1. You must be able to catch, throw and shoot both left-handed and right-handed.
From the first time you pick up a lacrosse stick, you must practice on both sides. You must work on your weak hand on your own. You should not be embarrassed if you make mistakes with your non-dominant hand. You will not suddenly wake up one day and have a competent, non-dominant hand. It takes practice.
2. The more time you spend playing lacrosse with your stick perpendicular to the ground (as opposed to parallel to the ground), the better player you will become.
If a player keeps his stick perpendicular to the ground, he can protect the full length of his stick with his body. To the contrary, if the stick becomes parallel to the ground, the head and stick become exposed to checks by an opponent. If the head of the stick is carried next to the ear (in the box), and the shaft is perpendicular to the ground habitually, no matter where the ball is caught, it will be returned to the proper position and be protected by the body. When the ball is thrown or shot, it should be done overhand from the box position. In order for this to be executed properly, a player must catch, throw and shoot with his wrists. Many players cannot do this because they have a whip in their stick. Sticks with whips force players throw the ball with their arms rather than their wrists. Adjust the pocket of your stick so that you can use your wrists and keep the stick perpendicular.
3. Do not hold the ball in your stick.
The less time the ball spends in your stick, the better player you will become. Players who carry the ball in their stick too long develop a horrible sense of the game. The ball can be passed over a distance at speeds faster than anyone can run. It is far easier to learn how to carry the ball in your stick after you have learned how to pass it. The reason for this is that defensive pressure becomes far less of an irritation when a player knows how to get rid of the ball.
4. Move the ball immediately upon gaining possession of a loose ball.
As teams scramble for loose balls, they get pulled out of position. If your team picked up a loose ball, it can capitalize on the opponent′s misalignment only if it can move the ball before the opponent has time to adjust. You must look up field and get the ball out of your stick as soon as possible. You must make the pass to the first open man on your team that you see, whether in front, across or behind you. Ideally, your teammates should be moving themselves into strategic positions to take advantage of the opponents′ misalignment.
5. You must learn how to move without the ball.
Everyone (players, referees and fans) has a tendency to watch only the player with the ball. Players off the ball are disregarded. Thus, it is easier to get into shooting, catching or scooping position when you do not have the ball. Every lacrosse player plays 90% of the time without the ball. You must maximize your time without the ball so that you put yourself in a position to do something when you get it. You must realize that by standing still, you blend into the background and your teammate with the ball cannot see you.
6. You must move to the ball.
A player who is open and wants the ball should always move to the ball. This is particularly true when a player is (1) open on the backside (2) not being watched by a defenseman in front of him and (3) receiving a pass to shoot. A player who is not being watched by a defenseman in front of him should move to the ball because he can run right past the defenseman and get open. A player receiving the pass to shoot must always move to the ball lest he catch it, turn and get run down by a sliding defender.
7. Look to a spot behind the goalie when you shoot.
If a player is in possession of the ball in shooting position, he usually is being pressured if not run down. You must therefore automatically look first to the highest percentage spot to shoot. This spot is ′behind the goalie.′ A spot behind the goalie is a spot out of the goalie′s momentum. Shooters must look first to a spot that is opposite to the direction in which the goalie is moving. If the goalie is moving to his right, a shot to his right is a shot into his momentum and flow. A shot to his left, however, forces him to change his momentum and go the other way. This is a difficult task even for the best goalie.
8. Shoot with a quick release.
Releasing the ball quickly when shooting on goal is an asset because (1) anyone in possession of the ball in shooting position is or soon will receive defensive pressure and (2) goalies move. Too many players develop bad habits, such as spinning their stick, taking more steps, or winding up before releasing the ball. All these actions use up valuable time that allows the defense to recover and the goalie to move. This is especially true when a player has just received a feed. If you develop the skill to release the shot at the moment that you receive the feed, you will shoot with less defensive pressure and at a goalie who has not been allowed to focus on the ball. The proper method of developing the quick release is to give with the feed and actually catch the ball in a shooting position.
9. Defense must have stick skills as good or better than attackmen and midfielders.
Defensemen must be able to clear the ball. Broken clears put teams in their most vulnerable position possible. The only way to ensure that clears do not fail is to make sure the ball does not go on the ground. That requires flawless throwing and catching.
10. Defenders must play defense like boxers box.
Too many defenders stop moving their feet when they make a check or they make a check and leave their sticks in places that do them no good. Boxers never stand still with reference to their opponent. They use their footwork to gain position and advantage. Neither do they leave their arm extended after throwing a punch. A defender should not leave his stick or his opponent′s hip. He must learn to move, check, and reload to repeat the process.
11. Defenders do not have to take the ball away to play good defense.
The purpose of all defense is to reduce the opponents′ scoring. That is accomplished by focusing on four factors and executing them. The four are (1) prevent high percentage shots, (2) hinder passing that allows opponents into the prime shooting area, (3) gain possession of loose balls, and (4) begin the transition game. Too many defenders measure their defensive prowess by their ability to strip the ball from an opponent. A defender′s primary concern should be to position himself so that when the player he is guarding puts both hands on the stick, he can check the opponent′s hands. The attributes that every defender must have are footwork, stickwork, anticipation and hustle.
Terminology... there's a lot of it. Here is useful terms for beginners and parents.
Ball or Ball down... All players shout ball any time the ball is on the ground. Often this is the first indicator to the player who had it that he has dropped it. Ball can also signal the intent of a player to go after the ball instead of the man. (see below)
Body Check... Defensively using the body to hit an opposing ball carrier or while contesting an opponent for a player a loose ball. The body check must always be done above the waist and from the front or side.
The Box... The rectangular shaped area around the crease / goal. Defenders seldom press players outside of the box. The distance involved makes it all but impossible to score from outside of the box. The rules state that the offense can only possess the ball for so long without entering the box. At the end of a game the team that is ahead must keep the ball inside of the box.
Butt... The end of a crosse opposite the head. All shaft ends need to be covered with a butt-cap.
Change planes... When a shooter has a close in shot, the goalie must respect where the ballcarrier starts his shot. If the shooter holds his stick high, the keeper does the same. Therefore it is most effective for the shooter to start high and shoot low, or vice versa. This is ‘changing planes’.
Clamping... On the face-off, a player pushes the back of his stick down on the ball in the attempt to gain control of it.
Clearing... An important defensive maneuver where defending players run or pass the ball out of their goal area. Clearing is best done along the sidelines, away from the front of the goal.
Cradling... In order to maintain control of the ball when moving along the field, players turn their wrists and arms to cradle the ball in the stick pocket.
Crease... The eighteen-foot diameter circle surrounding each team’s goal.
Cutting... An attacking player without the ball darts around a defender toward the goal in order to receive a “feed pass.” A cutting player is a cutter.
D Cut... A maneuver used by an attackman to get open for a shot. The player starts on the GLE, about 5 yards away from the goal. He then makes a rounded cut, on the side away from the ball. (completing a "D" shape) This is often the third attackmans’ move during a fast break.
Extra Man (aka Man Up or EMO)... Describes the team at a player advantage in a penalty situation. Opposite of man down.
Face-off... Takes place at the start of each quarter, after every goal, and after certain dead balls. Two opposing players crouch down at midfield, hold their sticks flat on the ground and press the backs of their stick pockets together. The ball is then placed between the pockets and, when signaled to start, the players “rake” or clamp on the ball to vie for control.
Face Dodging... A player with the ball cradles the stick across his face in an attempt to dodge a stick-poking defender. Generally an open field dodge that does not involve changing hands.
Fast Break... When an offensive team quickly mounts a scoring attack enabling them to gain a man advantage over the opposing defense. Almost always a four on three.
Feed Pass... An offensive play in which one player passes the ball to a cutting teammate for a “quick stick” shot on goal.
Flag Down... Tells our offense that a penalty will be called. This means that we should do all that we can to get off a shot without dropping the ball to the ground, which will halt play.
GLE (Goal Line Extended)... An imaginary line that extends straight out from the sides of the goal line.
Gilman Clear... Defender, typically the goalie, clears the ball by throwing it as far as he can down the field. Sometimes this is a desperation move, but it is often better to create a ground ball situation in the opponents end than around our own goal area.
Ground Balls... Players compete for the control of loose ground balls by stick checking opponents away from the ball while simultaneously trying to scoop it up. All Ravens yell ‘ball down’ when the ball is on the ground. See also ‘release’.
Head... The plastic of the stick connected to the handle.
In the Dirt... The often trampled area approx. 15 foot radius area in front of the goal. Shots from outside the dirt area should be bounce shots, which are more difficult for keepers to stop. Also known as the ‘hole’. A much smaller area than ‘the box.’
Invert... Any offensive play that involves ‘inverting’ the middies and the attack. In a man on man situation, this puts the defensive bigs out on top with our attack, and the middies defending the area around the crease.
Man Down... Describes the team which has lost a player to the penalty box and must play with fewer men on the field. We will always establish Man Up and Man Down teams before the game. Man Down teams are often tricky, since it is likely that a defender was penalized.
Man-to-man... A defensive setup in which each defending player guards a specific offensive opponent.
Out-of-bounds... When a shot goes out of play, the player closest to the sideline where the ball went out gets the ball.
Passing... An integral part to quickly moving the ball. Players throw overhand or underhand to each other. In most cases a high pass is easier to deal with than a low bouncing dribbler. Slowly thrown lobbed passes give the defense time to react and often result in the catching player being hit before the pass arrives. We prefer that passes be ‘zipped’, or thrown with authority, instead of lobbed with a high arc.
Pick... An offensive player without the ball positions himself against the body of a defender to allow a teammate to get open and receive a pass or take a shot. Picks must be stationary and ‘passive’.
Pocket... The head of the stick in which the ball is held and carried. The pocket is strung with leather and/or mesh netting. In order to be legal, the top of a ball cannot be seen when looking at the pocket from the side.
Poke Check... A defender jabs his stick at the exposed stick end or hands of an opposing ballcarrier in an effort to jar the ball loose. These checks are very effective in that the checking player stays in balance and keeps a cushion of space between himself and the ballcarrier.
Quick Stick... When the ball reaches an offensive player’s stick on a feed pass, he catches it and then shoots it toward the goal in one swift motion.
Raking... A face-off move by a player who, in trying to gain possession of a ground ball, places the head of his stick on top of the ball and sweeps it back. Raking is done standing still. This means that often people who rake will be legally hit by an opposing player. Raking is a very bad habit that is difficult to unlearn. EXCEPTION: Goalkeepers can rake or ‘clamp’ a ground ball legally from the crease.
Release... Players shout release when they succeed in scooping a ground ball. This indicates to teammates that they can no longer make contact with the opponents to drive them away from the ball. Doing so is a penalty.
Riding... When an attacking team loses possession of the ball, it must quickly revert to playing defense in order to prevent the ball from being cleared back out. In most ride situations, the goal-keeper will be left un-marked.
Roll Dodge... An offensive move in which a ballcarrier, using his body as a shield between a defensive player and the cradled ball, spins around the defender. To provide maximum ball protection, the ballcarrier switches hands as he rolls.
Support... When a player without the ball moves into a position where the player with the ball can make a clear pass.
Scooping... The manner in which a player picks up loose ground balls. He bends toward the ground, slides the pocket of his stick underneath the ball, and lifts it into the netting of the stick.
Screen... An attacking player without possession of the ball positions himself in front of the opposing goal crease in an effort to block the goalkeeper’s view.
Shaft... A hollow aluminum or composite pole connected to the head of the crosse.
Skip... To pass to a non- adjacent teammate, usually a long pass over another player. Also known as a skip pass.
Slap Check... A stick check (inferior to the poke check). The defender uses his stick to slap the stick of the offensive player who has the ball. Poke checks are preferred since it is easier to keep you feet moving and stay balanced during the check.
Slide... When an offensive player with the ball has gotten past his defender, a defending teammate will shift his position to pick up that advancing player.
Square Up... To position one’s body in preparation to pass. This means to aim the leading shoulder towards the target.
Stick Check... In an effort to dislodge the ball from the “pocket,” the defending player strikes his stick against the stick of an opposing ballcarrier in a controlled manner.
Unsettled- Situation... Any situation in which the defense is not positioned correctly, usually due to a loose ball or broken clear, or fast break. Teams that hustle (like us), score many goals during unsettled situations.
V Cut... A maneuver used by an offensive player to get open for a pass. The offensive player feints in causing his defender to react and move, he then cuts sharply away (completing the "V" shape) See also “D cut”
Zone Defense... When defenders play in specific areas of their defensive zone, rather than covering man-to-man.