a check is to mirror the movements of an offender in reverse order (offender goes forward, defender goes backward, etc.), from various distance, at the same time maintaining top-side position, as offensive players become a threat.  On-ball, at times defenders will initiate contact with the opponents body/stick when they are vulnerable, generally staying about a sticks length away.  

Defenders need to also be wary of offenders initiating contact with them (engaging), which can leave them off-balance and vulnerable to getting "beat."

In a zone defense, players only "cover/guard" a player when they are in their designated area of the floor.

  • Square/Facing/Facing Away:  When a player is “square” to something, they are “facing” it directly (hips parallel); when they have their back to something they are “facing away.” 

Being square to a target is advantageous only to the offender and should be avoided by defenders, as essentially it means the offender is in control of the next move. By opening or closing one’s hips (see “drop step”) and recognizing where there is help, defenders are better able to dictate which direction the ball carrier can go.

Offenders are eventually trying to face the net for a shot on at least a 45° angle relative to the net; thus defenders need to be aware of their positioning (“closed stance”) relative to that understanding.

With hips facing the boards, defenders are better able to see picks coming and “open up.” If a defender has their back exposed (i.e. square to check) at any time, it is ultimately a big liability to the entire defense. A true back-pick is virtually impossible to defend, so defenders need to do everything in their power not to allow that to happen.

In this way, defenders are dictating the play to the offender with the ball (inviting them “underneath”), meanwhile allowing all other defenders to be able to “anticipate” what is happening, ready to “slide” and “help”if they see an offender get over top of a teammate.

In essence, if top-side positioning is maintained, defenders can “automatically switch” as players run up and down the side-boards on the perimeter, thereby conserving energy and enabling defenders to play “on the same page,” as a unit.

By seeing both the ball and their check, the defender can both pick-off a pass to their check, and also help defend the ball carrier, if required. Defenders must be especially wary of back-door cutters when “ball watching,” as the best offenders are great at anticipating defenders turning their heads and immediately cutting to the net.

Occasionally, players must stand in the “shooting lanes” knowing that they will likely get hit by the ball, in order to deter a player from shooting. Blocking shots is an element of “team toughness” that is often under-appreciated but very important to a successful Team Defense. Defenders should take pride in this element of the game; something the team can rally around to build momentum (see captains). When a defender "soaks" a shot while standing in the shooting lane, or with their stick, the player that shot the ball will usually think twice the next time before they shoot, thus interrupting the “flow” of the offense and boosting the morale/momentum of the defense.

  • Passing Lanes (See Defense Drill #2):  It is not only up to the player with the ball to safely “feed” the “receiver;” the receiver must also help create a safe “passing lane,” which often requires two players being in motion.  Having sticks up and in the passing lanes is therefore an integral part of any defense, but especially important when playing within a zone defense. 

Diagonal skip passes from east-west on the off-ball side are always a major threat and defensive players should be readily aware of them, as they are easy quick-stick goals for offensive specialists.

In short-handed situations, defending the passing lanes is vital to the success of the defense, and coaches should put out players that are good at picking off passes, in order to limit the effectiveness of the other team’s power-play.

  • Head On A Swivel/“2-For-1 Rule" (See Defense Drill #13A):  Looking all around and being aware of what is happening on both sides of the floor while playing offense or defense.  Offensively it means to observe the position of the ball and constantly be aware of being ready to receive a pass.  Speaking to defense, beginning defenders should go by the “2-for-1 rule,” while off-ball in an open stance:  two looks to your check for every one look towards the ball. 

The one exception is when the defender has the offender “clamped” and the offender doesn’t move. Adjacent and off-ball defenders should keep their stick on the stick/body of their opponent as much as possible while also knowing the position of the ball. If the defender feels their check move, then they move. If their check receives the ball, then the defender should adjust to a closed stance and begin denying top-side, getting in the shooting lane with their stick up.

Defenders with long sticks and good anticipation are usually the best at this aspect of defense. Players should be wary to not be standing still "window washing" on-ball when they should be closing the gap, getting on hands and finishing a check.

Players should be running or agility-sprinting at almost all times while on the lacrosse floor, otherwise looking for an opportunity to line change, if tired. Offensive players should rarely, if ever, be standing still, unless wide open in a soft spot. In general, the golden rule is to run out of trouble rather than forcing a pass ("when in doubt, run it out.").

  • Back-Pedaling (See Defense Drill #1):  basic footwork, usually by a defender, characterized by straight backward movement while staying face forward; the opposite of running.  Players should get as low as possible to the ground, using long powerful strides and keeping their chest/head up to back-pedal most effectively.      

For defensive players to stay in proper position on their check they should start and finish with a few quick short, half-step side-shuffles ("shuffle steps") with their feet meeting together underneath their body and extending into long strides if covering any sort of distance (staying balanced); never crossing their feet over (see carioca). Shuffle-steps are also the most effective footwork while applying controlled pressure on a ball carrier.

  • “Carioca”:  Is a footwork pattern that coaches can use during practice or training.  It involves facing perpendicular to the direction being traveled and placing one foot in front, and then behind the other leg, while moving laterally. 

For example, facing the side-boards, players could start on the goal-line and do “carioca” laterally to the rag-line and then back (using a different lead leg each direction). Players should keep their head up and get good rotation of their hips, while keeping two hands on the stick.

Players should never cross their feet over during games, only practicing that way to work on their balance and dexterity.

  • “Figure-8” (See Stickwork Drill #7A):  This is a footwork pattern often used in drills during practice, but elements of the figure-8 pattern are used all of the time during games as well.  This pattern is utilized by both offensive and defensive players while avoiding obstacles that interfere with players' taking care of their responsibilities.  Players are usually facing up-floor while utilizing a figure-8 pattern, and therefore should do the same while practicing (making sure to keep their head up) at full speed (all directions).
  • Drop-Step/Pivot/Change Of Direction/Defensive Spin/Inside Roll:  When the ball carrier changes direction or gets over the top-side, defenders need to swing a foot backwards, opening up their hips and running “hip-to-hip” to cut off the ball carrier in the direction that they have taken to the net.  

This skill is an art form and needs to be timed appropriately in order not to get “beat clean.” Defensive players need to be able to judge the speed and body language of an opponent and be able to match it (shadowing as best as possible while evading picks).

The act of rotating or turning on one foot or leg in general, is known as a “pivot,” used to quickly change directions. Defenders will sometimes use 360° spins, also known as an "inside roll" (similar to a drop step), as an effective means to avoid getting picked or to get overtop of “seals;” otherwise to maintain top-side positioning. Offenders can also utilize a drop-step in an attempt to get underneath on a one-on-one toward the net.

Tracking can also be used, if only briefly, in a forward direction while applying controlled pressure on an offender; otherwise to be unpredictable on defense. For example, marquee players that are used to “the same old thing” are reading the pivots (body language) of a defender, with an understanding that the defender is trying to deny top-side, and using that fact against them (deception) while trying to beat them one-on-one. If a defender switches (“pivots”) from denying top-side, to inviting top-side, back to denying top-side, this can effectively confuse the ball carrier, and picker, disrupting their “flow.”

If using tracking as a footwork drill during training, coaches can instruct kids on how many side-shuffles they want to see in between drop-steps, also whether to side-shuffle or half-step side-shuffle (or mix both).

The defender’s first obligation is to contain the offender and perhaps run some time off of the shot clock, but they can also try to anticipate their movements and “strip” the ball, especially if there’s a mismatch in speed.

This concept also applies to when an offensive player cuts around a pick, trying to be "hip-to-hip" (aka "brushing shoulders") with the picker (facing opposite directions) in order for a pick to be effective.

Players may also find themselves hip-to-hip with an opposing player while pursing a loose ball (potentially bumping hips while trying to box-out) or when switching against a pick & roll attempt. In the latter scenario, it is important that defenders do everything in their power to get between the "roller" and the net (turn & clamp), as a lead pass towards the player's stick is in jeopardy of being quickly caught and finished "in tight."

  • Pursuing/50-50 Balls (See Loose Ball Drill #8A):  If a player thinks they can arrive at a loose ball before or at the same time as an opponent, they should “pursue” the loose ball with as much effort as possible; the only exception being the 1-for-1 rule. 

Faster players may be given less restrictions and allowed to pursue the ball (40-60) if they think they have a chance at keeping the ball alive.  If at any point during a game a defender gets cleanly beaten, they should also be in “pursuit” of their check, chasing them for a trail check or recovering to the back-side of the play (depending on the situation).

  • Keeping The Ball Alive/Battling (See Loose Ball Drill #10):  The biggest determining factor in getting a loose ball is effort.  “Battling” to keep the ball loose for oneself or a teammate is just as important as actually picking the ball up itself.  Often big “scrums” for the ball will develop as players continue to “keep the ball alive” in an effort to retain possession of the ball (especially off of face-offs).
  • “1-For-1” Rule/90%:  Unless at a numerical advantage in overall number of players on the floor (i.e. power-play), defenders should never leave their check to join a scrum or line change if the numbers are even, unless their check joins the scrum or line changes first (in which case the defensive player should still be on the defensive side of their check). 

The only exception to this team rule would be if the ball comes loose out of an even strength scrum and the defender is “90%” sure they can get to the ball first. It is better to error on the side of defense instead of potentially leaving a player “naked,” or on a 2-on-1, “in-tight” on the goalie. These sorts of “broken plays” tend to end up in goals against, especially when players are over-zealous (over-checking) or cheating.

  • Giving It Back/“Mixing It Up”/“Churping”/Cheap Shots/Sending A Message/Fighting/“Turtling”:  Although this a controversial subject for many, it must be addressed because of its relevance in our sport and as it relates to player safety.  Players uninterested in fighting shouldn’t “churp” (make verbal slanders) or take “cheap shots” at an opponent; otherwise they are attracting/inviting the retribution of the opposing team.  Some players might do these sorts of things to try to frustrate or physically intimidate the opponent, but they need to be prepared to receive it back, otherwise they risk getting hurt. 

Individual players need to know when (i.e. trying to draw a penalty) and how (slash, cross-check, “churp,” etc.) to “give it back” to a player that is being overly aggressive towards them, and when not to. Players don’t necessarily want to risk receiving a penalty themselves but ultimately a “message needs to be sent” to the over-aggressive player that their actions will not be tolerated. If the problem is not addressed, offensive specialists and other players may be at risk of being physically abused all game and perhaps all season. Action need not be taken at the particular moment something happens, but better yet it should be when the opponent least expects it, and ideally when the referees aren’t looking.

Whether you like it or not, the emotions of the game sometimes get out of control and players may respond by fighting. Likewise, it is worthwhile knowing how to protect yourself because you never know when an opposing player is going “jump” you, for one reason or another. Players always have the option to “turtle” and fall to the ground holding onto their helmet while an opponent tries to get at them, but when multiple players are fighting the referees are only able to break up one fight at a time.

The majority of the time it is two notorious fighters trying to stop or add to the momentum of the game, or perhaps one teammate sticking up for another teammate that “doesn’t fight.” A good fighter knows not only the technical aspects of fighting but more importantly they know about the timing of fights and when/when not to fight.

It is important that teammates stick up for each other and play "team tough," especially when teammates are vulnerable. The most honourable thing would be for players to fight their own battles, but it doesn’t always happen like that, nor should it. It would be stupid for a top offensive player to fight an “egg & spooner” defensive player; the trade-off simply isn’t worth it. Most teams carry more defensive players than offensive players on their roster, and to lose an offensive player to a "major penalty" would be a “bad trade” for the team. Accordingly, teams at the Junior & Senior levels will often "dress" a “tough guy/fighter” on their roster, who ideally is still a good defensive player, but if not, has limited playing time and takes care of any “problems” that may arise.

  • “Eating” The Ball/Mucking The Ball (See Defense Drill #5A):  There are certain times during a lacrosse game when not picking up a loose ball is sometimes a smarter play than picking it up (also known as “eating the ball”).  This type of situation usually occurs during a “red call,” when the opposing team’s shot clock has less than 5 seconds left on it.  If a defender picks up the ball and possesses it for even a half-second, then gets stripped, the player is at risk of giving the other team an easy “multiple re-set” situation.  It would therefore be smarter for that player to just keep the ball alive, box-out their check, and not pick it up (ensuring that the shot clock expires).  Kicking it along the boards, “batting it” down the floor, or any other tactic that doesn’t allow the opponent to retrieve the ball, is usually best (unless there is a potential fast-break with a player cheating).

This is most often done on face-offs, where players are encouraged to “bat the ball” back to their goalie (who should be outside of their crease) instead of picking the ball up in a scrum, only to get immediately stripped of it by an opponent that is trying to keep the ball alive.

  • “Hucking” The Ball/Icing The Ball/Dumping The Ball (See Playbook):  Rarely if ever should a player “huck” a ball the length of the floor, but a few circumstances where it does happen include:  out of desperation, throwing it back to one’s own end while being pressured after a face-off (see “batting” the ball), late in the shot clock or when “dumping” it to open space and out of harm’s way (i.e. late in a game).
  • Denying/"Over-Playing:"  Following your check tightly wherever they go on the floor so that they are unable to receive a pass, or establishing body position that dictates where an opponent can/cannot go. 

Generally speaking, it is the primary responsibility of the “low” defender to “anchor” the crease, and there are a couple of reasons why this is important: goalies may be out challenging shooters and any “skip passes” will ultimately end up as quick stick shots on net (which are high percentage); also because many rebounds become available near the crease area, and if the crease is anchored the goalie will have better "rebound control."

Usually a box-out after a shot is most effective if a defender faces their check, but off-ball defenders can usually get away with turning towards the goalie and looking for the loose ball, while boxing out the opponent with their back.

  • Body Checking/Body Contact/Bumping (See Practice Plan #8):  Used to slow up an opponent with or without the ball, body checks must be above the waist and below the neck.  A body check is when a player turns slightly and drives their lead shoulder (“lead leg, lead shoulder”) into an opponent’s chest, sometimes going shoulder-to-shoulder (body-to-body). 

Body checks from behind are a penalty ranging from 2-5 minutes, with a possible “game misconduct,” especially when by the boards. If a player willingly exposes their back in the “open-floor,” this call may or may not be called, depending on the severity/aggression.

Bumping is when players hit each other side-by-side with their hips (see box-out), usually when trying to establish body position (hip-to-hip) while pursuing a loose ball.

Cross-checks should be executed only when the defender is balanced (“athletic position”) on the balls of their feet; and using a lacrosse grip; checks must be above the waist and below the neck. A proper cross-check starts with the stick “perpendicular” to the opponent’s body, bending the elbows to load up, then lunging forward with a lead left or right leg and subsequent extension of the arms; all in one motion. The defender should then recover back into the athletic position as quickly as possible.

Cross-checking from behind is illegal unless the ball carrier willingly exposes their back while making a move towards the net. Aggressive cross-checks off-ball should also be discouraged, as they can also be called penalties. Referees and coaches are usually best to encourage a “push check” to beginners, whereby a player places their stick on their opponent and pushes ("push & steer") them out of the prime scoring area.

If an offender wants to "block," or defend themselves against a cross-check, the best ways to do so is to keep your stick up and out in front (forming a cross against the defenders stick); otherwise staying close to your check, or hooking past them.

If one’s check engages at any point while getting on gloves, the defender should rely on the cross-check (or body check), otherwise risk “getting beat.”

Being on gloves forces the ball carrier to “protect the ball,” which also takes a little pressure off of the other defenders playing off-ball. This tactic may also cause a turnover through a bad pass, dropped ball (strip), or missed catch.  It is especially important when defending “hip-to-hip,” clamping, and when closing the gap.

Ideally, a slash (“slap” check) begins from 6”-18” away from the opponent, in order to avoid getting a penalty. Slashes should be an honest attempt at separating the ball from a player’s stick; otherwise defenders should rely on cross-checking first and foremost.

Slashes are usually executed on a 45° angle across one’s body, from high to low. A slash from low to high tends to be the most effective on a trail check, although players must be wary not to get a “wrap around” penalty.

The tighter and offensive player is to their check, the less likely they are to get slashed.

  • Cross-Handed Slashing (See Defense Drill #9A):  When a left-handed defender is checking a left-handed offender (same-handed), and vice-versa, the defenders stick is underneath the offender (board-side), instead of the top-side.  In this situation the defender uses a slightly different slashing technique, known as the “cross-handed” slashing. This technique sees the defender reach “across their body” with both hands on the stick, slashing back towards their proper side (sometimes accompanied by a poke or slight hook). Essentially, this movement mimics the regular slashing action, except inverted (usually from high to low); requiring excellent footwork and "top-side positioning" before a slash attempt would even be warranted.

It is usually easier to slash and funnel a player underneath when it is a lefty versus a righty (or vice-versa) because of top-side stick positioning, but defenders should always be getting on gloves regardless, and furthermore, should be comfortable checking any player anywhere on the floor.

  • Poking/“Poke & Lift”/Can-Opener:  A poke check is when a defender points their stick at an offender’s chest/stick and thrusts it forward with their bottom hand.  At the same time they can also push their stick through their upper hand, which forms a hollow circle on the stick (for better accuracy and control); or otherwise execute the poke with one hand on the stick. 

If the stick gets wedged between the offender’s arms, this is the perfect time for a “poke & lift,” at which point the defender can attempt to pry the ball loose ("can-opener").

Constant pokes or even just a stick on the opponent’s chest can otherwise disrupt the flow of an offensive player, and perhaps dislodge the ball in the process.

This action is similar to taking a shot on pool table, in that the stick is usually first drawn back and then propelled forward by the bottom hand, with the top hand used for accuracy.

Poke checks are no replacement for cross-checking and good footwork, and so should be used sparingly.

  • Hooking (See Defense Drill #7):  When an offender is a step ahead on their way to the net or in transition, defenders can use a backhand stick technique known as hooking.  At about waist height, the defender places their stick and forearms straight out in front (or to the side), forming a “V” in relation to the opponent. 

Combined with a slight pulling motion, hooking will impede an offensive players’ progress to the net, but if held for more than a brief second, hooking can also be a penalty, so it must be done artfully.

Hooking could also be used to defend a pick & roll situation, as part of the turn & clamp technique. Offenders will also sometimes hook a defensive player to cut past them on their way to the net (especially on an over-aggressive defender).

Good defenders can identify when and when not to attempt to “strip” the ball. Usually when a player is holding their stick out, far away from their body, and not protecting the ball, is when they are must vulnerable to being stripped.

In extreme cases players sticks will go flying if they don't see a stick check coming (i.e. when double-teamed), otherwise known as a "helicopter check" or "yard sale."

  • “Flip” Check/Overhead Check:  If a player keeps their stick hanging out too far, not protecting the ball, they are at risk of getting stripped with the “flip check.”  A good defender looks like they are going to cross-check their opponent, but then suddenly takes one hand off of their stick, goes over the player’s head (not touching the player with their other hand - see wrap-around penalty) and comes down on the opponent’s stick, stripping the ball.  This is a risky play by a defender, and should be discouraged by coaches, but if timed appropriately, can be effective against certain players (usually defenders).   
  • Ice-Pick Check:  With one hand on the stick just below the stick head (see one-handed cradling) an “ice pick” is a stick check, using the bottom portion of the stick ("butt-end") in a downward thrusting motion. 

This is a rarely used check, which could result in a butt-ending penalty should the player make any sort of contact with the opponent’s body. It is a highly discouraged check for almost all lacrosse players and is illegal in most box lacrosse Associations.

  • Rusty Gate Check:  Done usually out of desperation or as a last resort after being beaten one-on-one, a “rusty gate” is a one-handed reverse slash, thrown behind a defender’s own back.  If an offender “fakes” a “juke” one way, and gets a defender to over-commit, then goes the other way, a rusty gate check is a one-time opportunity to slash the player’s hands and perhaps get lucky and strip the ball.  It is usually not worth the risk of getting a penalty for an errant slash, but advanced players will sometimes be able to get away with it.

“Stick swinging” in general refers to a defender playing an opponent’s stick instead of playing the opponent’s body, which usually results in the defender getting beat clean or taking a penalty.

Stick swinging can also refer to when goalies are faced with a skip pass from side-to-side and are forced to swing their goalie stick across their body in defense of a quick stick. Stick swinging by the goalie is essentially a desperation maneuver (last effort) to stop the ball; goalies should be taught instead to be sound positionally and quick to re-position, with good footwork and anticipation (reaction).

The defender should do their best to close the gap between themselves and their check, recovering as quickly as possible to the back-side of the play or attempting a trail check at an opportune moment (depending on the situation).

The player that is chasing will likely have just one opportunity to trail check their opponent, so players have to be selective and not waste their opportunity by making their move too fast or while off balance. Trail checks are usually best "executed" from low to high.

  • Sagging/“Sluffing”/Shading/Hedging/“Hot” Defender/“Help” Defender/Showing Help (See Defense Drill #13B):  When a defender moves away from their check, a few steps toward the middle, in order to be in better position to slide over and help out a teammate, rotate, or simply to “show help.” 

Showing help means to be a threat to help, without necessarily sliding (“head on a swivel”). Off-ball defenders do not need to follow their check wherever they go, they should be “staying tight” ready to help (especially if one's check goes deep into the corner or behind the net).

The most important “help defender” is usually the player in the “high” position on the off-ball side of the floor. Having said that, most will teams designate the off-ball "middle" defender” as the “hot defender” when the ball is on the “weak-side.”

Off-ball defenders should use the “near-side” goal post as a guide for how far they should “sluff” over.

  • Adjacent/Adjacent Help (See Defense Drill #12A):  A player closest to, or directly beside another teammate, whether on offense or defense. 

A pass to an adjacent teammate is usually the safest pass to make for offensive players, as opposed to a skip pass. An adjacent defender is usually the first person to slide if a teammate gets beat on defense, also to “show help” if a teammate has a mismatch.

  • Slide/Multiple Slides/"Following The Slide" (See Defense Drill #13B):  If a teammate gets beat toward the net on defense, that same player should yell “help” and the next closest defender should “slide” over to help defend the ball.  The one exception to this team rule is when defending the crease position, as players should in general never slide from the off-ball crease (a diagonal quick stick is usually the result). 

Ideally, the slide is from an “adjacent” or off-ball high defender (in anticipation), but in some instances a player may choose to stay locked off on their check (hitching), depending on “inventory.”

If a defender "slides" to help, the offender who is being checked by this player will usually "follow the slide" in an attempt to improve their angle, as a general rule. Likewise, if one player on the defense slides, a second and third defender should also be ready to slide (head on a swivel), performing "multiple slides" if necessary (everybody “go”); forcing the offense to string together multiple passes in order to get off a quality shot. At the on-set of multiple slides, the player who initially "got beat" should then try to recover to the back-side of the play.

More often than not the rule tends to be "if one defender slides, all defenders slide" (aka "selling out").

A “go” call is also used for double-teaming and Advanced Pressure Defensesas well as during certain set-plays on offense.

  • Hitching/Fake Slide (See Transition Drill #8A):  When sliding or “finishing a check,” the less obvious the defender makes the move, usually the more effective it will be (except when forced to slide or sliding out of desperation).  "Hitching" is a fake slide, where the defender acts like they are going to slide one way, then slides another.  Hitching can also be referred to as an offensive footwork maneuver, similar to a stutter-step.   

A common use of "hitching" is when defending against a 3-on-2 in transition, the high defender in the “I formation” may fake to slide to the ball carrier, and at the last second slide to someone else instead.

It is also important to take inventory in this situation, when considering whether to “hitch” or not.

This scenario is frequent during "diamond" short-handed situations when a low defender is defending against two opposing crease players (east-west); the defender in this scenario must be great at “picking off” passes and also anticipating when to close the gap.

It is also important that goalies be proficient at making this particular save and it should be drilled at practice, if necessary.

Defenders are constantly “goading” players to try and go one-on-one underneath (also known as “cat & mouse” or playing “chicken”), while simultaneously maintaining top-side positioning.

It is generally the responsibility of the “high” defender to “fight overtop” of seals and close the gap on perimeter shots in the "prime scoring area;" which is a "principle" they should be held accountable" to. The best defenders always have a sense of "gap control" and are able to "show help" just far enough away from their check that they can recover in time, if need be.

  • Finishing Your Check:  It is a good habit to always “finish your check” when playing defense.  Specifically, whenever your check passes or shoots the ball, they should always be body checked or cross-checked if the offender is less than 1 second away. 

This is especially important when sliding, double-teaming and otherwise when defending against transition.

Generally speaking, defensive players should cross-check or body-check any offensive player that attempts to “engage” or cut through the prime scoring area.

  • “Hold”:  The opposite of rotation, “hold” is the call communicated by defensive players when, for a particular reason, they don’t want to rotate where they otherwise normally would.  “Holding” is usually called following multiple skip passes by the offense, while playing in a zone defense. 

A pertinent example would be playing the Rotating Diamond,” which eventually rotates into a “box.” When the ball is not at the point player, the defense may “hold” in the box, instead of rotating away from the ball (principles), as multiple skip passes would see defenders rotating out of control if they tried to keep up.

A team might also hold while in the diamond, in order to “goad” shots from the crease, while taking away the shooters on a penalty kill.

  • Pressure/Forcing/Firing Out/“Aggressive” Pressure/Strip Defense/Controlled Pressure/“Soft” Defense:  To “force” someone to do something; giving them no choice.  “Aggressive pressure” by the defense is sometimes needed in order to force a turnover when a team is losing late in a game.  Sometimes in practice "soft" defense will be asked of the players (for offensive purposes).  Generally, "controlled pressure" is the best approach. 

half-step side shuffle with the stick up, while staying in balance and getting on gloves, is typically the best approach. If defenders over-extend themselves, they are highly susceptible to “fake shots,” “toe drags,” and “swims.” 

  • Arriving In Control/"Coming To Balance" (See Defense Drill #4A):  When “closing the gap,” applying pressure or rotating, it is important for a defender approaching their check to do so “in control.”  Regardless of the amount of speed needed to close the gap, upon approach the defender should be prepared to slow down as quickly as possible, getting low and "coming to balance;" prepared for body  contact or change of direction.

half-step side shuffle with the stick up, while staying in balance and getting on gloves, is typically the best approach. If defenders over-extend themselves, they are highly susceptible to “fake shots,” “toe drags,” and “swims.” 

  • Over-Committing/Lunging/Over-Extending:  When a defender takes a straight run at an opponent and “over-extends” themself in an attempt to body check, slash, or cross-check them, it is referred to as “over-committing” and usually results in that defender being left out of position. 

Defenders must be in control at all times and have good athletic position before cutting off the path of an offender with a cross-check or body-check, otherwise risk getting beat clean to the net. Good offenders will try to bait defenders out toward the boards, leaving lots of open space behind them for cutters, where it is usually better for a defense to just stay “tight.”

If a defender “lunges” out too far with a cross-check, an experienced offensive player will grab the stick of the defender and essentially swim them, as they cut towards the net.

If offensive players want to stay spread, leave them out there, as ultimately they have the shot clock working against them and need to get close to the net to score goals. Defenders are in a great position to help if they don’t chase these players out by the boards, instead constantly adjusting their footwork while utilizing the 2-for-1 rule.

  • Getting “Beat”/“Beat Clean”:  Getting “beat clean” is when an offensive player gets around their check one-on-one toward the net (off-ball or on-ball), relatively untouched. 

Defenders need to be physical but only to the point that they are still in control, otherwise they risk getting "beat clean" to the net with a basic juke, swim or backdoor cut, for example.  Most often defenders "get beat" as a result of ball watching, a miscommunication while sorting, over-checking, or in the pick & roll game.

Essentially, defenders should take the shortest possible route back toward the net when recovering; potentially throwing a trail check on the opponent if the opportunity presents itself, otherwise a teammate will usually come and help on a slide if another teammate needs it. If the player that got beat has no chance for a trail check they should try and recover back to a position on the “backside” of where the ball is located.

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