midfielder running the ball 4-3 43 clear

4-3 “43” Clear: The Punt Return

Just getting the ball away from your own goal is one of the most common challenges that coaches at every level will see. But with this classic Clearing play, it can be as simple as one guy running the ball down the field. No matter what level you coach, it's critical you teach all your players how to work this numbers advantage so they can get the ball down the field to score!

From youth to pro lacrosse, the most successful teams are usually the ones that Clear the ball the best--usually over 80 percent of the time. If your team can't Clear well, chances are you are spending most of your games on Defense.

The 4-3 or "43" Clear is a Lax Classic for a simple reason. Often called the "Punt Return," it is built on good-old-fashioned leg work. There isn't a lot of passing involved, which could be good if your team doesn't have very good stick skills yet. Just one easy pass from the Goalie to a Midfielder is all it takes, rather than a series of long passes across the field. We still see the top college teams use this Clear all the time.

A quick Clear after a bad pass by the other team or a save by the Goalie can result in 4-on-3 Fast Breaks or 5-on-4 Slow Breaks at the other end of the field. More kids are growing up these days playing Box or Indoor Lacrosse also, and they really understand how to turn a quick Clear into a goal-scoring opportunity down at the other end.

Here's THE PLAY:

7 on 6 clear basic setup

Figure 1. Clearing is a 7-on-6 game! With six (6) Clearing Defenders plus the Goalie (6+1=7) against the six (6) Riding Attackers in the play, any time your team gets the ball, you have the numbers advantage. Get to space, get the ball to the open man and get down field so you can score!

Look down field first! The three Midfielders will break down field to the middle. If one of them is open, pass it early!

Don't run away with your back to your Goalie! The two Wing Defenders will move out to the sidelines to give the Goalie an easy outlet pass. The third Defender should "Float" around the top of the box to make sure nothing goes wrong in the middle.

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  • Be Loud- Everyone on Defense needs to communicate which positions they're taking and who the open man is.
  • If all else fails- "Gilman!" We think this play is named for the famed Gilman School (MD). Like a Hail Mary or a full-court shot, throw the ball to the other end of the field and let your Attackmen run to get it. It's better to get rid of the ball than risk a quick goal by your opponent.


  • 1-on-1 "Revenge" Clearing & Dodging Drill: Clear the ball against 1-on-1 pressure, then drop into the "Hole" to play 1-on-1 Defense with this great Clearing & Dodging drill.
  • "Over!" Redirect Clearing Passing Drill- Teach your players to roll away from pressure and move the ball all the way across the field on the Clear.
  • "43" Clearing Drill: Practice just running the ball down the old-fashioned way, like a "Punt Return".
  • Face-Off Clearing Drill: Practice face-offs and then Clear the ball right away starting the ball all the way back with the Goalie.
  • 5-on-4 Clearing Drill: Practice this simplified version of Clearing to teach your players how it works.
  • Numbers Clearing Game: This variation of the Numbers Game teaches your players to recognize the numbers advantage and find the open man while clearing the ball.

We definitely want to hear if you have any good Clearing strategies you use with your teams!