Communicating on D: The 49 Lacrosse Goalie Terms You Should Use | Lax Goalie Rat

Communicating on D: The 49 Lacrosse Goalie Terms You Should Use

Lacrosse Defensive Terms

What are the lacrosse goalie terms that you use?

When you’re in the heat of the battle, there’s no time for a long conversation. Communication must be short, crisp, and easily understood by all members of the defensive team.

In a perfect world, we could freeze time and have a nice chat with our D-man.

“Excuse me, Dave, you’re playing pretty good defense at the moment but that man you’re guarding is within scoring range and therefore I’d like you to get a little tighter on him and lockup his hands to prevent a shot. Ok, great talk. See you out there!”

Ha! But lacrosse doesn’t work like that. It’s a fast pace game and in the moment a defensive unit needs a clear set of defensive terms that EVERYONE on the team knows with zero doubt.

Print out this list of terminology and make sure every single member of your team knows what each one means. It’s not imperative that you use these EXACT terms but everyone on the team must use the SAME term.

The Most Important Lacrosse Goalie Terms

Here are the 49 lacrosse goalie terms I recommend that you instill in your defense and perhaps even your whole team.

As a goalie, and leader of the defense, you will primarily be giving these commands so you must know what these calls mean and when to use them.

If your team is using another term, do not switch. For example, if your call is “CLEAR” instead of “BREAK” after a saved shot, that’s fine. Continue using ‘CLEAR’ so as not to confuse your team. The important thing is that you have a defensive call for each one of these situations.

The different terms are broken out in categories depending on when you might use them in the game.

Ball Position

As a goalie, we’ll call out the position of the ball constantly so our defensive unit knows exactly where it is.

Lacrosse Goalie Terms

1. X – Ball is behind the goal at “X”

2. BACK LEFT – Ball is behind the net, left side

3. BACK RIGHT – Ball is behind the net, right side

4. SIDE LEFT – Ball is on the left side of the field

5. SIDE RIGHT – Ball is on the right side of the field

6. TOP RIGHT – Ball is top right

7. TOP LEFT – Ball is top left

8. TOP CENTER – Ball is top center

Defender On The Ball 

These terms will be used for defenders guarding the man with the ball. As a goalie, you must communicate to the on-ball defender to help him keep good position and remind him how to play solid defense.

9. HOLD – This call is used when you do not want the attackman to advance any closer to the goal. The defenseman on ball should engage and not allow his player to freely advanced closer to the goal. When a player becomes a shooting threat, we’ll yell HOLD to limit his advance.

10. TURN – This instructs the defensive player on the ball to turn his opponent in the opposite direction. Often used when an attackman drives from X and we want our long pole to turn the attacker back inside into the oncoming slide.

11. POKE – This lets the D-man know he should be poke checking the player with the ball to avoid an easy assist.

12. PIPE – When a player drives from X, Back Left, or Back Right we’ll yell PIPE to indicate that our defenseman has reached goal line extended (GLE). Yell this just a step before GLE so that by the time the defender processes the call he’s at the PIPE. This is a critical call since it informs the D man to turn his player.

13. LIFT – Defensive reminder to get your stick under the attacker’s hands or stick and LIFT to disrupt the shooting or passing motion.

14. SHIFT LEFT – The player guarding the ball is out of position a little and should SHIFT.

15. SHIFT RIGHT – Same as above, but in the other direction.

16. ISLAND – Let’s a defender know he has NO slide help. Hopefully this is a rarity. This term is also a message to off ball defenders to setup the slide.

17. YOU’RE GOOD – Let’s defender know his positioning is perfect and no adjustments are necessary. Just keep playing solid defense.

Defenders Off The Ball 

18. CLEAR – A save has just been made and its time to start the clear. Each member of the defense should break to an open spot on the field.

19. SHOT –  Many times defenders do not have an eye on the ball while playing defensive. The goalie yells “SHOT” when an attackmen shoots to indicate that a shot has been taken.

20. CHECK – An offensive pass just entered into the crease and defensive players should check the sticks of their opponent. This should the loudest call you make because it means a critical feed is coming into the crease and must be stopped.

21. FIRE or SLIDE – Indicates that the on ball defender is beat and the must team must slide. This call must also be delivered loud and with urgency.

22. SAG IN – The defensive unit is too expanded and should SAG IN a little closer to the goal so as not to get overextended.

23. STICKS UP – Reminder for D unit to keep their sticks in the passing lanes, especially on man down.

24. CUTTER or CUTTER 34 – Alerts your team that the offensive side is sending a cutter and the player with the ball is looking to feed. Additionally you can add jersey number to this call for more information.

General Communication

25. NUMBER UP – Each player should find the man they’re guarding.

26. BALL DOWN – Let’s team know the ball is loose.

27. RELEASE – Let’s team know we’ve picked up the loose ball and no more hits should occur

28. MIDDIES GET BACK – Reminder to defensive middies to sprint back to the defensive end to help out on D.

29. MAN COMING IN – Let’s team know there’s a new offensive player entering from the box.

30. HERE’S YOUR HELP – This call is used during the clear. When a defender picks up a loose ball and you want him to pass it back to the goalie, we’ll let him know HERE’S YOUR HELP.

31. GILMAN – Use this when you want your team to execute a GILMAN clear, i.e. short time on the clock, man down and in trouble during the clear. This is also used when the other team is executing a GILMAN clear. In this scenario the defenseman should be close to their attackman to deny them from getting the loose ball.

32. ROTATE – When you using a rotation defense, this call tells the team to execute the ROTATE slide.

33. SHOOTER 24 – If your scouting report indicates that #24 is their shooter, you should yell SHOOTER #{jersey number} to remind the team. The SHOOTER call should let the #1 slide know he needs to go earlier.

34. FEEDER 24 – Similarly, if your scouting report indicates that #24 is a feeder, you can yell FEEDER when he has the ball. This lets your team know to be ready for the feed and to also slide a little later usual.

35. PICK LEFT / PICK RIGHT / PICK BEHIND – If the offense is using screens or picks you need to call those out so defender know how to play them. Call PICK LEFT / PICK RIGHT, or PICK BEHIND anytime you see a pick setup.

36. TALK D – The goalie should not be the only one talking. For great defensive communication everyone should be communicating. If you notice your defense is quiet, yell TALK D to remind them to be vocal.

37. SCREEN – This means that the defenseman in the crease is screening you and needs to move out of the way.

38. FAST BREAK – This alerts the defense that the offense has a fast break developing and they should setup in a triangle to stop the 4 on 3.


It is the goalie’s responsibility to ensure the slides are properly setup.

39. WHO’S HOT? – The “hot” man/women is the person who will slide. Ideally the goalie always knows who is hot based reading the defense.

However if you don’t know who is the slide, we yell WHO’S HOT. If you know who’s hot and he isn’t calling out “I’m hot” then you can yell “Jason, you’re hot”. The defender with the #1 slide responsibility should yell I’M HOT to let the team know he’ll be the slide.

40. WHO’s 2? – Same idea as above but for the 2nd slide. The defender should yell I’m 2 to let the team know the 2nd slide is covered.

Offensive Formation 

41. They’re in 2-2-2! They’re in 1-3-2! They’re in 2-3-1! – The goalie should recognize what offensive formation the offense is using and call it out to the team. When the offense changes formations during a possession you should also call out the new formation.

Additional Lacrosse Goalie & Defensive Terms

Thanks to Reddit user BaconBob for pointing out the following lacrosse goalie and defensive terms that I missed in the initial publishing of this article.

So while you may have only been expecting 41 terms, we’re going to hit you with 8 bonus terms.

42.  GET TO THE HOLE – Whenever there’s a broken clear/play you want your D to make sure they get to the top side of the crease first and then number up from there. Remember we always play defense from the inside out.

43. WHO’S GOT POINT ON BREAK? / WHO”S GOT 2?  – When the ball is on the other end of the field always make sure your defensemen know where they’re going if a fast break happens.

44. HOLD / GO for fast breaks – On a fast break – a “hold” or a “go” call for the point man – sometimes you need/want that point man on break to go sooner or later. “Hold” tells him to let the guy leading the break come to him before he plays him, usually a shooter who isn’t a threat. “Go” tells him to force a play earlier.

45. UP AND OVER – On the clear, let a teammate on one side of field know he has someone open on the far side of the field. When they’ve got somebody on their hands it can be hard to see it.

46. MAN ON – When a teammate has a defender/rider pursuing that they may or may not be aware of.

47. MIDDIE BACK  – When one of your poles has the ball and is heading for the midfield line, let’s the team know a middie must stay on the defensive half to avoid going offside.

48. SHUT OFF  – When the other team has the ball in the stick of a poor shooter or poor passer on offense or just when clearing. you want your D to extend on their guys and shut them off to put more pressure on the shaky player. Can be tough to get this one working with a young D but college and up…they should know what you’re doing. Great call when a long pole who doesn’t want to shoot comes across midfield with the ball.

49. RESET – After something dynamic like a slide or a contested ground ball or a failed clear has happened, or the defense has chased for possession of a shot, and is out of position.  Making this call prompts the defense to hurry up and be ready to stop the next attack.

50. STILL GOT IT – More and more in today’s game we’re seeing men’s players throw big fakes to try and trick the defense. STILL GOT IT – means exactly that, the player still has the ball.

Tips for Lacrosse Goalie Communication

Goalies need to be loud but not constantly shouting.

Your voice pitch should change depending on the situation. If a shooter is bearing down on the goalie or a feed is made to the crease, the pitch should be very excited and higher. Whereas calling out the ball position is less urgent and can be more relaxed. Save your shouting for the most intense moments.

Your cadence should be clear and concise but not boring or monotone.

Use Names – People respond better to their name. So use names or nicknames when you’re yelling a call at a particular player. Even when I’m playing goalie on a new team I’ll ask for the long pole’s names and commit them to memory for use during the game.

Ask your teammates if they can hear and understand you from the sideline when you’re shouting the defensive terms. Develop a strong voice. If your teammates can’t hear you or your voice lacks confidence, you need to work on it. Improving your voice is skill you can learn, just like proper goal tending.

Even if you’re a young goalie whose voice hasn’t dropped yet you can still be loud and clear with your calls.


As a goalie, you are the quarterback of the defense. Your voice is a powerful weapon in providing the information that defenseman need to help improve the overall defense of the team.

Memorize and use these 49 lacrosse goalie terms and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a field general and championship caliber goalie.

If you’re a coach, I recommend printing out this list and reviewing it with your team during practice so everyone is speaking same language during a game.

Until next time! Coach Damon

P.S. Want to get a free, printable PDF with all these terms? Join my email list here and I’ll send you a copy.

 Did I miss any defensive terms that your team uses? Let me know in the comments. 

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11 thoughts on “Communicating on D: The 49 Lacrosse Goalie Terms You Should Use

  1. Hi coach Damon, I’m a female lax goalie and it’s my first season do you have any tips to help me stay in front of the ball? Sometimes I jump out of the way on reflex to not get hit and I would really like to fix that problem because that’s when I get scored on because I’m not in front of the ball, also is there any drills I can do to increase my reaction time and catch the ball more frequently during a game?

  2. Hi Coach Damon! I have been a glax goalie for 3 years, currently on a club team. When communicating with my team, I usually say, “Ball top,” “Ball bottom” or “Ball right.” I was wondering if it is better to be more specific when communicating, like the terms you have used in this post. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Juliana – I do think it’s important to be more specific with where the ball is. Instead of saying “Ball Top” you can say “Top Right” – still 2 words and your team gets a lot more info. Good luck – Damon

  3. Hi, coach Damon, I am an upcoming freshman girl’s goalie for Jefferson Township High School and I was just wondering when am I supposed to know whos hot and where would they be on the field at this time. Thank you so much for writing this article it was very helpful. Also, do you by any chance have any workouts for goalies that could really help them for the season?

    1. Who is hot depends on type of defense you run.

      In most common defenses if the ball is up top, slide comes from the crease.

      If ball is behind, that’s a coma slide that comes from acrosse the crease.

      Search lacrosse goalie workout in google or on this site and you’ll find some good workouts.

      Good luck this year Finley!!

  4. Hey Coach, I’m an upcoming freshman for Staples Highschool Lacrosse and I have been preparing since quarantine. Im a defensemen player and I have a goal to make Varsity this season starting early March.

    I missed my season the prior year and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the absolute best player for the seasons I played before. Since then, I think my skills have gotten much better, I developed my left hand skills and now am able to catch, throw, dodge, and shoot pretty well with it. My footwork is good enough to keep up with people and get the ball from their stick, but I still think footwork and check throwing can be much stronger. I’m trying to get a good impression of myself for my schools varsity and JV lacrosse coaches. Is there anything you can recommend for me to try and better my chances during tryouts to possibly succeed this goal of mine?

    zach taylor

    1. Hey Zach! I’m a huge fan of working your weakness until it becomes your strength. If footwook and check throwing are your weak spots, work those! There’s some footwork drills on my site (mostly meant for goalies) but also a quick youtube search will show tons of footwork for D drills. Also leadership skills and a general winning attitude are huge keys when it comes to being a starter. Good luck! Keep me posted! Coach Damon

  5. Coach my son is a LSM and a Defender and has been playing for 7 seasons. He is in his first year of high school and loves the game but is there a site you would recommend for him? And me? Defense, as you know, gets no love or recognition. Are there any catchphrases for defense like hat trick for the offense. I am announcing next week and I would like to really acknowledge the defense in my stint in the booth. Thank you very much

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