high school lacrosse defense substitution box clear play

Substitution Box Clear

We saw several teams using this simple Clearing play to start great Fast Breaks in games this week. Every good coach should know how to use the substitution box to their advantage when moving the ball down the field!

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.

Here's Delaware scoring a nice goal from a "Substitution Box" Clear this week:

"Play Fast":

With quick restarts making their way into youth and high school rules, Lacrosse is getting faster all the time. Every player on your team needs to know how to pick the ball up and go to the goal.

[Related: Check out our article on The Clear- A Guide for Youth Coaches for more info.]

Now that the substitution box is 20 yards wide,

smart players can really use this area to get a head start down the field. Teach all your players how to use the whole box to get on and off the field as quickly as possible when subbing on Offense, Clearing, or coming off with the man you are guarding.

We've heard this play called "Downtown!" or "Bingo!" or simply "Box!"

Whatever you decide to call it, make sure your Goalie and your Clearing Defenders know when somebody is open near the Substitution Box.

If your Goalie and Clearing Defenders know to look for this pass every time your team gets the ball, you should end up with lots of 4-on-3 Fast Breaks and 5-on-4 Slow Breaks in your favor at the other end of the field!

Here's THE PLAY:

defender d pole deep clear play

Figure 1.) Remember- Clearing is a 7-on-6 game! With six (6) Blue Defenders plus the Goalie (6+1=7) against six (6) Red Attackers in the play, any time your team gets the ball, you have the numbers advantage. Get to space, get the ball to the open man and get down field so you can score!

Look down field first! The three Midfielders will break down field to the middle. If one of them is open, pass it early!

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substitution box defense clear play

Figure 2.) Bring one of your Defenders to the corner of the substitution box on your defensive side of the field. Defenders are usually guarded by an Attackman during the Clear. Attackmen are less likely to follow their man over the midfield line.

Bring one of your Midfielders back to the Goalie for an easy short pass, like the standard 3-1-3 Clear that most teams use. If all else fails, you can always run the ball down field the old-fashioned way, just like the 4-3 "Punt Return" Clear. This also draws attention away from the Defender near the Substitution Box.

substitution box defense clear play

Figure 3.) Pull your Defender off the field and send a Midfielder on at the far cone! Now your midfielder has a 10- or 20-yard head start! The Goalie should be walking the ball up during the Clear, so this pass shouldn't be too far for your players to throw.

Don't run away with your back to the Goalie! The Midfielder only needs 5 or 10 yards across the midfield line to be an easy open pass. If he goes any farther, he will run right into the other team's Defenders at the other end.

substitution box defense clear play

Figure 4.) Run the Fast Break! If your Goalie and Clearing Defenders know to look for this pass, you will find yourself with lots of 4-on-3 Fast Break opportunities in games.

It's easier to score goals in these numbers-advantage situations than it is in settled 6-on-6. Make sure everyone on your team knows how to work the numbers advantage in this common game situation to cash in on these easy scoring opportunities!



  • One of your Midfiedlers has to stay "On Sides" in your defensive end of the field when the Defender subs off and a new Midfielder goes on. Make sure to practice this before game time.
  • Be Loud- Everyone on Defense needs to communicate which positions they're taking and who the open man is. Everyone on the field should know if there's an open man coming out of the "Box!".
  • If all else fails- "Gilman!" We think this play is named for the famed Gilman School (MD). Like a Hail Mary 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 giving up a quick goal for the other team.

Definitely tell us if you get some great Fast Break goals from your Midfielders streaking onto the field with this great play!