Defensive Breakdown: Techniques and Strategies When Defending Against Shots on Goal

In this week’s lacrosse player development feature, we’ll focus on specific defensive techniques and strategies when defending against shots on goal. With Virginia head coach Dom Starsia leading the way, you’ll learn about proper stance and technique before getting an understanding of key strategies to help you be successful in these frequent defensive situations. Coach Starsia dishes the same advice to youth players and college athletes alike, so see how many tips you can pick up and implement with your team on the lacrosse field this season.


During 1-on-1 play when defending against shots on goal, the goal for the defender is to create unsettled situations. Unfortunately, with their back to the goal, they have a natural disadvantage. Meanwhile, an attackman knows exactly where he’s going, so the defender must react to that. Therefore, it’s crucial that defensemen have an opportunity to make up for those disadvantages. Here’s how they can close the gap.

Proper Stance

First, it’s critical that a defender is always maintaining proper stance. His feet should be shoulder-width apart, knees are bent and one foot should drop back a little bit behind the other. In other words, players should be in a drop-step mode, which will give them some ground they can make up.

Also, defenders should remain low, never up high or straight up. Remember, you almost can’t be too low. Staying low gives you the chance to change direction and drop step quickly in order to gain an advantage.

Meanwhile, keep the head of the stick pointed at the offensive player. The distance between the head of the stick and your body is called the cushion. This is the margin of error in this situation. With that cushion, a defender has the chance to regain territory and gain an advantage.


Technique: Poke Check & Drop Step

With this technique, once an offensive player makes his move, the defender should poke him with his stick and then drop step. Also, it’s important to remember when approaching the goal line extended that the onus is on the defender to get above the GLE about 2-3 yards – and get there before his man does. Here, the defender must get his hands on the offensive player and ride him out and away from the goal. Defenders should not shy away from contact. Get your hands on your opponent and push him into a position where he can’t attack the goal or score.

In the situation where you get beat, try to get your stick on the inside of your opponent. If a player starts to shoot, you can still put your stick in a position to prevent the shot or deflect it. Remember to make contact below the GLE. If the offensive player gets there first, he has a major advantage on the defender.


The follow segments can be seen in their entirety on the Championship Productions’ DVD “Developing the Dominating Individual Defender” with Dom Starsia. Check out more defense-oriented videos in our extensive catalog by clicking here.

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