Communication amongst defensive team members is crucial if the team is going to have defensive success.
Proper communication not only informs every member of the D of what’s going on and what’s their responsibility in that moment, it’s also intimidating to an offense.
There’s nothing sexier than a defensive unit all in sync and aggressively shouting to communicate with one another, anchored by a goalie who is shouting out his communication and leading the defense.
While all defenseman should be vocal, the leader of the on-field communication should definitely be the goalie.
But what should coaches do if their defense is silent?
Review Lacrosse Defensive Terms With the Team
First question, does your defense know WHATto say?
Often times the problem with a defense who doesn’t communicate is it’s unclear what they should be saying.
The fix for this is easy. Checkout my post on the all terms we use: “Lacrosse Defensive Terms“. You can get a PDF by joining the mailing in the upper-right corner of the blog. Print it out and review it with your team during a classroom session.
Once you start doing drills on the field keep reiterating that the team use the terms to communicate.
As I mention in the post, it’s not 100% critical that you use the exact terminology in my PDF but you do need to have a term for each one of those situations.
Now your team, and especially your goalie, understand every single term that can be used on the defensive side.
Video Review: Great Lacrosse Defensive Communication
Unfortunately the microphone for this ESPN U broadcast is by the goal and fails to pickup most of the chatter by the defense. But lucky for the goalie fans you can hear Runkel perfectly. He’s also clearly the loudest player on the field regardless of the mic position.
He also happens to be one of the best communicating goalies I know and part of the reason he was drafted by the Boston Cannons to play professional ball in the MLL.
But the fact we cannot hear the D also serves as a great point. The lacrosse goalie should be echo’ing the key things that his defensive teammates says. He/she should be the loudest one on the field making sure all team members hear and understand the situation.
Here’s a breakdown of what Jack Runkel says:
0:04 – “PIPE, PIPE, PIPE” – Letting defender know that he has reached goal line extended (GLE) and should turn the attacker. Unfortunately in this situation All-American defenseman Joe Fletcher cheated unnecessarily towards the other driving attackman and couldn’t recover to get topside on his attackman.
0:26 “GET LOW” – Getting low on defense (bending knees) his critical for being able to drive an attackman away from goal. Here Runkel is letting Fletcher know that the Duke attackman is about to make a move and to get low.
0:29 “YOU’RE RIGHT SIDE – YOU’RE ABOVE GOAL” – Letting entire team know ball is right side and then specifically letting Fletcher know he is above GLE. Goalie have the unique perspective of knowing where everyone on the field is and calling out the position is incredibly helpful for the D so they know how to properly angle themselves while playing D against their opponent.
0:42 “SPEED DODGE” – Loyola has clearly scouted Duke’s team including knowing the tendencies of All-American attackman Jordan Wolf. Here Runkel let’s his D man know a speed dodge is coming which likely indicates to on-ball defender Joe Fletcher to backup and respect the speed of Wolf, one of the fastest players in the league.
0:43 “TOP SIDE” – A reminder to the defense to stay top side. On the primary rules of defense is to not get beat top side and you can see Fletcher adjust his body position to force the attackman back down low.
0:46 “COMING BACK, COMING BACK” – Loyola’s Goalie sees that the Duke attackman has stopped is topside dodge and is trying roll underneath. Defenseman Fletcher is already in great position to force the attackman low and eventually into the crease. Runkel makes a nice low save anyways.
0:55 “WE’RE HOUND! STAY HOUND!” – Loyola’s mascot is the Greyhound and “Hound” is the defensive package they’re in. I don’t know the particular of this package but Runkel yells it when a pick comes from behind so its likely the strategy they had to deal with screens.
Part of the goalie’s responsibilities to clarify the defense so every single team member is on the same page. It kills me when a middie comes to the sideline after giving up a goal and says “Oh, I thought we were in man-to-man defense”. No excuse for that.
0:59 “OUTSIDE” – Their term for letting the defensive unit know the shot was wide. Defenseman in the area of where the shot went should chase the ball in the attempt to win possession.
1:07 “GOOD BODY, STAY DOWN” – Reminder to play defense on the attackman’s body vs. his stick and also a reminder to stay low. Same as in 0:26 in the video but reiterating good defense is something the goalie should do all game long.
1:07 “INSIDE ROLL, INSIDE ROLL HERE” – Predicting the move that Duke attackman will do and letting D-man get prepared for an inside roll. Sure enough, Wolf does an inside roll and fires a shot which Loyola is ready for.
1:36 “BACK RIGHT” – The goalie should call out the position of the ball on the field so defenders without an eye on the ball know where it is.
1:37 “PICK RIGHT” – Just like basketball, lacrosse defenses need to call out picks so your teammates aren’t blindsided by a screen.
1:40 “BIG/LITTLE, GET THROUGH THAT” – You can hear the defender say something which isn’t clear because of the microphone and Runkel repeats it loud so everyone hears. Very nice job by him!
Big/little refers to the long-pole (big) and shortie (little). Loyola’s defensive plan is not to switch a shortie onto an All-American attackman so Runkel tells the long-pole to fight through the screen and do not switch.
2:22 “LET’S START TALKING GREEN, LET’S START TALKING” – Man, I love this! It gives me chills. If you want to know how to be a defensive leader, look no further than this point in the video.
Throughout the game, even the most vocal of defenses may hit a rut. Especially after giving up a goal. But it’s the goalie’s responsibility to remind the unit to talk, regardless of the situation or the score.
Notice the urgency and tone that Runkel uses. Perfect! How could his defensive teammates not talk after hearing something like that? How could you not be pumped up after hearing his passion?
3:13 “STAY LOW, STAY LOW” – The game is in Overtime and Loyola goalie Runkel is still reminding his defense to stay low. Never quit emphasizing good defense.
Duke eventually wins game in the second OT, 12-11.
Notice that some of the defensive terms that the goalie Jack Runkel uses are not on my PDF. That’s fine, the Loyola team clearly uses other terms for specific situations. The important thing is not to use my specific terms but to have a term to cover every single situation.
If your defensive unit is not talking enough, your team has a problem.
Good communication amongst team members not only keeps everyone on the same page, it intimidates the offense.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.