Work the “Ladder” on the Clear

"Clearing" the ball away from your own goal can be the most frustrating part of coaching youth or high school lacrosse. Use this simple sideline play that every coach needs to know to get the ball safely down field into the sticks of your Attackmen.

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.

On the other hand, a quick Clear after a great save by the Goalie can result in great 4-on-3 Fast Breaks and 5-on-4 Slow Breaks at the other end of the field and swing the momentum of the game if your team can cash in.

We got this simple sideline Clearing play from watching Coach John Danowski at Duke. We listen to just about anything Coach Danowski talks about, and he talks about Clearing a lot. All the top coaches know, Clearing determines how many chances your team gets to score vs how many the other team gets. Make sure you spend lots of time working on this critical piece of the puzzle with your players.

Teach your players to work the "Ladder" and use the numbers advantage to quickly and safely move the ball down field away from your goal to your Offense!


We run this play almost exclusively on the far side of the field, away from the substitution box so we don't crowd the play with extra players coming on and off the field.

work the ladder sideline defense clear 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!

Everybody on Defense should get to space and get open once your team gets the ball. Don't run away with your back to your Goalie!

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  • Spend extra practice time Clearing: Instead of giving the Offense the ball to start your practice games or drills, have the Defense Clear the ball to the midfield line 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.
  • And then spend more practice time Clearing: Any time the Offense scores a goal in practice, blow the whistle and yell "Clear!". Your Goalie can pull the ball out of the net and all your midfielders and Defenders can break to space to get open. Turn any rep of any drill into a Clearing and Riding Drill Combo!
  • Keep paper or mental notes: Now that you are aware how important Clearing is, keep notes or stats during practice and games. Which of your players turns the ball over the most? What is your approximate Clearing Percentage? 50%? 75%? We are huge fans of keeping stats at practice. It's like giving your players a report card for that day.


Give your players to the tools to get the ball and score goals! Let us know if you get lots of transition goals out of your team after practicing the "Ladder" with your team!