Chalk Talk: 1-4-1 Zone Offense with Dave Cottle

This week’s Chalk Talk feature focuses on the 1-4-1 Zone Offense and includes a complete breakdown by former Maryland men’s head lacrosse coach Dave Cottle.

The 1-4-1 has tremendous opportunity against the zone defense because the zone is set up from top to bottom. In other words, the wing players have the chance to attack between the layer of the base defense and the layer out top. By implementing wings, offensive teams will get the chance to dodge a short stick with their better attacks and can really generate some high-percentage scoring opportunities.

Watch Coach Cottle break down the key concepts of the offense and illustrate the key strategies with on-field simulations and whiteboard discussion.

Offensive Set-Up and Positions
In the 1-4-1 Offense, the players numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4 are perimeter players while 5 and 6 serve as the crease players, stacked in the middle. 1 is behind the goal, 2 and 4 are on the wings and 3 starts up top. The responsibility of the crease players is that any time the ball gets to 1, both try to occupy the posts of the goal. It’s important that units always remain dangerous whenever the ball goes from 2 or 4 to 1.

Typically in the 1-4-1, players will not throw the ball inside from 3 to 5 and 6. This is quite a difficult catch and shoot — especially with one’s back to the cage — so it’s encouraged that you eliminate the potential turnovers by keeping the ball to the outside.  Meanwhile, it is also recommended that 1 typically throws to 5 and 6, or 2 and 4 throw inside to someone who can handle the ball and get a shot off.

Meanwhile, the players on the outside are taught to be in a diamond shape and they all have relationships with each other. As 1 adjusts his position, the ballside player moves down and the backside guy follows behind him. In other words, it’s a diamond to a box responsibility. If 2 dodges down the alley and throws to 1, then 5 and 6 have a whole different responsibility. If 1 has the ball, we want all the other players to be in a position so they can be dangerous and if they had to get a shot off, they could. All the while, when the ball moves to 2, we want 5, 6, 3, 4 and 1 to be accounted for by the opposition. An effective move is to have 1 sneak in on the backside or frontside of the goal.

Additionally in the 1-4-1, it’s key to set things up by ball movement and action on the crease by a dodge from the four best perimeter players: 1, 2, 3, and 4. Ideally, you want to have a lefty in the 4 position and a righty in the 2 position. Then, 3 is your best outside shooter and can go both hands. Inside, it’s helpful to have a righty and a lefty, and both can cut in opposite directions when the ball is passed to “X” and be effective on each side of the posts.


Strategy and Key Concepts
Remember, the key to the 1-4-1 is a diamond to a box formation on the perimeter, with two guys moving inside all the time. In certain situations, you may find it important that when a player carries to an area, it’s helpful to fill back that area with a crease player. For instance, if 3 carries the ball to the right side, we have the ability to fill an area by 6 moving up and then making it a 2-3-1.

You can carry from any of the four perimeter spots, and up top, it’s called a Pop-Off when the crease guy rolls in. When the ball is behind the cage and we carry and roll a guy in from the crease, it’s called a Roll-Off. It’s quite typical to change formations from a 1-4-1 to a 2-3-1 through pop-offs and roll-offs.

Finally, it’s important to implement skip passes in the offensive set. Be sure to have players position themselves to be in a skip lane. When the ball is skipped from out top to down low, it should result in a shot. On a skip pass from behind to out top, it should result in either a shot or a pass to a guy who’s close to the goal.


The previous Chalk Talk feature on the 1-4-1 Offense can be seen in its entirety on Championship Productions’ DVD “1-4-1 and 2-3-1 Adjustable Zone Offense.” To check out our entire offensive lacrosse catalog, click here.

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