Lacrosse defense

Defense is one of the hardest positions to learn in lacrosse. To play properly a player needs to understand what their role is, the different types of defense, and the basics of how to check with a defensive lacrosse stick. Luckily, that is exactly what we’re going to cover in today's article! 

In this article, we’ll cover:

The role of defense in lacrosse is to top the other team from scoring. To achieve this you’ll need seven players on defense. Three defenders, three middies, and one goalie. The three defenders should be closer to the goal, matched up with the opposing attackmen. The middies will be toward the top of the box matched up with the opposing middies. The goalie will obviously be in the goal besides stopping shots, they are the quarterback of the defense guiding them where needed. Per the rules, a team is allowed four players with long poles, so some teams will trade out a middie for a long stick middie.

There are three main types of defensive strategies. Man-to-man, zone, and man-down defense. Each of these have similarities but are vastly different. Of course, each set will not matter if a defender does not have a solid understanding of the fundamentals. These include how to throw proper checks, not giving up the top side, and being in the correct position off-ball.

Zone Defense

Zone defense is exactly what it sounds like it, each player has a “zone” on the field that they cover. This is generally the easiest defense to learn and the easiest defense to beat. This defense has each player in charge of a circular zone on the field, each zone inter-laps slightly for an easier exchange from player to player. If one defender is beaten, the rest of the defense needs to rotate to cover the broken zone. This defense is highly used because of its simplicity and that it is easy to learn. However, if the opposing team learns that the defense is in a zone they will beat it by abusing where the zones inter-lap, easily drawing two defenders and passing to the open player.

Man-to-Man Defense in Lacrosse

Man-to-man is a much harder defense to learn, but it is also much harder to beat. Man-to-man defense requires each player to guard an opposing player, ideally middie to middie and defender to attack. What makes this hard is it requires more individual skill and the knowledge of when to approach an opposing player and when to not, if you go too early the defense will be too spread out and too late will give the offense an easy shot. It also requires a lot of communication and movement. For example, if player 1 gets beat, player 2 has to slide to cover player 1, player 3 needs to move to player 2’s man and player 1 has to recover back to player 3’s spot. If one player slides too early or doesn’t communicate the whole defense can fall apart. This is also where the goalie comes in handy, they can see the field the best and can dictate when players slide and recover. This defense is harder to beat but can be beaten on a 1v1 dodge if the first slide is slow or if player 1 doesn’t recover leaving a player open.

Man-Down Defense in Lacrosse

Man-down defense is used when a team has gotten a penalty and has a player in the penalty box. It is normally a zone set called a box and one. Meaning there are four d-poles set up in a square with a middie in the middle. The d-poles are responsible for the four corners of the square, rotating when they need to. The middie is in charge of a player on the crease or the “point” player at the top of the box. While being man-down is not something a team wants, the box and one strategy make it a little easier to handle.

There are a few keys to success for defense in lacrosse:

  • Communication: Number one and arguably the most important is communication, the defense needs to have constant communication. This is to keep everyone on the same page and to build trust that your teammates have your back. 
  • Not giving up topside: Topside is the area in front of the goal, as you move towards the middle of the goal your shooting angle will also increase. Every defender is going to give up shots, but if they can force the offense to make low-angle shots the goalie will have a higher chance of making a save.  
  • Throwing correct and legal checks: A defender needs to make sure they do not slash or hit a player in the back. Having a solid core of fundamental checking makes good defenders great. 
  • Knowing when to slide and when to hold: Sliding makes the whole defense move, so if you slide too early it will leave a hole for the offense to exploit.

Why do defensemen have longer sticks in lacrosse?

Defensemen have longer sticks to enable a longer reach and the ability to knock down more passes.

How do you coach defense in lacrosse?

To coach defense you need to understand the three different strategies along with the fundamentals of defense.

How do you beat a man-to-man defense in lacrosse?

The way to beat a is to set up a 1v1 dodge, if the first slide is slow or if player 1 doesn’t recover leaving a player open then you have beaten the defense.

How do you defend a fast break in lacrosse?

Defending against a fast break is all about rotating, since it is a 3v4, one player is always covering 2 opposing players meaning rotation is vital.

What is the best offense against a man-to-man defense?

The best offense to use against a man-to-man defense is either a 2-3-1 or a 1-3-2, relying on triangle passing and 1v1 dodges.

Find the Best Selection of Defensive Gear at LacrosseMonkey!

We went over the role of defense, the different strategies, and the keys to success for defense. Hopefully, with this knowledge, you can be a great defender or an amazing defensive coach. For any of your defensive equipment needs, check out our complete list of defensive complete sticks!