box string man down defense

Man-Down Defense “Box and String”

This is an older, more traditional Man-Down Defense that we haven't seen in a while. We came up against it in a game this weekend, and we weren't prepared, so we thought we better cover it!

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.

The "Box and String" is fairly simple for beginning players to understand. Although it's a bit outdated against today's common Man-Up plays, it was popular in it's time mostly because it's easy to teach and understand. Instead of rotating four or five men to cover the ball, you are really only rotating one man, with the other four players in a "Box" to cover the other Zones on the field.

Make the other team work hard to score Man-Up goals! Against teams without very much lacrosse IQ, or good stick skills and ball movement, the "Box and String" can be very effective. It's a great way to force your opponents to throw the ball away with bad passes, or take bad shots, or simply run out the clock on their Man-Up opportunities!


man down defense box string crease

Figure 1.) Start your team in 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.

Become a Member to read the rest of this article!

If you already have an account you can Log In Here.


  • 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.
  • 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 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.


  • "Box-and-One [in the Middle] Man-Down Defense: Also known as a "4-Man Rotation", this is a more effective, but more complex Man-Down Defense used by most youth and high school teams.
  • 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!