ABCD defense approach breakdown contact direct

The “ABCD’s” of Individual Defense

Good 1-on-1 Defense is a key skill for every lacrosse player to have, no matter what position. These four basic steps make it easy to teach this critical concept to shut down your opponents, and win more games!

"Offense wins Games, Defense wins Championships!" College coaches spend lots of time on very small defensive details like Approach and Pursuit Angles. Tough, physical, athletic Defenders can frustrate opponents, turn away scoring opportunities, and create Turnovers. Defense doesn't always make the newspapers, but it is an essential ingredient in your team's success. This is true for both Individual and Team Defense.

Stopping the Ball is Job #1! Your Opponents can't score if they can't get to the Goal! Win more defensive 1-on-1 Match-Ups, and you will see your opponents scores go down week by week. This requires all of your Defenders to follow these simple steps every single time they cover the man with the ball.

Simple fixes for small things with individual Defenders will make your whole Defense stronger! We see these common mistakes and bad habits with younger and inexperienced players all over the country: "Chasing the Stick," and "Over-Committing" on Defense, letting the man with the ball run right by.

Playing tough 1-on-1 Defense means your team won't have to Slide as early, or as often. You won't give up so many easy goals while your Defense is disorganized during Slides and Recovery. Make your opponents work hard for their goals. Force them to Dodge hard and take some punishment to draw Slides.

Use these 4 easy steps to turn all your players into solid On-Ball Defenders. Just like learning the  alphabet, your players need to know and practice these basic techniques step-by-step. Spend time on Individual, 1-on-1 Defense in practice a few times per week for 15 minutes, and give your Defenders some real confidence to stop their man on Game Day!


Approach is how your players approach the man when he gets the ball. It sounds simple, but it can be very complex. A good Defender has to approach his man at the right time, from the right angle, to the right position on the field, at the right speed, and be ready to change directions with the Ball Carrier if he Dodges. Good offensive players will quickly capitalize on a bad defensive approach with a goal or an assist.

abcd individual 1 on 1 defense practice

Approach quickly, but under control! Approach up field, inside, to take away the middle. Stick up and out in front, ready to knock down passes or shots. Be ready to check the stick and hands when you get in range. Poke and Lift!

"No Top Side!" This is rule #1 for everyone. Do NOT let the man with the ball into the middle of the field. Take away the middle from the beginning with a good Approach. Hips and Toes should face the Sideline, making the Defender's Stick and Body a Wall. Keep the ball in the Alley, down the side of the field.

abcd individual 1 on 1 defense practice

If you're approaching at X, be careful not to get blocked or hung up by the goal. Attackers are very good at using the goal as an obstacle for Defenders.

Time the Approach so that the Defender is in position behind the goal, ready to cover the man when the ball gets to him. Not after.


abcd individual defense practice break down

"Break down into a good, athletic body position" when your Defenders reach the man with the Ball. Low center of gravity, weight evenly distributed on both legs, slightly on the toes. Break down position allows your players to be strong and fast, ready to turn and run with the Dodger.

Footwork is very important for Defense! A Break Down is a quick deceleration. Your players must get out to the ball quickly, and stop quickly. This requires faster, smaller steps.


This is the fun part! Lacrosse is a physical sport. Your players wear equipment to make contact. Physically push and turn the man with the ball away from the goal. Your players don't even need a stick to play good Defense. All it takes is Good Old-Fashioned Hard Work and Determination!

abcd individual defense practice contact

Teach all your players good Body Defense. Stay in between their man and the goal at all times.  Take away the middle of the field and force the ball down the sides and behind the goal. Good Defense starts with the Feet, then the Hips, push with the Hands. Stick Checks are the last thing your players should be thinking about when they are guarding the ball.

"Whoever gets lowest, wins!" We've heard college coaches saying this for year. Defenders must get lower than their attacker to maintain a strong center of gravity, a good base to push from. Control the Dodgers HIPS, and he isn't going anywhere.


abcd individual defense practice direct dodger"Drop Step and Pursue!" Just like Basketball Defense, your Defenders must move their feet and maintain contact for longer than a few seconds. Once they take away the middle of the field ("No Top Side!"), they can Direct the Dodger down the sides of the field and back behind the goal, where they can't score.

Drop Step and open the Hips. Stay low and strong when you turn to push and pursue. Don't cross your feet. Footwork, footwork, footwork!

You will hear college Coaches and especially Goalies using lots of talk for this.

  • "Turn Him!" Step up field and physically push and turn the Dodger back below Goal Line Extended. This is not the time for stick checks.
  • "Drive!" your man out to the wing, away from the Goal, when he gets to a dangerous position.
  • "Watch the Roll Back!" Don't pursue your man too low, and let him Roll back into the middle. Keep him down the sides. "No Top Side!"

It's OKAY to get beat down the sides or down low. This is what Slides and Help are for. This is why we play Team Defense. The Slide needs to know which side of the On-Ball Defender to Slide to. Direct the Dodger down the sides, away from the Goal, into the Double Team. This is when you start creating really nice Turnovers and Fast Breaks to the other end!

Have fun with 1-on-1 Individual Defense with your players. See their determination and confidence grow as they learn to become hard-working, tough Defenders. Defense! Defense! Defense!