Lacrosse Slides: A Complete Beginner Guide


If you play lacrosse in defense, then you need to understand lacrosse slides.  It is a key defense technique that will allow you to shut down attackers when they have got the better of you. It is a simple concept to understand but can be a little tricky to execute.

On this page, I want to talk to you about everything that you need to know about lacrosse slides. The information here should be enough to arm you with the knowledge that you need to go out there and practice them. 

What are lacrosse slides?

There are a lot of articles online about defensive slides in lacrosse. My problem? The bulk of them are not all that brilliant. This is because they try to make defensive slides seem way more complicated than they actually are. I feel this can be somewhat off-putting for newer lacrosse players.

Now, I am not saying that mastering lacrosse slides is easy. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. However, understanding what they are is simple to do.

When you play lacrosse in defense, you will often have an assigned attacker that you need to mark. Things are a little bit different with box lacrosse, so I am going to be focusing purely on field lacrosse here. For the most part, you should never take your eyes off of your assigned attacker. If you keep them marked, then the risk of them gaining possession of the ball or scoring a goal.

On occasion, a defending player will be ‘beaten’ by the attacker. This means that the attacker will have blitzed past the defender and if they are not shut down quickly, they will have a clear shot on the goal. This needs to be stopped.

Now, we can’t prevent the defender being beat. What we can do, however, is to prevent the attacker from getting anywhere near that goal. This is where you will need to execute the slide. I think the best way to see a slide is as a rotation of the players being marked by defenders. This is a ‘step-by-step’ guide to what happens when a slide is executed in lacrosse:

  • A defending player is beaten by an attacker
  • The next closest defending player to the attacker ditches their mark
  • They start to cover the attacker that beat the defender
  • The beaten defender starts to cover the defender furthest away from the goal
  • The defender marking the position furthest away from the goal now ‘slides’ one position up i.e. they will now be marking the player that was originally ‘ditched’ by the original sliding defender.

I hope this helped you to visualize the process a little bit more. If it is still tricky to visualize, you can imagine three attackers standing in a row. A defender will be standing next to each of them. When the slide happens, the attackers will stay in the same position, but the defenders will each move up by one position, with the person at the front now moving to the back.

The example gave in the step-by-step assumes that the attacking player is the lead attacker, but, in theory, the slide can be executed no matter where the attacker is standing, assuming they have beaten their marker. The same rotation of defenders will happen

How do you practice slides in lacrosse?

Sliding is all about the defense working together. This means that you cannot practice slides on your own. Three attackers and three defenders will be needed.

While there are plenty of different ‘drills’ that you can use to practice slides, I feel the best technique is to simply simulate attacks. This works well for a few reasons.

Firstly; the defenders are going to be dealing with real players. Most drills work with cones and the like. This can make practicing sliding difficult, because it doesn’t really simulate what is going to be happening on the lacrosse field. You are just running around. When players are moving about the lacrosse field, the defending players can work on their positioning and learn how to prevent a slide happening in the first place. They will also learn how their teammates work and when the slide will need to be triggered. 

During the practice, the attackers can also work on building up their ability to trigger slides and, ultimately, beat them. This is going to be vital information for when the competitive games roll around.

This means that both your attackers and defenders are going to be practicing vital lacrosse tactics. It is going to take a huge amount of practice to nail slides, so a good chunk of lacrosse practice should be dedicated to slides.

How can defending players prevent sliding in lacrosse?

Now, in an ideal world, defensive players would never need to slide. If you are playing on defense and you find that your team is sliding a lot, it means that the attack is overwhelming you somehow. In many cases, there isn’t anything you can do about it. Sometimes you will play against attackers that will have the edge on you. That is the nature of the game.

If the defense finds that it has to slide in the majority of games, then there may be an issue with the way in which the defense works. It could be a positioning issue, or it could be a speed issue. Your defense will need to work with the coach to establish the problem and rectify it. The issue will need to be dealt with quickly because sliding is a ‘last resort’ defensive technique. It isn’t a technique you will have to rely on. Goals will be scored against you if the defense constantly need to slide.

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How do you know when to slide in lacrosse?

To be honest, executing a slide isn’t that difficult. Once you know what you are doing, it is pretty easy for defenders to change who they are marking. The difficulty with sliding in lacrosse is knowing when it should be executed in the first place.

I do want to point out that at the professional level of the game, the defensive lines should be so in tune with one another that nobody will have to tell the others when to slide. They will all instantly do it. In an amateur environment, I suggest that you have a word that you can shout when triggering the slide. This will allow everybody to react without delay. The word can be anything, so don’t dwell on that part too much.

Sliding is something that should only ever happen if the following happens:

  • There is a goal scoring opportunity
  • Sliding will not cause another goal scoring opportunity

So, for example, if the player is on track to score a goal if not intercepted (i.e. if the beaten defending player cannot recover), then a slide needs to take place. However, the slide should only occur if the person being left unmarked for a brief period wouldn’t have a goalscoring opportunity when left unmarked. The whole idea of sliding is to shut down goalscoring opportunities, not create new ones.

I find the best way to determine whether a slide should take place is by considering the fact that there are some zones of the field that will be more dangerous to have an unmarked attacker in than others. I suggest defenders at the amateur level consider this the most dangerous area:

  • 10-15 yards from the goal line
  • In a circle of around 12-feet in diameter from this point.

If any unmarked attacker crosses into this ‘danger zone’, then a slide needs to happen.

Once you have nailed these defensive slides, you can move onto more advanced concepts. However, they will be more situational than something that can be described in words. As your team practices slides with attacking players, you will learn exactly when the right time to slide is. You will start to know the capabilities of your defensive line and whether they can recover in certain situations.

How can you force slides as an attacker in lacrosse?

As an attacker, you want to be forcing the defense to slide as much as possible. The more they are sliding, the more space they are going to be leaving open. For a short while, particularly if the defending team is awful at communication, there will be open attackers left on the field. If you can force the defenders to slide, then you may have more scoring opportunities available to you.

Positioning and speed will be the key to triggering slides. Remember; in most cases, particularly at the amateur level of the game, just having the edge on the defender is all it takes to trigger that slide. Even a couple of feet out of reach of the defender should be enough, so attackers should be constantly looking at where they are positioned to ensure that they are out of the reach of their marker.

Conclusion

I know that lacrosse slides can be difficult to understand. This is a concept that is particularly difficult to put into words, because it is one of those things that you really need to experience in order to understand how and why they work. Therefore, I suggest you get out there on the field and start practicing those defensive slides. If your team can nail them, then the number of goals your team concedes will shoot down.

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