Establish a Team Vocabulary

One of the most import jobs of a coaching staff is to define and consistently reinforce a team vocabulary.  Communication is a key aspect of lacrosse.  Successful teams and organizations have an established language that everyone understands.  Here is a list of example terms and phrases we used when coaching.  Some variations are included.  Please add your terms from your lacrosse dictionary in the comments!

On Defense

Stop Ball – Making sure someone is taking responsibility for the player with the ball.  Pick up the player with the ball and do not let them penetrate the defense any farther. Also “check ball”.

Badger – The offensive player is not feeling any “stress” and is looking to feed or shoot.  Make it difficult for them.  Run with and throw checks.  An offensive player should be checked as they receive the ball, as they throw the ball and a few times in between for good measure.  Also “He’s Hot” or “pressure”.

Drop In – We are in danger of being beat or are out of position to make a good slide. How your team plays defense will determine who needs to drop in and who needs to pressure.  Teams will play the ball hard (constant pressure) while sagging off the adjacent players.  Or teams will shut-off the adjacent passes to allow the defender to force a turnover.

Get in – We are in transition to defense and the opponents have cleared the ball cleanly over the midfield line and we are conceding the clear.  In order to guard against a slow or fast break, defenders must sprint to the hole with their head on a swivel and pick-up from the “inside-out”.  Do not try to defend as you drop to the hole.  Get there first and then pick up.

Check – The ball is being fed to the crease area.  Check stick or body of player(s) trying to receive the pass or any player within 5 yards of the ball.

Clear the Crease – The ball is loose in front of the goal.  Any offensive player within 5 yards of the ball should be body-checked out of the way.  Only do enough to get the job done.  You don't want to take yourself out of the play.  After knocking the opponent off the ball, you want to be in a position to pick it up.

Ball Down – The ball is loose. Who wants it?  Who has the hole?

Lanes – The area of the field that is between the restraining box and the sidelines which continues between the face-off wing lines and sidelines all the way to the other end of the field. We like to clear the ball down the lanes.

Break – Our goalie or other defender has gained, or will positively gain control of the ball and we need to break out in our clearing pattern.  Anticipation is good but don’t get burned by it. We like wing defense-men and middies to break East or West (flat) to the lanes while the crease defender guards the hole and is a safety valve for the goalie. The center middie is free to float to an open area beyond the restraining box. Consider incorporating an on-the-fly substitution into your break out/clearing pattern.

Snowbird- A clearing middie is in the open and could start a fast break. Often the middie who gave up a shot is open for a "snowbird". This middie should break north and be the first look from the goalie because many times the shooter is either watching the shot, or his momentum has taken him out of position to defend against a clearing pass. At Salisbury we used "seagull" as well :)

Check-Up – Settle in and pick up a man.  The offense is settled and we are in our “normal” defense.

Got Your Back – I am responsible for picking up the player with the ball should you get beat.  Some teams slide from adjacent defender, some teams slide from crease or the even the second adjacent defender. Also “back-right! / back-left!”

Slide – The ball handler has gained a step on our defender and needs to be stopped.  Anticipation is key.  We have always taught to slide early and to the offensive player’s blind side.  Your team may have a different strategy but if you wait until the offensive player gets two steps on your defender it may be too late.

Screen – Our goalies vision is blocked by a screen.  Take corrective measures.

Pick – Alerts defense of a pick.  Communication will be key.  Will you “switch” or fight through it?  Team philosophy and/or the situation will define how to defend against a pick.  If you choose to fight through it, we recommend “butt down and stick up”.  In other words, get low to muscle your way through and bring stick perpendicular to the ground so it won’t hang you up in the process.

Fast Break – The ball is being cleared by the opponent with no one in front of them creating a 4x3 (or less) break.  Set up in your fast break defensive positions.  Drop into your area and not to an offensive player.  Someone will need to “Stop Ball” by taking “the Point”.

Slow Break – The opponents have a developing numbers advantage greater than a 4x3 (5x4 or 6x5).  “Get to the hole” and pick up “inside-out”.  We like to have defenders drop into a tight box with the 5th defender on the crease (box and one) to deny the lay-up.  When 6th defender gets in the hole, “Check-Up”

Overload – The opponents are crowding to one side to allow space for the ball handler to dodge and draw a slide.  Or when playing man-down, look for sneaky backdoor pass.

Redirect or Over Pass – When clearing down one lane and hitting a road block, make the long, East-West pass to the opposite lane.  Someone is open there.

Ball Position – The goalie should call the position out for all to hear.  There are a few different ways to do this.  Numbering systems may be effective but can be confusing to younger players.  We recommend ball is (from the goalie’s perspective) using the number or words below:

  1. Left Behind
  2. Right Behind
  3. Center Front
  4. Right Front
  5. Left Front
  6. X or Point (also “6 o’clock)

On Offense

Swing it – A quick East-West pass to get the ball to the opposite side of the goal.  It can be two passes.  It can be in front of or behind the goal

Weak Side – Move the ball to the opposite side via a swing pass.  When clearing down a lane to GLE and then X, the ball handler should bring the ball to the opposite side or the “Weak Side”. 

Bring It – When handling the ball behind the goal, force someone to pick you up by driving to the goal.  Coach sees something – either you have an opening to dodge and shoot or if a defender picks you up, they will leave someone open for a lay-up.

One More – Someone is in a better position to shoot than you are.  Make one more pass.

Touch Box – (no longer relevant) The referee has started to count and we are in danger of being called for failure to advance. Step into the box or pass into the box immediately.

Stop Light Colors – When transitioning to offense use established vocabulary to communicate when to substitute, when to settle the ball, when to attack right away, or when to move the ball down the lane to the GLE and then to “X”.  For example:

  • Red – move the ball down the lanes to GLE then X. We have an advantage but it is a slow break.  Also “plane-to-point” means move the ball to plane of the goal and then to X.
  • Yellow – We are subbing on the fly. Move the ball to the lanes or well above the restraining line in a holding pattern while we change personnel.
  • Green – We have a fast break. Go to the goal and attack immediately from the front.

Push – When clearing or in transition from defense to offense, a forward (North-South) pass.  Someone is open ahead of you.  Don’t carry it, push it forward.  Technically when our goalie or defender gets control of the ball, we are on offense and want to push the ball down the lanes and then to X.

V-cut – If you want to receive the ball you have to act like you want it.  Drive your defender towards the goal then pop out and create space to receive the ball.  Start this cut as an adjacent player is receiving a pass.

Turn His Head – Immediately after passing the ball, cut to the goal around the back of the defender’s head so that he is turned away from the ball.  Never leave your defender in a position where he can see you and the ball without moving.  When helmets had laces in the back, we used to say “cut to the strings”.  Whatever you call it, it is important to start that cut while your pass is in the air.  Don’t get caught watching your awesome pass.

Help Here – I am your outlet. If you want the ball, act like it by making a v-cut.

Skip – A skip pass is open and/or the adjacent passes are not available.

Garbage – The ball is loose near the crease because of a rebound or botched clear.  Get the garbage goal.  Also “Rebound”. 

Nothing There – We do not have an advantage.  The defense is settled in and ready.  Quit dodging and don’t force it.  Move the ball. Usually followed by “swing it” or “weak side”.

Keep It – Used to keep possession of the ball when on extra-man as the clock runs out.  Also “hold it” or “no pass”

Carry It – When in transition to offense and there are no good passing options to get the ball over the midfield line, carry it over.  Can also mean no one is in front of you and no one is open.

Zebra (or any Z word - Zorro) The defense is playing Zone.  Run our zone offense.  If you don’t have a zone offense, the Z word means do not dodge, keep the ball hot.

Other Jargon

Yard sale – When a player has stick checked out of their hands and it ends up on the ground, like putting stuff on your lawn to sell.

Horses don't cheat – During conditioning do not cut corners or neglect to touch the line.

Your killing the grass! – When an off-ball player is standing flat-footed.

Alligator arms– Throwing or shooting with elbows not extended away from torso.

Canadian egg roll – A spinning, roll back, low bounce shot.

Dip and dunk – On a layup, faking low with your head and body and then finishing over the goalie when they bite.

Gobble and goose – I'm not sure but it was on the Simpsons.  Get the GB and goose it to teammate?

Buddy pass – When a player throws a soft arcing pass that causes the receiver to be body checked.  Who's your buddy?

Coma slide – When a defender slides and puts body on the dodger or receiver of a pass usually because of a buddy pass or great anticipation by the defender. 

Top cheddar – A high shot that is inches from the crossbar.

Where grandma keeps the cookies – Top shelf.  See "top cheddar".

Worm burner – An underhand shot that stays low, either skimming of the turf or inches above.

Tilt – Wearing your "bucket" in such a way that observers can barely see your eyes because the helmet is tilted down and the visor covers your eyes.  Proper tilt is when you see clearly above the second bar of the face mask.  The intersection of the second bar and the center (vertical) bar should be at the point of your nose but some players go to the extreme.

Flow or Lettuce – Long hair hanging out the back of the helmet.


Please add to this list via comments!

1 comment

  • Dear webmaster, Thanks for the informative and well-written post!

    Sofia Chacon

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