numbers advantage transition practice drills defense

Transition Drills for Defense

These are some of our favorite practice drills and games to work on attacking and defending numbers-advantage game situations that are really what lacrosse is all about- the "2-on-1".

We love this video of Pro and Team USA Player Mitch Belisle from the US Lacrosse Convention this past year. He talks about Defending Transition situations where your team, our team doesn't have as many guys in the play. He really hits the nail on the head when he says, "The game of lacrosse is all about creating 2-on-1's, and eventually a 1-on-0, which is an open shot on the Goalie."

Recognize the numbers! It happens dozens of times every game. If your players are slow to get back on Defense, substitute off the field at the wrong time, or even just let their man get past them, closer to your own goal, you are left with fewer guys than the other team. Top college coaches spend lots of time minimizing these numbers-advantage situations.

As a coach, you can be very successful if you spend a lot of your time simply counting out the numbers that your players are involved with during games. It might be 4-on-3 Fast Breaks, 5-on-4 Slow Breaks, or it might be 3-on-2 situations that come from the sideline. If there are penalties, it will be 6-on-5 or even 6-on-4. It's all about the numbers!

Time favors the Defense! These unsettled, numbers-advantage situations don't last very long in games. If your Defense can force the Offense to take extra time or make extra passes, eventually they will make a mistake, more of your players will get back on defense, or time will run out on the game or penalty clock.

Here are the  most important things to teach your Defense in transition situations:

  • Stopping the Ball is Job #1! Communicate which Defender is covering the "Ball!" and who is going to cover "Back!" or "Split!" the other Attackers at all times.
  • Get back in the "Hole". Play Defense "From Inside-Out". Don't try to take away the ball at midfield when your team is short on guys. Get back, cover the middle of the field first, then come out to challenge the ball.
  • Sticks Up! Everyone on Defense needs to have their sticks up in the air to knock down passes and block passing lanes to open players.


3-on-2 from the Sideline:

3 on 2 sideline youth lacrosse practice drill

This is one of our favorite summer camp drills. 3-on-2 situations are only slightly more complicated than 2-on-1's. This drill starts with a ground ball then turns into a scoring situation.

Make sure your players communicate who is covering the "Ball!" and who is covering "Back!" to "Split!" the other two Attackers.

1-on-1 Ground Ball to 3-on-2:

1 on 1 ground ball to 3 on 2 practice drill

We use this simple and fun variation every week. It starts with a 1-on-1 ground ball, then moves into a numbers-advantage scoring situation. Whoever wins the ground ball goes on Offense, the other player goes on Defense.

Your players must still communicate who is covering the "Ball!" and who is covering "Back!" to "Split!" the other two attackers.

3-on-2 to 4-on-3 "True North" Drill

3 on 2 4 on 3 true north practice drill

We have seen plenty of high school teams using this as part of their pregame warm-up drills. We got this great drill from Pro Player and Coach Cam Holding, who got it from one of the best Defenders of all time- Brodie Merrill of the Hill Academy in Canada.

This is a continuous series of man-down numbers advantage situations- 3-on-2 to 4-on-3 situations, then back to 3-on-2 again. Your players will play Offense and Defense in the same rep. We run this drill all the time, and our kids love it!

The Mason-Dixon Drill

mason dixon practice drill 5 on 4 slow break

This is a lacrosse classic. Coaches have been using this drill for decades, and our kids love it. It's very similar to the True North Drill, except your players can go all the way up to 5-on-4 and 6-on-5 if they understand how the 2-on-1's work.

Your players will get to play Offense and Defense multiple times in the same rep with this drill! Tons of reps and tons of fun with this one.

2-on-1 Build-Up Drill

2 on 1 build up man up man down practice drill 4 on 3 fast break

This is another one we see teams using in their pregame warm-up drills. Your players will get to go through every variation of man-down transition situations in this drill, starting from 2-on-1, all the way up to 6-on-5.

This drill is great for giving your players tons of reps covering the "Ball!" and making sure the other Defenders are "Back!" to cover the other Attackers.

Switch sides after a few times through, move the Offense to Defense and make sure all your players know how to play both sides of the ball!

The Numbers Game

numbers man down unsettled situation lacrosse practice drill

This is probably our favorite practice game of all time! We use this drill at all our camps and clinics to give our players lots of experience in unsettled situations where they learn "how to play" the game, instead of learning plays.

Coach throws out a ball and calls a number. Whatever number he calls, the Defense sends one less player, so you are always working on random man-down numbers-advantage game situations. Our kids love playing the numbers game any day at pratice!

Let us know if you see improvement in your Defense after using any of these unsettled situation drills at your practice!