lacrosse numbers advantage unsettled situations

“Numbers Game” Man-Up/Man-Down Practice Drill

Our all-time favorite games to play with youth all the way up to college teams to teach players to read and respond to unsettled numbers-advantage transition situations. Practice ground balls, stick skills, ball movement, defensive communication and rotations, everything!

"Unsettled situations" happen hundreds of times in every lacrosse game.

Especially with youth and beginning players, any time someone drops the ball, misses a pass, or gets his stick checked, an unsettled situation is the result. A second ago your team had the ball and you were Clearing. Suddenly, the other team has the ball and your guys are out of position to play Defense. Or, one of your players picks off a pass from the other team and you have a 4-on-3 Fast Break or 5-on-4 Slow Break, for example.

"Push!" the "Numbers!" Break!

If you watch tons of lacrosse games in the stands and on TV like we do, you will hear big-time college and high school coaches calling out "Numbers!" or "Push!" when their team gets the ball unexpectedly. Any time your team has more players than the other team in one part of the field, you have the "numbers advantage" in that particular time and place. This is the time to go to the goal!

Numbers advantage goals are easier to score than settled 6-on-6 goals.

Use the Numbers Game to give your players lots of reps and experience with all kinds of different man-up and man-down game situations in practice, so they know how to read and respond when they see the exact same plays on game days!


Split up your players into two teams, one for Offense (Blue) and one for Defense (Red). Mix all your players together so everybody gets the chance to play both sides of the ball. This is how you develop well-rounded athletes!

You can start this game from the midfield line, sideline or end line.

numbers man down unsettled situation lacrosse practice drill

Figure 1.) Coach will throw out a loose ball and call a random number, "2!" through "6!". In this case, Coach calls "3!". The first three (3) players from the attacking team (Blue) will go for the loose ball.

The Defense is always Man-Down in this game. Since Coach called "3!" the Defense will send one player less. The first two (2) players from the Defending team (Red) will drop into the "Hole" to play defense "from Inside-Out".

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  • Make it competitive! Try to Time your drills and Keep Score in all your practice games.
  • Keep 'em guessing: Mix up the numbers so your players are paying attention. All your players need to know which number they are in line so they know to go or not depending on the number you call.
  • Give Beginners mostly less-complicated 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 situations. Call out "4's", "5's" and "6's" for more experienced players, high school and college teams.
  • Send in an extra Defender after 5 or 10 seconds to make it even strength. These numbers-advantage situations don't last very long in games. Play out even-strength situations, and incorporate Individual and Slide/Help Defense to make it more competitive!
  • Keep the Offense spread out! Teach your players to keep "Space!" on Offense, so one Defender can't cover two Attackers. Don't bunch up. Make it harder for the Defense to rotate to cover the ball.
  • "Slow them down on Defense." The more "Time!" your Defense can force the Attack to use creates more opportunity for the Offense to make a mistake, to throw the ball away, commit a penalty, more time for the rest of your Defenders to get back and help, etc.

Try this game at your next practice and let us know how it goes!