Duke Lacrosse long stick midfielder LSM pursues the NorthCarolina midfielder carrying the ball

4-on-3 Fast Breaks: The Basics

The 4-on-3 Fast Break happens multiple times in every lacrosse game, especially with youth and beginners. No matter what level you coach, it's critical you teach all your offensive and defensive players to recognize and respond to this common situation properly. Make sure your team understands how to work the numbers advantage so they can score!

Fast Breaks are the reason we call lacrosse "the fastest game on two feet." They come out of nowhere. They're quick. They're exciting. They bring fans to their feet. Offensive players love the extra scoring opportunities they provide, while there's nothing better for a goalie's confidence during a game than making a huge save on a shot from 5 feet away.

To put it simply: Fast Breaks can make or break your team during a season. They give your opponents a chance to get back in the game quickly and chip away at your Defensive Unit's confidence. Likewise, an Attack Unit struggling to execute Fast Breaks will miss those easy scoring opportunities that coaches hope for all game.

4 on 3 fast break common game situation

The 4-on-3 is unique to men's or boys' lacrosse because of the set up of the game and the field. There are always three (3) Attack and and three (3) Defenders at each end of the field. Any time one player comes down the field with the ball in front of everyone else, the 4-on-3 is what you get. One of your guy should be open in front of the goal!

Because of what Malcolm Gladwell calls "the relative-age effect," at 8, 10, or 12 years old, even a six-month difference in age can mean a huge difference in maturity and physical development. You will have players that can just plain outrun all the others down the field, so you will see this situation often.


4 on 3 fast break basic setup offense box defense triangle

Figure 1. Most teams will set up their Attackmen in an "L" shape, or three corners of a box (Blue 1, 2 and 3) to give each player as much space as possible. The Midfielder with the ball (Blue 4) will become the fourth corner.

At the same time, most teams will set up their three Defenders in a triangle shape to cover as much space as possible. The first Defender to stop the ball should call "Point!" to the other two Defenders.

Keep all your players in scoring position in front of the goal since you have an extra man. No matter what, one of them is going to be open.

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  • Be Loud: Everyone on both Attack and Defense needs to communicate who is covering the ball and who the open man is.
  • Eyes Up, Sticks Up: The Defenders should have their sticks up in the passing lanes to knock down passes and shots, while the Attackmen should have their sticks ready to catch and shoot if they are open.
  • Keep Your Feet Moving: Attackmen should be moving to the ball to get open, while Defenders should be rotating to cover the man with the ball.


Make sure to let us know if you have any great Fast Break Drills of your own! We would love to share them.