man down defense five 5 man rotation play

Man-Down Defense: “5-Man Rotation”

This is the Man-Down Defense that we see many college and pro teams use against multiple Man-Up sets. It looks complicated, but it's actually simple enough that you can teach it to your youth and high school teams!

Fact: If you are a youth or beginning lacrosse coach, you will be Man-Down multiple times per game. 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 in numbers-advantage situations!

This is a good video of Virginia Men's Lacrosse using the 5-Man Rotation. Although they are giving up goals in this video, they are also denying many shots and basic opportunities because there is always somebody going to cover the ball.

It's called the "5-Man Rotation" because all five of your players rotate to cover the ball. Compared to the more standard "Box-and-One [in the Middle]", also called a "4-Man Rotation", the 5-Man allows the closest player on Man-Down Defense to go to the ball. With five guys rotating, somebody should be able to get to the open man pretty quickly!

Make the other team work hard to score Man-Up goals. If your Defense learns how to "Rotate!" 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!


man down defense five 5 man rotation play

Figure 1.) Here we have the 5-Man Rotation 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.

"Sticks UP!" in the Passing Lanes! This is the first rule of Man-Down Defense. All five Defenders should have their sticks up to knock down skip passes and shots, especially Red 1 and 3. They should be in position to cut off skip passes to Blue 5 and 6.

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  • "Ball!" "1!" "2!"- Some coaches will use "1!" for Left and Right, and "2!" for Crease 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 covering the players on the back side, two passes away from the ball, they know they are the "2!" and need to get to the Crease.
  • 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!
  • Communicate! All your players, especially your Goalie, need to communicate constantly who is covering the "Ball!" at all times, so the other players know if they are "Left!", "Right!" or "Crease!" A loud Defense can totally disrupt what the Offense is trying to do.