Coach Jonathan Edwards receives a unique question from a defender asking how he can help his goalie. Coach goes over the thrill of playing as a team and shares strategies that will help defenders minimize the shots that make it to their goalie. Coach Edwards gives tips on working together as a team and advanced advice for players who want to bring their team up to the next level.

0:49 – When defenders and goalies work together, it’s the start of something awesome.
1:15 – The importance of team communication.
2:45 – Forcing the ball carrier to feed.
4:22 – Defenders can sabotage offensive shots to help goalies.
5:11 – Disrupting passes is a great strategy to keep the ball away from your cage.
5:56 – Minimizing angles will prevent shots on your goalie.
8:00 – Being a team means learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
8:41 – Every shot is different, don’t treat it as if it’s the same.
9:15 – Having fun double teaming a weak opponent with your goalie.


All right everybody, Coach Edwards here with and and I’ve got a great one here this week from James on Long Island. It goes something like this.

Dear Coach Edwards,

Thanks so much for your website. You probably haven’t received an email like this from someone like me, but I’m not a goalie, I’m an offenseman.


Here’s my question. I work real hard to be the best defender I can be and just stop one-on-ones mostly, but I was wondering what should I be thinking about to help my goalie the best?


James on Long Island

Understanding Lacrosse As A Team Sport

Well James, great question. Not sure if you saw the post I did answering Lily’s question a little while ago, but this is awesome. This is where I think great teams start. When defenders understand that this is actually a team game and that there’s a goalie behind them that can actually help them, this is the start of something really cool.

The Importance Of Team Communication

James, a couple of things I want to talk about here. First thing’s first – communication. Goalie communication and where the ball is on the field is important, and hopefully your goalie understands when to call what and where so that you can best guard your defender off the ball but also know where the ball is. Lacrosse is one of the only sports where the goalie calls out to the defender the position of the ball because the ball can move 360 degrees around the cage.

Defenders Remain Responsible For The Ball

The ball can be back here, it can be back center, back right, top right, and as a defender you can be on the opposite side of the field but be responsible for a slide. So you’ve got to basically look at your defender but then know where the ball is and the goalie needs to call that out. In hockey, the puck can go behind the net, but it’s usually not there very much. And because the rink is so small comparatively, the goalie doesn’t need to call out where the puck is. A defender would kind of know, and because the rink is kind of confined you know where the ball is going to be.

But on a lacrosse field, because you’ve got so much space to deal with, that’s why the goalie’s got to call out the position of the ball. In Lacrosse Goalie University for my members we’ve got a whole section on goalie communication, what to call and where, and we also get into slide calls and check calls and lift calls and all that stuff. So if you’re not a member I would sincerely encourage you to check it out and get inside so I can teach you all that stuff.

Forcing The Ball Carrier to Feed

James, a couple of things. I’m just going to go a little high level here. First thing’s first. Shots in the front of the cage, we’re trying to avoid those as much as possible. We want to do everything we can to turn the ball carrier down the alley and behind goal line extended. When the ball’s behind goal line extended, the player can’t score. Don’t be emailing me or commenting below, “Wait a second, guys can’t score from behind goal line extended.”

Yeah, if they jump or dive or whatever, bounce it off the back of the goalie’s head, I got it, save your time, but the bottom line is as a defender, if I can drive my ball carrier behind the goal line extended, now primarily all that guy can do is feed. What you want to make sure you’re doing here is not giving up topside.

Defenders Have Power Beyond Black and White

 I’m kind of old school like this. I don’t like how defenders nowadays play just one handed. They basically play right or left, whatever they are, but they won’t switch. They won’t put their stick topside. And I love that. Defenders that can put their stick topside, it almost acts like a gate. The thing to understand too, James, as a defender, is most defenders play lacrosse like this: “Ball carrier has ball – bad. Ball on ground – good.” And it’s like black or white. That’s really not true.

How Defense Can Sabotage Offensive Shots

 There are so many more things that can happen to a ball carrier. One, the first one that always gets me, is that when the ball carrier goes at you to shoot the ball or pass, if you can get your stick on the bottom hand or get it on the glove and disrupt that pass so that that shot either goes wide and out of bounds, or better yet, if it’s a pass and you get that stick on that bottom hand and that pass goes out of bounds, that’s awesome. Too many coaches miss this.

There are so many times a defender, if they get their stick on the bottom hand of a player as they’re going to shoot, and that ball sails wide to the cage, that’s awesome right? And everybody should be cheering from the sidelines, “Hey, great play D!” because now that goalie didn’t have to make that save.

Disrupting Passes Will Keep The Ball Away From Your Cage

 I want you to think of that too. Any time you can disrupt a pass or disrupt a shot so that it goes wide, that’s huge. They may back up that shot, they may have an attackman behind the cage and they may back up that shot and get possession, but whatever. That’s now time for you to duress. You might be able to get a change if you’re lucky. But the bottom line is, that’s an excellent play.

Don’t play defense like black or white, like guys got ball = bad, we have ball = good. There are so many other things. And be patient as a defender. It’s okay if a team spends minutes in the offensive zone passing the ball around, right? They may attack the cage, you get a poke check and that ball goes wide. That’s a great defensive play. So keep that in mind.

Minimizing Angles To Prevent Shots

 We want to minimize our angles. We want to make sure that if you can force that shooter to be down the alley and closer to goal line extended, that basically reduces the angle that the offensive player can shoot at. Now as a goalie, I’ve got less surface area within the cage that I need to cover. That then ups your percentage that you’re going to make the save, and that’s something to consider. When that shot is made, again, if you can lift the bottom hand, poke check, whatever, get the ball out of bounds, that’s sweet.

Have A Chalk Talk

I highly recommend defenders, goalies, and coaches sitting down and having a chalk talk, or even part of practice, where the coach lays out “This is what the goalie’s going to call and when and why,” so that the defenders understand why they need to slide and when, and also they’ve got to know that it’s a goalie’s discretion.

This is something that really bothered me. As I got older, actually, when I started playing with guys up in Canada, as a goalie if I’ve done a little bit of a scouting report on the other team, I know who I want to shoot on me and where, and I also know who I definitely don’t want to shoot on me. Or from where. For me in high school, any shot outside twelve yards I was all over it. Between 12 and 5 yards, that was my rough zone. For most goalies that’s also true. Between 12 and 5, I was like, “Oh, we need to get a stick on this guy.” Inside 5, my save percentage went back up again because I was really good in tight.

Being A Team Means Learning Each Other’s Strengths And Weaknesses

 Now, my defensemen, when I was working with my high school team, they knew that. They knew where I was good, they knew where they had to pressure the guy, they knew where I was going to call a hold call or a pressure call, but they also knew that hey, if a guy was going to take a shot on you from 15 yards, let it go because I’m going to get it. So my defensemen could do that and it was almost to the point where we encouraged offensive players. We almost gave them openings. Like, “Go ahead and shoot from here, the goalie’s going to get it.”

It was awesome too because my middys, they knew that if a shot was taken from out here, they would start busting upfield because the odds were I was going to catch it and I was going to hit them with an outlet pass and we were going to have a fast break going the other way, which is awesome. It’s a lot of fun.

Every Shot Is Different

As a defender, you need to know with your goalie that not every shot is the same. You don’t treat every shot the same. A shot from here is not the same as a shot from out here. You’ve got to play it accordingly. I think what happens, a lot of defensemen they play every player all over the field the same. They’re going to go, “Oh my god,” and they’re just going to play them, play them hard whether they’re here or here. Don’t bother. Know where your goalie’s strengths are and where your strengths are as a defender as well.

Double Teaming A Weak Player With Your Goalie

 Here’s something to think about. Here’s a little advanced tip. If you’ve got an athletic goalie as your teammate, from Long Island I think you’d probably have a goalie who is a little adventurous, if you can make your attackman inside roll and you’re within like, 3, 4, 5 yards of the cage, and your goalie can go out and double team, have some fun with that.

If you’re playing a weak opponent, and you can work on practice a little bit with your goalie, just say “Hey, listen, if I get this guy to roll back, you’re going to double him.” Sorry, I showed you the inside roll. But if you’re going to have him drive high and then roll back, you get that goalie out to double team him and then you get the ball, that’s a lot of fun too. So don’t forget that.


James from Long Island, I could go on for hours about this. This is a great question, and I wish that more defensemen understood this. Take the time to get with your coach, get with your goalie, get with the rest of your defenders, know what’s going to be called and when and why, and as a defensive group, you can be lethal, right?

James, I hope this helps you. I really appreciate the question. If you like this, do me a favor and leave me a comment below. Share it, tweet it, all those good things. If you want further clarification on this, again, comment or email me at Really appreciate the questions, guys. We’re getting close to the spring! It’s funny, winter’s coming, but we’re getting close to the spring alright, so we’re pretty excited. I appreciate having you and we’ll talk to you real soon. Thanks.



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