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Lacrosse Defense Positions: Facts, Tips, Drills

As I was growing up, I was always fascinated by one lacrosse position in particular – that of defensemen.

It seemed so heroic, and pivotal to the team’s overall success. Also when I first started playing, it seemed to be the position I gravitated naturally to myself.

The defensemen are the first line of defense in lacrosse. They protect the goal, and are often the starting point of any attacks.

In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about the position of the defenseman. We will start with a whole range of crucial facts, then move on to some top tips, and some drills.

lacrosse defense

Defensemen Facts

Defensemen Basics

The defensemen in lacrosse work as the first line of defense. They, together with the goalie, protect the goal and stop the other team from scoring.

They use longer lacrosse sticks than other players to give them a wider range of motion to protect the goal and catch the ball.

They work as a buffer between the opponent, the goalie, and the goal. In lacrosse, good communication forms a stronger defensive team.

Relationship With Goalie

The goalkeeper or goalie is the last line of defense before a goal is scored. It is the most important position in lacrosse.

A specific area around the goal called ‘crease’ is the limit to which a goalie can go, along with the defenders.

The goalkeeper usually stays inside the creases, going out every so often.

The goalkeeper must be very strong and have excellent hand-eye coordination to stop the opponent from scoring.

He must also be good at communication and a good leader to direct the defensemen and the rest of the team to work as a single unit.

Since the entire game of lacrosse typically depends upon the defense team, it is crucial that the coordination between all the defensemen and the goalkeeper is strong. 


Multiple substitutions of players take place throughout the game.

Since midfielders run a lot and tire themselves out, they are replaced more so than others. In many other cases, some players are great at face-offs and are introduced in the beginning just for that and get substituted out later.

Defensemen usually get substituted less than midfielders or attackmen. This is generally because of the less stamina and distance required to be covered during the match.

Defensemen Top Tips

The entire game of lacrosse revolves around the goal, so protecting the goal becomes extremely important. The defensemen and goalie together are responsible for protecting the goal and hindering the opposing team from scoring. 

When you are playing the position of defenseman in lacrosse, it can be physically and mentally stressful. Quick reflexes of the body have to be matched with the quick wit of the mind to make good saves.

Speed, stealth, and agility are prerequisites for the sport of lacrosse and especially for the position of defense. 

Speed and dexterity become the groundwork for your defense tactics. Many coaches recommend being aggressive with defense and moving out into the field rather than crouching near the goal. This gives the opponent attackers less invasion area into the crease and protects the goal. 

The goalkeeper naturally has to protect the goal. Even in a small area to cover, they have to be quick on their feet to avoid the team from scoring the goal.

They must be able to intercept the balls, moving high and low between the small space. They must also have wide arm shots, so as to transfer the ball to the midfielders. 

The conversation between the goalie and the defender must be efficient and fluent.

It is essential that the goalie expresses the right positions to its defenders in order for better protection of the goal. This becomes the only way for an effective and strong defense in lacrosse. 

lacrosse attackman and goalie

Drills For A Better Defense

The entire sport of lacrosse is a combination of quick thinking, fast reflexes, and how well acquainted you are with your stick.

This can only come from practice and training. Research has shown the many benefits to using high-quality drills and training methods. (Source) Mentioned below are some drills for a better defense.

1. Stick Hops

The stick hops drill is a method of jumping on either side of a lacrosse stick placed on the ground. You can alternate between crisscrossing your legs and feet or use both your legs to do this drill.

 This drill helps the muscles in your ankles, strengthens the shin and calf, and increases your stamina.

2. Ladder Drill

The play of defense centers around good footwork and sharp reflexes. One way to improve footwork is to do ladder drills.

To do this drill, you will need a ladder with equidistant rungs placed on the ground. The drills are two-feet-in, in-in-out-out, jump-in & jump-out, scissors, and the triple-set forward-jump.

You need to jump the rungs on the metatarsal bones and keeping a straight body but bent knees.

This will improve your hand and feet coordination and improve your agility on the field. You can force your opponent into changing his hand positions giving you an in to steal the ball using good skill and quick reactions. 

3. Asterisk Cone Drill

The asterisk cone drill is done by placing a cone and drawing a big circle around the cone. The circle should be big enough to give room for movement. Place five more cones on the edge of the circle at equal distance.

Now start a stopwatch and note the time it takes for you to run around each cone and return to the center. 

This drill aims to improve your coordination skills and in making angular turns and movements between the opponents. Doing the drill with other players increases the responsiveness among the team members and enhances your agility and footwork skills. 

Many other drills are recommended by different coaches to different teams depending upon the level and type of the sport. Some stick drills are also beneficial to improve hand-eye-feet coordination. Some of them are:

  1. Rope jumping
  2. Sprinting
  3. Hawk drills
  4. Stick Projections
  5. Wall Ball
  6. Ground Ball


Lacrosse is an ancient game that has undergone many phases of evolution to get to the sport that is played today.

It is not just a sport played with your body, it works with your mind to provide better results and develops your coordination. It is one of the few games that enables and encourages the defensemen to work on their skills and hone them with practice out on the field.

 Lacrosse provides the defense with full opportunity for unobstructed movement and a wide area for freedom of action.

This symbiotic relationship between the goalie and the defensemen is extremely important for lacrosse.

It is a good sport to teach the rudimentary rules of defense and allows your skills to develop for other kinds of sports as well (Bourquardez, 20 March 2013). 


Bourquardez, V. (20 March 2013). Defense in lacrosse. The journal of health and physical education, 425-450.