Getting High

Updated Monday January 9, 2017 by Richard Schwartz .

Getting High

Stop…no, this is NOT about drug usage.  It is not about sniffing glue or any other stupid, self-deprecating acts.  It is about a very important lacrosse concept.  That’s right, getting high is a lacrosse term of art.  I hear you cry….

Year after year I watch more lacrosse games than my wife says I should.  But I can sit in the stands almost anywhere, and watch with intensity, ignoring all the casual conversation and occasional cheer around me.  My problem is I notice the little things, and just when everyone else is silent because nothing exciting is happening on the field, I will throw up my hands in disbelief, or let out a low growl because some poorly coached defenseman is out of position.  A moment later, when the offensive player burns that defenseman, I am silent, unsurprised, while the parents around me are back to cheering at the amazing offensive play. 

Poorly positioned defenders make average offensive players look fantastic.  And year after year, mostly at the youth level, I see and hear coaches teaching their players poor fundamentals, which eventually lead to poor performance and even harder to change bad habits.  By far, the biggest mistake made by youth coaches is the concept of a player on defense needing to stay between the player they are covering and the goal.  “Johnnie, just stay between your man and the goal…”   I hear it hundreds of times a year, and every time I cringe.  If the coach only knew how much more difficult he just made it for the defenseman to stop the player he is covering. 

DIAGRAM NO. 1, in the attachment below, illustrates the terrible dilemma that staying “between your man and the goal” places upon a defenseman.  The offensive player can carry the ball either across the middle of the field or down the wing.  Staying between the offensive player and the goal allows the offensive player to choose from two possible options and leaves the defender guessing which way the offensive player will go.  In the DIAGRAM NO. 1 scenario, the defender is truly on the defensive, and will almost always lose a step to the offensive player because he has to react to the offensive player.

DIAGRAM NO. 2, in the attachment below, illustrates the better scenario for the defender to be proactive, and take away the offensive player’s choices.  He does this by “getting high and inside” the offensive player, as illustrated in DIAGRAM NO. 2

By getting high on the offensive player, the defender has taken away the offensive player’s choices.  To the offensive player with the ball, only one direction makes any sense, and as a defender, I would rather have the offensive player go down the wing for a shallow angle shot than across the middle of the field for a wide angle shot.  In addition, the defender now knows where the offensive player has to go with the ball and will never lose a step.  Notice how the defender is not between his man and the goal, yet is in a better position to stop the offensive player from getting into a good shooting position.  As long as the defender always gets a high and inside position on the player he is covering, the offensive player will have to pass the ball or take the ball down the wing for a bad shot.

And in lacrosse, we can’t stop every shot, but we can stop the good ones.

Starting at the 3rd or 4th grade, players need to be taught to defend the ball from a “high and inside” position.  At the HS level, we work incessantly on maintaining this position relative to the player with the ball. 

So, as you watch your defensive player this season, see if you start fidgeting between the exciting plays as you observe your player’s defensive positioning on the field.  If he performs well, it won’t be exciting.  You won’t hear anyone else cheering.  And you won’t see the player he is covering score any goals. 


Richard Schwartz


Diagrams - Defensive Positioning.pdf