Lacrosse Clearing – Strategy, Drills and Practice Tips

If you started playing lacrosse, chances are you have heard of clearing. 

Today, I will go over what exactly clearing is, the rules of clearing, clearing drills and a few clearing plays for you to work on. Let’s get into it!

What is ‘Clearing’ in Lacrosse?

A clear in lacrosse is when a team transitions the ball from the defensive side of the field to the offensive side. With the help of a team’s goalie, defenders and midfielders, a team can successfully move the ball without giving it back to the opposing team. 

In order to have a good clear, lacrosse players will have to throw long, accurate passes that require a lot of skill. That is why wall ball or other passing drills are extremely important. 

While Team A is clearing the ball, Team B will “ride” or pressure Team A in an effort to get the ball back. Think about it almost like a full court press in basketball. 

Lacrosse Clearing Rules

In youth lacrosse, there is usually no set amount of time to clear the ball. As you play higher levels of lacrosse, this changes. 

The NCAA has a rule that a team must clear the ball to the opposite restraining box within 20 seconds after a team secures possession of the ball. 

How to Practice Lacrosse Clearing

Sideline Passes: If you are an aspiring defender, especially one who wants to play college lacrosse, one of the best skills you can have is the ability to make long, accurate passes. Get a teammate and stand on opposite sidelines of the field. It should feel very far apart. Then start passing it back and forth. At first, you will probably throw the ball too short or too far, but over time you will figure out the perfect technique for these long passes. 

If a college coach sees you making 50 yard passes that hit a player’s stick, they will immediately take note. 

Banana Cutting: If you are a middie or defenseman, you want to be able to make cuts in order to get open for a goalie. Coaches call these types of cuts, “banana cuts” where you make a curved, banana-like motion towards the sideline. 

Lacrosse Clearing Strategy

Best Option – Set Plays: Chances are, your lacrosse coach knows some sort of play to run during a clear. Some coaches prefer what’s called a “4-3” clear while other coaches prefer different strategies. Here is a video to show you what I mean: 

Second Best Option – Give it To a Midfielder: Sometimes it is a good strategy to take your most athletic midfielder, give them the ball and have them run the full length of the field. College coaches still use this strategy today and it can be quite effective. 

Last Resort – Gilman or Hail Mary: If there is 5 seconds left in the clear and no one seems to be open, it’s time for a goalie or defender to chuck the ball down to the offensive side of the field and hope for the best. This is not ideal, but it is a much better situation than turning over the ball and giving it right back to the offense. 

Overall, clearing in lacrosse is a simple concept but definitely can become more complex. As a goalie or defender, being able to throw long, accurate passes will help your team out. 


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