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5 Keys to a Successful Deadball Clear

Clearing and transition is arguably the most critical aspect of a successful lacrosse team and yet, likely one of the least practiced phases of the game of lacrosse. Practicing clears requires long reps, a whole field, and enough players to give a realistic look. All three requirements (time, space, full rosters) are likely not available at the early levels. What doesn't get practiced leads to a lack of preparation and a last-ditch game time plan: give the ball to your best athlete and let them run. This strategy usually leaves your top players completely gassed when it comes time to play in half-field situations.

Rather than expecting one player to beat ten, let's talk about the 5 keys to a successful team clear.

1. Proper Field Spacing

Improper field spacing is the biggest contributor to failed clears at earlier levels of the game. As the clearing team, we want to make sure to spread the riders as far as possible. Good field spacing will ensure that an outlet is always available should the ball carrier get into trouble and it will open up the middle of the field for our midfielders to handle the ball and carry it to the offensive zone. Here are a couple of recommendations for breakout points:

3 Back (Defenseman - Goalie - Defenseman)

The three back provide your safety outlets. These spots should always be filled if the ball carrier gets into trouble up-field. It is also important that these 3 players stay on the same plane as they advance up the field - no player should get too far ahead of the others.

Stretch Attack

We want to make sure that our midfield has as much room to clear the ball as possible. We prefer to push the attack down into the offensive zone so that our midfield has the whole middle of the field to work.


We like to set up a diamond in the middle of the field made up of 3 midfielders (2 short-stick, 1 LSM) and the remaining defenseman. Have your short sticks breakout to the area of the field where you want to clear the ball. In this case, we like to clear opposite the box sideline. That leaves our LSM to go long and our remaining defenseman to take the box sideline.

2. Over! Hit the Crossfield Pass

One of the more commons rides in lacrosse has midfielders matched up, man-to-man and the attackmen riding in a zone. You will often see two 'chaser' attackmen that are responsible for pressuring the 3-back in our clear and the third attackman playing centerfield or matching up with the upfield defenseman. Off a dead-ball, you will generally see the chasing attackmen match up on-ball and on the closer defenseman, to take away the easy pass. A great way to kickstart your clear is to throw the crossfield pass and force the attackmen to scramble. The receiving defenseman can then either draw a midfielder sliding up-field or carry themselves to the offensive zone - just make sure there is a midfielder available to stay back.

3. Draw-and-Dump

Clearing is essentially a man-up situation; there should always be an open man. To progress the ball up the field, the clearing team's best bet is to draw a rider and dump the ball to the next guy. If the ball carrier is not being ridden and is not advancing the ball, the clearing team is wasting time and will be at risk of a failure to advance call.

4. Clear Opposite the Substitution Box

This concept is much less of a hard-and-fast rule and much more of a guideline. The general premise is that there is a lot of chaos created by substitutions during transition. If an immediate outlet is not open, our secondary clear will look to move the ball up the far sideline so that we can avoid midfielders running through the box.

5. Clear Through 'X'

While the rules state that the clearing team must simply touch the ball in the offensive box for a successful clear, there is often too much chaos coming from the midfield to feel comfortable from the top of the box. We teach our boys that a successful clear will move the ball all the way to the 'X' position, where we can better protect the ball and manage our midfield substitutions before getting into our offensive set.

With these general guidelines in mind, what are some good ways to teach these concepts when we are looking to maximize time, with limited players and field space? Comment below!


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