youth lacrosse up field down field

Lax Lingo: “Up Field” and “Down Field”

We spend a lot of time listening to what good Lacrosse Coaches are saying on the bench, and what we can hear players telling each other on the field or on TV.

This "Lax Lingo" can be very helpful in communicating clearly with your players, so that they know exactly what you mean and what you want them to do in any given situation. Being clear and concise with your players will get you much better results on the field than yelling uncertain terms like "Move!" and "Hustle!" from the sidelines over and over. So we want to share this "Lax Lingo" with all of you.

In today's installment of Lax Lingo we want to talk about field directions: "Up Field" and "Down Field". Both of these are simply to tell your players which way to go. This may seem like a no-brainer for most of us, but not for your players.

up field down field directions defense

Figure 1.) Up Field is always AWAY from the defending team's goal.
Down Field is always TOWARDS the defending team's goal.

  • "Up Field" means the direction AWAY from the Defending team's goal or end of the field. If your team is on Defense, this means the direction away from your goal. If your team has the ball, up field is back towards your own goal. It all depends on Possession.
  • "Down Field" means the direction TOWARD the Defending team's goal or end of the field. If your team has possession, you move down field with the ball toward the goal you are scoring on. If you don't have possession, you move down field towards your own goal to get back on Defense.

This is where it can get confusing. When possession changes, the directions change. A moment ago when you were on Defense, you were looking "up field", away from your own goal. Now you have the ball, and suddenly you're looking the same direction, but now it's "down field" toward the other team's goal. You move "down field" with the ball to score, but if you lose the ball and the other team gets possession, now you need to move "down field" again (the other way!) to get back on Defense.

up field down field directions offense

Figure 2.) When possession changes, the directions change. Up Field when Blue did not have the ball is Down Field now that Blue has the ball.

Maybe it helps to remember it like this- Defense can be an Up-Hill battle, so you look Up Field on Defense, with your back to the goal. And a ball will always roll Down Hill, so you want to move Down Field when you have the ball. Just a little something we came up with in the office today.

Make sure you know what your players know and don't know. These simple directions can be very useful if you need to tell a player to move down field to stay in front of the play, for example. Or if you need a Defender to move down field on the Clear to create space for the ball coming up the side.

never leave down field man for up field man during ride

Figure 3.) This is a very common mistake for young players when Riding the Clear. Never leave a man open down field, closer to your own goal, for an up-field man.

"No Up-Field Slide when you Ride." Classic advice for Riding against the Clear. This is a very common mistake for younger players. They see the ball coming towards them, so they run forward, up field to challenge it. You never want to leave a man open down field, i.e. closer to your own goal, for an up-field man when you are Riding. Teach your players to move down field with their man when the other team is Clearing. Stay in between him and the goal, just like all the rest of the time on Defense. Drop into the "Hole". Leave the open man as far up field, as far away from your own goal as possible when you are Riding. This is exactly what the 2-1 Attack Ride that is really popular in college lacrosse right now is designed to do.

Communication is the key to everything. Practice using these terms correctly with your players in practice before you expect them to understand you in a game. Be clear and consistent with these and you will get some really good results from your players.

Let us know how it goes when you get the chance to use your new Lax Lingo!