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Offensive and Defensive Drills

This is an excerpt from Lacrosse Essentials by Jack Kaley & Richard Donovan.

During a man-down defense because of a penalty, use your best six offensive players in an extra-man offense (EMO). Each must have a high lacrosse IQ, which enables them to read the defense and learn to take what the defense gives them. The extra-man offense uses multiple formations, each with its own strength against the defensive set used against it. Ultimately, you attack the splitter, the defenseman (usually on the far side) who is responsible for more than one man. Every man-down defense (MDD) has its strengths and weaknesses. MDD occurs when a team is penalized with a time-serving foul ranging from 30 to 60 seconds, which will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 11. You want to attack the weaknesses in your opponent's zone. Try to have all of your EMO players be a Tom Brady in terms of reading the defense and attacking it. While you are moving the ball and changing sets, each ball carrier has permission to attack if he sees an error in the defensive scheme.


Instead of designing set plays, define options to execute as you move the ball and change formations. Each offensive set offers particular options, and you want to take advantage of the option that gives you the best inside shot. On both regular offense and, especially on extra-man offense, look for inside, not outside shots. One reason not to use set plays is that if the opposition locks off one man on your offense, the play could be severely interrupted. Another reason is if they have scouted your team, it could lead to a turnover.


The rules of the offense are always the same. As you move the ball, you must penetrate the defense, make your man play you and you alone, read the defense, and take what the defense gives you. The ball carrier should not force anything, but if any of these options are open, he should take advantage of them. If not, continue to play to the next series of options. Each ball handler who has the ball looks inside to the crease for openings or open skip lanes. If there are no openings, he continues to pass to the next adjacent player. Among the various EMO offensive sets, the 3-3 set is the basic offensive formation.


33 EMO Set

Start out in a basic 3-3 offensive set on EMO. The players for a 33 set are as follows. The symbols designate initial positions in the 3-3 set and the strengths of each player in that particular position. In figure 10.1, the letters designate their initial positions.

  • M3: The top right-handed player should be your best outside right-handed shooter.
  • M2: The top middle player is one of the most important players in this set. He is the quarterback of the offense, one of your best feeders, and a good outside shooter.
  • M1: The top left-handed player should be your best outside left-handed shooter.
  • A2: The lower right-handed attackman should be both a good feeder and finisher.
  • C: The creaseman should be your best inside shooter.
  • A1: The lower left-handed attackman should be both a good feeder and finisher.



3-3 vs. 2-3 zone.


The ball starts on top, and you get the ball to the top middleman as quickly as possible. When he has the ball and steps in to draw the defense, you can easily read what type of defense they're in. Three or four defensive sets are commonly used against the 3-3.


Against 2-3 MDD

If your opponent is in a 2-3 zone, the two top defensemen attempt to play the three top offensive men while covering the three low offensive players man to man. In this set they are giving you the outside shot. Try to force one of the two top defenders to play the middleman, thereby giving one of your top men a free shot because he is momentarily uncovered. In this set, the middleman is the key to drawing the defensive player who is playing your best finisher. This creates the opportunity to set up an open shot for your best outside shooter (see figure 10.2).



3-3 vs. 2-3 MDD.


Against 2-1-2 MDD

The most popular defensive set against the 3-3, is the 2-1-2 string. In this set, the middle defensive player pops up from the creaseman to play the top middleman when he has the ball. The two low defensive men are supposed to bump up and squeeze the creaseman. The other two top wing defensive players are supposed to cut off the passing lanes to the low wing attackmen and yet still be in position to slide back to their man if they get the ball (see figure 10.3).



1-4-1 vs. 2-1-2 MDD.


This defensive set has some weaknesses. The two top wing defensemen, particularly a short-stick midfielder, has a difficult time cutting off the passing lane to the low attackmen on his side. If the defenseman playing the creaseman bumps up when the ball is on top, it makes it more difficult for the low wing defenseman to get back to his man.


Because you want to attack the splitter, target the center crease defender. For example, work the ball around from the top middle position, counterclockwise to the bottom left-handed attackman (A1). The A1 tries to find his primary option (creaseman), who bumped up high when the top left-handed player (M1) had the ball but has now come down to the onside pipe for the left-handed feed and right-handed shot. This puts a lot of pressure on the center defenseman, who is responsible for both the top right-handed player (M2) when the ball is any place on top and for the crease when the ball is in the wing spots. If the feed from the A1 is properly placed to the creaseman as he cuts to the ball, it makes it almost impossible for that center defenseman to make a legal check.


Sometimes the defense will overcompensate to cover the crease, thereby leaving someone else open. This is what is meant by reading the defense and immediately saying that one option is closed, so to go to the second or third option. This is also the beauty of an offense that teaches and encourages free choice to take what the defense gives you.

Learn more about Lacrosse Essentials.