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Tips & Tricks

Lacrosse Defensive Strategies for Beginners 2023

Are you a lacrosse player and want to know the best lacrosse defensive strategies in 2023? If so, then you are on the right page. Here, I will guide you.

Lacrosse is the oldest sport played by Native Americans since the 1600s. This is a team sport played with a lacrosse stick and lacrosse ball, with each team playing on the Offense or Defense. 

lacrosse player taking a rest

Possessing strong lacrosse defensive strategies is crucial for the team's success. When the ball has the opposing team, all the players on the other team will collectively be playing on Defense. 

A team has four prominent lacrosse positions: defender, midfielder, attacker, and goalkeeper. The defender has to make sure the opposing team does not score. They must stay between the attacker and the goal to prevent the attacker from getting a clean shot. 

Lacrosse midfielders are allowed to play on the entire field. They play both on offense and Defense. Attackers, in precise, are supposed to score goals while the goalkeeper has the most important position in the game.

Their main job is Defense in lacrosse, which is necessary to achieve shutouts. Lacrosse defense is an individual and team-coordinated effort requiring field vision and clear communication. This helps anticipate players and provides help to teammates that may be finding it hard to contain their assigned attacker. 

lacrosse players snatching the ball

Let's discuss some of the major lacrosse defensive strategies that will be helpful for beginners throughout the game. These tactics will be deployed by the coach and defensive coordinator depending on the flow of the game and player matchups.  

Defense Types:

  • Man-to-Man Defense 
  • Zone Defense 
  • 2-3 Zone 
  • Double Team 
  • Slough 
  • Box and One 
  • Indoor Lacrosse Defense

Man-to-Man Defense 

A man-to-man defense is one of the lacrosse defensive strategies where an individual defenseman covers a single attacker. These matchups occur throughout the field, not particularly in the defensive half.

However, this defense strategy can only be used in a settled offensive or strength situation, such as in cases with an equal number of attackers with defenders. Man-to-man Defense mainly relies on tight marking and strong communication where each individual player understands the call for slides and switches.

lacrosse players running during playing

A decline occurs when an off-ball defender beside the on-ball defender rushes to cover an attacker who has beaten their defender. A switch occurs when the defenders exchange places. The defenders must verbally communicate the word “switch” to call out this action.  

Zone Defense 

Zone defense is a defense lacrosse tactic in which a defender guards one specific zone. It mainly depends on the lacrosse positioning of players, as if an attacker enters a zone area, the defensemen covering that area will be responsible. This tactic is effective in a man-down situation where the defending team has lesser teammates.  

Zone defense has several tactics: 

  • 2-3 Zone 
  • Double Team 
  • Slough 
  • Box and One

2-3 Zone 

The 2-3 zone is a man-down position of players with two defensemen positioned closer to the restraining line while three defensemen cover players near the goal. This way, the defensive team stands closer to the goal, while the opposing team has a lower chance of making a clear shot at the destination. 

lacrosse players practicing match

Double Team 

A double team is a scenario where two defenders mark one player from the opposing team. Usually, this technique can be used against an attacker with the ball or attackers off the ball. This way, the opponent player can be prevented from receiving passes, or may lead to turnovers. 


The slough is another lacrosse defensive strategy that makes players drop from playing the wings and the perimeter to defend mostly on the critical goal area.  

Box and One 

Used during a man-down scenario, Box and One makes four defenders form a box-shaped zone near the goal while one extra defender plays one on one against the attacker with the ball. During a ball pass from the offense, the box formation can shift, allowing one of the defenders to become the free player.  

Indoor Lacrosse Defense 

In indoor lacrosse, all five players on each team play offense and Defense; thus, the formation is slightly different. During indoor lacrosse with a man-down defense situation, the diamond man short formation defensive strategy is used. Four defenders form a diamond shape, with three defensemen resisting the corner men, the point-man, and one defender splitting the two crease men. The Defense requires quick slides and interceptions to pass the ball into the crease.  

lacrosse players play with honor

Defense Drills for Defensemen  

A beginner's key to becoming a top defender comes from sticking to the defined lacrosse defensive strategies, getting enough practice by attending lacrosse defensive drills, and efficient teamwork.  

Playing Defense is tremendously difficult in any sport; thus, learning lacrosse drills for defensemen is required. This defense drill lacrosse must provide adequate practice, clear instructions, and game-like conditions for the players. 

Some popular drills include ZigZag Drill, Transition defense, Oklahoma, Hand Speed, and Checking and Stir the Pot. The ZigZag Drill teaches players to approach the ball carrier and move them in the direction the player wants them to move.

They may force the ball carrier into a double team or play from their weaker hand. The transition defense trains defenders to position themselves ahead of the attackers. This way, the attackers are blocked from scoring.

Oklahoma is another technique in which offensive players are placed ten yards before the defenders. When the offensive player carries the ball toward the goal, each defensive player, one at a time, prevents the threat by taking away the sweep. Hand speed and checking are good drills for teaching fine motor defensive skills required in defense lacrosse.

lacrosse player running

Lastly, stir the pot is a defensive drill tactic that helps players have a soft hand at the game through which they can easily take control of the ball and retain possession.  


Keep attackers from blowing you off your feet, and at the same time, don't get overwhelmed during failures. However, making a mistake on the Defense is costly for the team so stay focused. Shut down your opponent and guard your goal to win more games.

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