box and one middle man down defense play practice drill

“Box-and-One [in the Middle]” Man-Down Defense

We see many youth and high school teams giving up easy goals every time they are Man-Down because of a penalty. Use this basic Defense to teach your players to cover the ball, kill penalties, and shut down the other team!

Fact: If you are a youth or beginning lacrosse coach, you will be Man-Down multiple times per game. Your players are inevitably going to commit 30-second or 1-minute penalties. Spend time in practice every day to prepare for this very common game situation. Not only will your Defense improve, all your players will benefit from the extra time spent understanding how to move the ball to the open man with the numbers-advantage.

The "Box-and-One" is also commonly called a "4-Man Rotation", since you have four men rotating to cover the ball, with one man staying in the middle to cover the crease. The video below is a very good example of the four Syracuse players in the "Box" rotating to cover the ball as it moves to prevent the Offense from getting easy shot opportunities.


Make the other team work hard to score Man-Up goals. If your Defense learns how to "Rotate!" the "Box-and-One" to cover the ball, the more likely it is the offense will take a bad shot or make a bad pass, and your team will get the ball back! Or, the penalty will run out and you will be back to even strength. Great job, Defense!



Figure 1.) Here we have the standard "Box-and-One [in the Middle]" Man-Down Defense, set up against the typical 2-3-1 Man-Up Offense Formation. Five Defenders (Red 1-5) above Goal Line Extended ("GLE") covering five Attackers (Blue 1-4, & Blue 6). The extra man in this case is Blue 5 behind the goal.

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  • "Ball!" "1!" "2!"- Some coaches will use "1!" for Left and Right, and "2!" for Split to keep it simple. If your players are guarding a man one pass away from the ball, they know they are a "1!". If they are splitting the players two passes away from the ball, they know they are the "2!".
  • Keep Time and Keep Score! Time your penalties and all your drills and games at practice. Keep score to make it more competitive- say one point for the Defense every time they kill the penalty or the Offense turns over the ball; one point for the offense every time they score a Man-Up Goal.
  • Imitate game situations! Practice Man-Down Defense for 30 seconds or one minute, just like in a game. If the Offense can't score, release the penalty and play 6-on-6. Your players will love all this scrimmage time!
  • Practice 5-on-4: Practice rotating the "Box" without the "One in the Middle". With just 5 Attackers against 4 Defenders, you can forget about the Crease and focus on covering the "Ball!", "Left!", "Right!" and "Split!"
  • Sticks UP in the Passing Lanes! This is one of the basics of Man-Down Defense. All Your Defenders should have their sticks up in the air to knock down passes and shots and keep the ball out of the middle of the field.
  • Communicate! All your players, especially your Goalie, need to communicate constantly who is covering the "Ball!" at all times, so the other players in the box know who they are covering, and when to "Rotate!" A loud Defense can totally disrupt what the Offense is trying to do.


  • Man-Up "Sneak" from X: Practice your "Box-and-One" against this basic Man-Up play to make sure your players know how to rotate to cover the ball!
  • 3-on-2 "West Gennies" Practice Drill: Your players will love running sprints with this true Lax Classic. Practice Man-Down situations, transition, ball-movement, stick skills, scoring, everything with this drill!
  • 4-on-3 Fast Break Drill: Practice this common game situation to make sure your players know how to "Rotate!" to cover the ball with three Defenders before moving to more complex four- or five-man rotations.
  • 5-on-4 "Spider!" Defense Drill: Use this simple practice drill to teach your players to go out to cover the ball, then get back in to help cover the middle, just like they will in Man-Down defense!
  • 5-on-4 "Wheel" Slow Break: One step up from Fast Breaks, practice this other common game situation to make sure your players understand how to "Rotate!" the "Box" in 5-on-4 before adding the Crease in 6-on-5 situations.