One of the trickiest concepts to master in lacrosse is providing support on defense by sliding. It may seem simple — when an attacker beats a defender one-on-one, another defensive player leaves his assigned man and “slides” to stop the threat.

But what constitutes “beats?” When does that offensive player become a threat to score? And how can you ensure that the slide doesn’t create offense, setting up an easy pass to the open off-ball teammate?

Before installing first and second slides or associated recovery patterns, focus on these fundamentals within your defense to get everyone sliding effectively and in unison.

1. Define the most dangerous area of the field—with a name.

At Cornell, we called it the “heart.” I have also heard it called the “red zone” and even the “honey pot.” It’s anything inside of the distance at which your goalie can save an outside shot. For high school, it may be 10 yards from the goal line and six yards to each side. At the youth level, it could be six and four, respectively. Give this area a name and outline it with cones or paint. Your players must know that this is the most dangerous area on the field —this is where slides should arrive if defenders get beaten.

2. Practice covering inside out and back again.

On-ball defenders have one responsibility: Stop the ball carrier. Off-ball defenders need to worry about protecting the inside (the dangerous area you just named), keeping an eye on their assigned attacker, and preparing to cover open players in that area should a teammate slide away from them.

Use the Star Recovery Drill (see below) to practice moving from an on-ball position to a support position with stick and feet inside the “heart.”

3. Teach the basics of breaking down on ball.

Rather than trying to take the ball away or knocking the dodger down, coaches should reinforce a controlled approach by the slider.

  • Short, choppy steps as he approaches the dodger
  • Stick and body engaged to slow the dodger’s progress
  • Slide on an angle that forces the dodger away from the “heart”

This approach should stop the threat and allow teammates ample time to recover so that all players can get back into position.

Here are two drills that will help your team practice sliding.

Star Recovery Drill

  • Interior cones mark out the “heart,” or most dangerous area of the field.
  • Exterior cones represent an offensive player preparing to dodge.
  • Defender slides to cones on an angle, not a direct line.
  • Stick should be up field when breaking down on the exterior cones.
  • Stick should be to the inside (in passing lanes) at interior cones.

Double-Team Drill

  • Players match up one-on-one running from the midline down the side alley.
  • Defender drives dodger down the alley, stays on his back hip/shoulder.
  • Once the offensive player crosses the restraining line, he tries to break across the line marking the side of the box.
  • A second defender slides from the middle of the “heart” to prevent the dodger from entering the box.
  • Focus on sliding under control, maintaining the double team and communicating.
  • The original defender should prevent the dodger from rolling back when the slide arrives.

Mitch Belisle is VP of Marketing for Trilogy Lacrosse and a defenseman for Team USA, the Boston Cannons and the Minnesota Swarm.