How to Play Off-Ball Defense in Women's Lacrosse

Learn how to play off-ball defense from coaches at Gameday Lacrosse in this Howcast video.

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Hi, I’m Liz Kiddleman Jackson and I’m the Head Lacrosse coach at Columbia University.

Today I’m joined by Katie Crest Irvy assistant Lacrosse coach at Columbia and Katelyn Jackson will game day Lacrosse. Today I’m going to talk about some basic principals of off ball defense. One of the most important things you can do as a defender is talk.

You’ve got to be able to communicate with your teammates so that everyone is on the same page. One thing that we talk about with defense is making sure that you are controlling the space within the eight meter not allow the attackers to dictate what you’re going to do. In terms of communication the eight is oriented in terms of the way the defender is looking. So this is the right side and this is the left side. A good example of communication is when Katie playing on the attack and Katelyn and I are playing on the defense. Using the direction I just talked about, I am on Katelyn’s right side. I’m here to help her understand that I am here to help her, should she get beat. I want to make sure that I’m getting my stick in the space that Katie maybe challenging into to make sure she doesn’t have good vision of the goal. I am talking to Katelyn telling her “Katelyn I’m on your right”.

Some people will say “Katelyn I’m your help right”. There’s all different terms that various coaches use when it comes to communicating on the defensive end. What matter is that Katelyn knows that I’m here on her right side to offer her help, should she get beat by her attacker. Another extremely component of defense is vision. You want to make sure that you know what’s going on around you and you don’t want to get into a position of having tunnel vision. When Katelyn is marking Katie she is what we call the on ball defender. Therefore her job is to stop the player who has the ball. As the off ball defender I want to make sure that I know what’s going on, which means that I have to have proper vision.

With the player that I’m marking I cannot be just staring directly at her. If I am that means that I cannot help my teammate who is the on ball defender. Taking a little bit of a step away from your attacker and looking in between the ball carrier and your attacker will allow you to see what’s going on and slide to help if necessary. If the ball is to move to your player you can easily recover to be the on ball attacker. Another very important aspect of having good vision is as an off ball defender when you’re player is cutting away. So if I was marking a player who had the ball and Katie decided to cut away what Katelyn doesn’t want to do, as Katie is turning away turn and chase her putting her back to me.

The reason being she’s not available to help me because she can no longer see the ball carrier. Instead when Katie is up top I’m marking the ball, Katelyn is helping me to my left. She wants to back up so that she can continue, so that she can continue to see the play.

So those are some of the basic components to off ball defense.