Glossary – Team Offense (See Skill Analysis)
Ball movement is essential in forcing the defense and goaltender to have to re-position, potentially losing track of their responsibilities while ball watching.
Completing multiple quick sticks in a row (tic-tac-toe) is the next best scenario in creating an empty net for scoring a goal (which requires superior mental focus).
Players in transition will also need to be able to string passes together at full speed (see shooting/passing-on-the-run), which is a unique skill-set in itself and necessary for executing in transition at the highest levels of the sport.
Rolling to the net off of a pick is the standard protocol for the picker (also see pick & pop), and proper technique is to be standing relatively still, with arms extended, pushing off only slightly to create separation. Referees will allow a certain degree of leniency in the offensive zone in terms of moving picks, so players need to get a feel for what they can and cannot get away with (be aggressive early in games).
Placement of a pick (pick-left, pick-right, back-pick) should be done in anticipation of where a teammate is heading, and should be utilized by the teammate (even if they know it’s not going to work) 90% of the time, unless to fake (deceive) its use. When a pick is “set” and does not work, players should try to re-pick and finesse (counter-step) the defenders into a position where the pick will work.
A “seal” or "screen" is when the offensive player drives (engages) their check back toward their own goal (they are equally as entitled to the space as the defender), usually on the defenders inside shoulder, especially up high on the defense. The player setting the seal must make it look as though the defender is preventing the offensive player from moving (best practice); as opposed to interfering with a defender. A good seal generally creates time & space for a teammate, especially if the ball carrier is able to successfully run their defender into the screen, allowing them to shoot overtop. This happens most often at the shooter position, such as during a Delay set-play on offense. Otherwise, a good seal/screen can also open up a lane for an off-ball cutter or a shot on-the-run from the ball carrier at the mid-boards, “sweeping across the top” with their check being sealed down.
Screens and/or picks that lead to goals are known as "pick/seal/screen assists," and are often underrated; worthy of praise from the coach (and statistician). Also see slip picks.
Other key criteria for “illegal picks” are if players are moving their feet and/or if they aggressively body check an unsuspecting defender out of the way, which both may be called “illegal picks” as well (depending on precedents set by the referee).
The player being picked for should come around the pick on either the top-side or board-side, depending on which side of the player the pick is set on. The picker then "rolls" to the net, taking the opposite Lane than the ball carrier. The other in this situation would be to “pick & pop.”
The player being picked should come around the pick on either the top-side or board-side, depending on which side of the player the pick is set on. The picker then "rolls" to the net, taking the opposite Lane than the ball carrier.
The ideal time to set a cross-pick is when the ball is on the strong-side and the highest offender "seals" the off-ball shooter position. This is sometimes effective at eliminating the opponents ability to provide off-ball help, while also freeing up space for the pick-and-roll game.
If the pick is east-west in orientation the ball carrier should run over-top of the pick and if it is north-south in orientation they should run underneath the pick. After the pick, the picker should then “roll” towards either the board-side or Middle Lane, depending on which side of the defender the pick was “set” (habits).
The picker (“roller”) should turn the shortest route possible toward the net, "opening up" to the ball without turning their back to the play (i.e. turn towards the ball; roll 90° instead of 270°). Multiple picks and re-picks in a row is a general offensive strategy on the weak-side, also known as the pick-and-roll game to some, or the “two-man game” to others.
A "screen & roll" would be when a player who is "sealing" a defender slips (aka "rolls") to the net when the defender tries to fight overtop, or switch.
Usually it's wise to execute a few regular pick and rolls or re-pick situations early in the game in order to set up the defenders who often will get lazy and switch too early, leaving them susceptible to a "slip pick."
"Slipping" is also referred to after a seal on-ball, whereby when the defender attempts to fight overtop of the seal, the picker slips (rolls) to the net as both defenders jump out at the shooter.
Usually big-bodied, physical players are best at setting picks (see power forwards) and “freeing up” teammates, but all players are able to use their strengths and skill-sets to free-up hands (get quality shots) using: hard work, speed and Lacrosse IQ.
The player with the ball in a 2-on-1 needs to remain a threat, and either shoot or pass, depending on whether the defender slides or “hitches.”
The general rule is if the ball carrier is in the prime scoring area, they should shoot the large majority of the time (depending on the situation and inventory).
An “offensive system” is a set of guidelines/rules for players in these positions to follow, in order to add structure and make things flow. The rules may change as the team develops, with new ideas emerging and old ones being set aside.
There should also be options to choose from along with freedom to use individual intuitiveness, in an effort to exploit weakness and breakdown the opponent’s style of defensive play. Players must understand that an offensive system will only work against an honest defense. Offensive players need to force the defense to respond to their actions, thereby creating separation for oneself and time & space for teammates. If a team or player is cheating, “adjustments” should be made by the coaches and quality shots should be the result.
One shot on each offensive possession will not be enough. Teams need more opportunities than that and should be tenacious in the pursuit of rebounds and loose balls, in order to get multiple re-sets.
The “1-for-1 rule” always applies on offense, and players not directly involved in the play must move quickly to be an outlet, or defend against reverse transition; ready to react to possession gained or lost.
Swinging the ball with good offensive cycling and staying spread, helps "extend the defense" and free-up space for high percentage shots in the prime scoring area (also see skip passes). Having said that, it is important to "shorten up" swing passes wherever possible, by the receiver and passer both running toward each other, as a team rule.
Passing “around the horn” is similar to keeping the ball hot, in that every player should “get a touch” of the ball, but without “swing passes” (adjacent players only). Most power-play set-plays generally begin after passing the ball once “around the horn” (to each position), unless trying to catch the opposing team off guard or trying to push the pace (perhaps only passing half-way around the horn before executing the set-play).
Players may also carry the ball behind the net to their wrong side before passing it off, in which case there must always be an outlet at the mid-boards or lower.
Following a reversal, the players on the ball-side should automatically attack the net one-on-one or with a pick & roll style offense. If that is not successful, the ball-side should look for a back-door cutter before eventually swinging the ball back to the off-ball side.
As this is commencing, offensive players should be watching the positioning of their offensive teammates in order to help with the "timing" of the “cycle,” being mindful of proper spacing. In a perfect world the offense would be able to move wherever they wanted, but the reality is that they will need to play off of the defense ("take what the defense gives you"), meaning they will need to adapt and react to the variables of different situations. Players need to test the defense, and pay the price to get to the middle!
An offense that passes that ball around the perimeter with no motion, or that stands in the prime scoring area clogging up the middle, is referred to as a "stagnant offense." Standing still and/or holding that ball too long (3+ seconds) only helps the defense, players feet should constantly be moving while keeping their stick in the triple threat position as much as possible.
Certain players may feel more comfortable in one position over another, but they have to be constantly moving through all three positions on the floor, until a quality shot from the prime scoring area presents itself.
Movement should not be confused with action. It should be meaningful and take advantage of "time & space," as well as poor defensive positioning and breakdowns. Wise pass and shot selection usually translates into high percentage execution, which is also the key to reducing unnecessary turnovers.
Defensive “flow” is when players are blowing up picks, blocking shots (standing in "shooting lanes"), getting on hands, stripping the ball, dominating on loose balls and scoring in transition.
Certain combinations (units) of players that play well together, offensively, defensively or indifferent, are referred to as having good “chemistry.” If an individual player or unit is “in the zone” so to speak, there is a certain element of “rhythm” or timing that is clearly noticeable to the naked eye.
Most set-plays have predetermined "triggers" that signal the start of the play, again developed in practice, starting first against no defense ("ghost/skeleton plays"). It could be the second pass back to the shooter from the point player, or when a player starts to drag with the ball, as two common examples. If a set-play doesn't work, the offense or defense should re-set/reposition and settle back into a basic system, or try another set-play.
Players need to know their roles/responsibilities and if they don’t know them, should ask for clarification, otherwise be replaced by a player who does know. Players need to make smart decisions and sometimes ad-lib, perhaps even abandon a set-play if the defense is cheating.
This might entail sending out four same-handed offensive players to one side of the floor (creating an isolation play) or sending a player from the strong-side to the weak-side on an east-west pick to their wrong side; allowing more space for pick & rolls or possibly assisting in "freeing up" an off-ball cutter.
Overloading one of the standard offensive positions with two players is one of the best ways to be successful against a zone defense.