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How to Develop the Best Lacrosse Defense in the League

Posted by Tom Hallissey on Jan 13, 2016 4:48:13 PM

lacrosse defense

Defense has always won championships, but to be the best doesn’t happen by accident. To win and win consistently, teams must devote a lot of time and energy to developing defensive skills. Our seven lacrosse practice drills can make any lacrosse defense a more formidable force.


7 Lacrosse Defense Drills for Your Next Practice

Defense without Sticks

A common mistake for lacrosse players is relying on their stick as their primary defensive tool. The key to good defense is how players use their feet, hands and hips. Excellent footwork enables a defender to remain lockstep with their opponent as they twist and turn down the field.

In this drill, pair up your players in twos. The offensive player aims to dodge past the defender towards the goal. The defensive player, who has no stick, works to keep the offensive player in front of him with just his body position and his hands.

Athletes can use this drill to develop their drop step, side shuffle and lateral change of direction.

What the Drill Emphasizes

  •          Correct Body Position
  •          Proper Field Position
  •          Staying Low to the Ground

Sharpen Stick Checking

Of course, the essential element of lacrosse defense is the crosse. Any good defender has a well-honed repertoire of checks at his disposal.

It’s beneficial for defenders to regularly practice the technique of various stick checks, like the poke and the slap. To start, try hanging a crosse through the netting of a goal. On the hanging stick, players can practice their checking technique in a non-live situation.


After this warmup, your defenders are ready to graduate to practicing checks in a 1-on-1 setting with live offensive players. Starting off at half or three-quarter speed will help focus on fundamentals. In these drills, players should concentrate on developing short, strong and precise checks, which have a higher impact than a wild stick-swinging.

2-on-1 Man/Ball

In lacrosse, a game where possession is king, groundballs are everything. Defenses can learn to fuel their offense by stealing more groundballs from their opponent. One way to improve this skill is through practicing 2-on-1 man/ball drills.

To start the drill, players should be separated into three lines: two offensive and one defensive. At the sound of the whistle, a coach tosses a ball onto the field, where all three players battle to gain possession of it.

Teams everywhere practice this drill to teach the offense how to strategize gaining possession of a loose ball. However, defenders can learn just as much from this drill.

lacrosse defense


It’s no secret that players look forward to the live action portion of lacrosse practices the most. But rather than just having a scrimmage, coaches can conduct structured live drills, like a simple 3-on-2, that simulate portions of an actual game.

A 3-on-2 drill teaches defensive players how to properly shuffle back and forth as the ball moves from player to player. With repetition of this drill, a lacrosse defense will become adept at covering ground on the lacrosse field.

After a few repetitions, coaches can introduce variation on the drill, such as forcing the offense to make a certain number of passes, such as 10, before making a move towards the goal.

3-on-3 Keep-Away Possession Game

Or, coaches can eliminate the goal from the drill entirely.

For a game of lacrosse keep-away, even up each side to include three defensive and three offensive players. This will allow your players to work on their match-up defense or double-teams while the ball is in play.

To keep it interesting, create a points system where each team receives a point for five consecutive passes. The first team to earn five points wins the game of keep-away.

4-on-3 Fast Breaks

Since lacrosse games are full of fast breaks, a defense who knows how to quickly react has the advantage.

A 4-on-3 fast break drill includes one player with the ball as well as three offensive and three defensive players.

The defense, who are a man down in this fast break situation, are put on the spot to defend their goal while under pressure. This drill gives players the opportunity to test their skills in a live atmosphere. Defensive stick-work and footwork will be put to the test as defensive players rapidly shift towards the moving ball.

With enough hard work, young lacrosse defenders may one day be able to pull off moves like the New York Lizards Joe Fletcher.