Duke Lacrosse long stick midfielder LSM pursues the NorthCarolina midfielder carrying the ball

Open Clear vs 3-3 Zone Ride

The 3-3 Zone Ride gives coaches and players at every level trouble when Clearing, causing lots of turnovers and shutting down the whole offense. Fortunately, there is a simple solution even youth and high school players can understand.

From youth to pro lacrosse, the most successful teams are usually the ones that Clear the ball the best--usually over 80 percent of the time. If your team can't Clear well, chances are you are spending most of your games on Defense, and your players aren't getting very many chances to score. It can be a disappointing downward spiral when your players start giving the ball back to the other team every time.

The 3-3 Zone Ride became really popular five or six years ago, and it still is. It can slow down your Clear just like a Zone Defense can slow down your Offense. But it's not invincible. Some college teams are moving away from it because it can leave a man open down field when you know how to beat it. It took us several years to really figure it out. Fortunately we had some experienced coaches we could ask for help.

The Open Clear is called that because that's what it does--it opens up the middle. Work the Clear up each sideline instead of trying to get through the middle.


open clear vs 3 3 zone ride lacrosse play

Figure 1.) Here's the Secret: Clearing is a 7-on-6 game! With six (6) Blue Defenders plus the Goalie (6+1=7) against the six (6) Red Attackers in the play, any time your team gets the ball, you have the numbers advantage. This is why college teams usually look so calm when they are Clearing--they know they have an open man. Make sure your team understands how to work this numbers advantage so they can get the ball down the field to score!

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  • The Weak Side Midfielder always has On-Sides Responsibility. Any Midfielders in front of the ball on the strong side of the field should move down field to take their Defenders away and create space for the man with the ball to move downfield. Make sure your players know who is staying back any time you Clear the ball.
  • Spend extra practice time Clearing: Instead of giving the Offense the ball to start your practice games or drills, have the Defense beat the 3-3 Zone Ride first. Then let your players have the ball to start any drill or play you want to work on. That's the order of things in a game- you can't score until you get the ball.
  • Be Loud- Everyone on Defense needs to communicate which positions they're taking and who the open man is.
  • If all else fails- "Gilman!" We think this play is named for the famed Gilman School (MD). Like a Hail Mary Pass or a full-court shot, throw the ball to the other end of the field and let your Attackmen run to get it. It's better to get rid of the ball than risk a turnover in your defensive end of the field.


We really hope the Open Clear helps you get past that troublesome 3-3 Zone Ride for more goals and more wins for your team!