Clearing Off A Save:

Where to Look First  When you make a save and yell “Clear!”  your defense and your defensive midfielders should break to their respective spots on the field.  I’m not going to get into defensive clears in this book because every team is a little different.  There are some basic rules of thumb that should keep you up to speed no matter what team you play for. 

Four Seconds.  And Counting
  You have four seconds in the crease once you gain possession of the ball.  That means that if the ball is under your stick the ref is not counting yet.  That doesn’t mean that you can clamp the ball forever.  That is called “Witholding” and would be a change of possession.
Once you have possession of the ball you should start counting to yourself.  I recommend all goalies count allowed until they know just how long four seconds is.  Most young goalies get really excited in the cage and four seconds turns into three seconds.  And sometimes two and a half seconds.  They rush.  But only goalies who are well drilled in four seconds know just how long it really is.  The “Clear” Call  If the ball is under your stick in the crease you may as well yell Clear to get everyone up field.  While you get possession your team is well on their way and you may catch the opposing team looking at you pick up the ball while your teammates are running behind them up the field.
One-One Thousand In the first second your first look is going to be right back to where the ball came from.  Usually the main reason that shot was taken was because one of your teammates was beaten and is now behind the ball carrier.  If you make a clean save you can look right back to that middie or defenseman for a quick pass and possibly a fast break.  This is especially true if it is a middie who gets beat Top Center.    Sometimes if a middie is beaten I’ll tell them to start breaking up field right away.  Why?  Because a couple of things will happen:  A:  The shooter shoots and it goes in the cage.  B:  The shooter shoots and it goes wide.  C:  The shooter shoots.  You make the save.  And you pass to the middie who was beaten and he runs up the field for a fast break.  All in all it’s a pretty safe move for that middie to bust up field if he gets beat clean.

Two-One Thousand If you can’t hit that first pass to the middie your second looks are to your secondary midfielders and even to the Defenders on the wing.  The defense are usually forgotten about and an easy pass can be made Side Right or Side Left for an easy clear.

Three-One Thousand Now we’re starting to think of getting out of the crease.  If you have an attackman in your face while you’re trying to clear that means a defender is wide open.  He needs to yell to you and tell you he’s open or else that attackman is going to ride you hard when you run out of the crease.  This can be serious trouble especially if you aren’t a great stick handler.  If there is no one in your face you can step out the side of the crease and set up your clear.

Four-One Thousand You definitely need to be out of the crease by now.  Most refs will call you on the five-count which means they will say, “One, Two, Three, Four, Whistle”    What To Do If You Get Called For Delay  Don’t just drop the ball and run back in the cage.  Remember, your team is all the way up field.  You need to stall just a half second so that they can get back.  Never. Never give the ball to the opposing player.  Put the ball on the ground.  A fast whistle by the ref can cause disaster and an easy goal for the other team.  I always roll the ball to the ref.  Or just away from him.  You don’t want to throw it past him or the ref may call you for delay of game.  But a Ref won’t whistle you if you roll it in his direction.    When you get called for Four Seconds the ball needs to go twenty yards to the side of the goal you were on.  If no one is there, even better.  Roll it out there where the play is supposed to start.  That way everyone needs to go and get it.  Side Note:  In the high school ranks you will be able to get away with this tactic.  But in the college ranks you’ll probably get a delay of game so be careful.  You will have to gauge the level of play that you are playing to determine if the ref will call you or not.  That being said, the basic rule of thumb here is to stall, slightly.  Just enough for your team to react so that they can get back in position.

What To Do If You Can’t Make The Quick Outlet Pass So you’ve counted through your four seconds and there is no one on you.  You’ve stepped out of the crease so now what?  Well, now that things are settled this is exactly the same as what you would do if you had come in off the end line and had walked the ball up to this point. I’m going to cover that in the next section but for a start here’s what you need to identify:  Where are the attack men?  Are they three across?  Or are they two across and one is covering the defenseman up near the midfield line?   If they are two across that means you’re going to be walking up the field a fair bit before someone jumps you.  And that someone who will jump you is usually an attack man from your right or left side.  If that’s the case you’ll be making a quick outlet pass to your defender who will then need to push the ball up the wing.    If for some reason you get closer to midfield and the attack hasn’t jumped you you’ll be looking to draw a middie and to possibly run the ball over midfield.  This is less rare but you need to be ready for that possibility.

Clearing Off The End Line: Places Every One!  If you are bringing the ball off the end line you need to do a couple of things BEFORE you step on the field.  First thing is you must make sure that everyone on your team is in the right spot before the Ref blows the whistle.  Just like in the Theater where the play doesn’t start until everyone is in their places.  You can’t be stuck with the ball with no one to pass to if they are not ready.  I always get the ball from out of bounds and then I toss it onto the field just inside the end line.  While I’m looking up field he Ref will usually say, “Pick up the ball, please.”    While I look up field I am looking for a couple of things.  First, is the other team doing a hard ride or a soft ride?  In a Hard Ride the attack are right down on the goalie and the low defenseman.  This is a great time to bring one of your middies down to help out.  The other thing I am looking for is where are all my clearing teammates and which one is open.  If they are in a Hard Ride it is important that your middies come back to you so you don’t have such a long pass.  They should be down almost to the restraining line.  If it is a Soft Ride this means you will have time to bring the ball up field and find the Two On One for an easy clear.

Bringing A Middie Down For The Clear Off The End Line If the ball goes off the end line many teams like to put a middie on the ball to clear it up the field.  Most goalies lack the mobility that a short-stick player would have and the chances for a goalie to get run down or stick checked and to lose the ball are higher than if a short-stick player has the ball.    The goal here is to have the goalie stay in the middle of the field.  He will start the play in the crease but he may need to move in and out as necessary.   When the whistle blows the midfielder’s goal is to just run by everyone and clear the ball himself.  The reason that this works so often is that many opposing teams aren’t taught how to ride this type of clear.  The goal is for the defense to get out of the way so that the middie can run it all the way to midfield.  Pretty simple, and very effective if done properly.  My suggestion is to always start the game attempting a normal clear.  If the opposing team is using a hard ride, or if clearing is just difficult all the way around you should try the middie down clear and see if your clearing improves.

Sideline Clears: Get the Ball To The Goalie  One of the tougher clears occurs when the ball goes out on the sideline.  This is a much easier clear for the opposing team to defend, but if handled properly it can be an easy clear.  Get It To The Goalie  If the goalie is open in the middle of the field the first pass should be there.  Why?  Because the goalie is at the center of the field and every pass from that point is an easy pass.  One of the hardest passes is for the defender on the side of the field to pass all the way across the field.  This is what opposing teams want, so if they are lazy, and the goalie is open, the pass should be to the goalie.  Once the goalie has the ball it’s just like any other clear to execute.

What To Do If You’re Covered If the goalie is covered on the sideline clear it is important for you to help out the defender with the ball by telling him who is open.  Most likely the defender with the ball has an attack man in his face, so before the whistle blows he should know where he is going with the pass.  If the whistle blows, and he has no pass, he’s in trouble.  Do your part by helping that defender and pointing to where he should throw.

Middie Side Line Clears When the ball goes out of bounds between the midfield stripe and the restraining box it is best if a midfielder starts the clear.  What usually happens in this case is that the middie gets double-teamed.  When that middie gets double-teamed he most likely has a defensive middie, as well as an attack man ready to jump him when the whistle blows.  This is perfect for the clearing team because usually a quick pass back to the goalie is possible and the clear can begin.  If the ball is really close to midfield the middie with the ball may want to try and just beat those two guys and get to midfield knowing that once that happens he will only have one man to beat from there.  Rarely does an attack man go over midfield.  I say rarely because few teams are taught how to truly ride in this situation.  It is fine for the middie to do this as long as he gets the job done and gets the cleared.  Sometimes one step back to the goalie can lead to two steps forward on a great clear.   Conclusion:

Clearing the ball is almost as important as saving it in the first place.  If you can’t clear the ball you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your end trying to make saves.  If you can’t clear the ball your team doesn’t even have a chance to score.

If you can clear the ball well then the odds are your team will spend more time on offense.  Your defenders will be rested when the ball does come down on your end of the field.  And the offensive players on the other team will feel rushed because they FINALLY have the ball and need to score.

You’ll need to have a solid game plan for clearing the ball off a save, and off the end line. Make sure you practice both.  Make sure your teammates on the clear are in position at all times.  You need to have a system in place to clear the ball and not just leave it to chance.  There isn’t enough time in the clear to leave it to chance.  Summary:

•    You’ve got four seconds in the crease to clear the ball once you have possession.
•    In the first second look right back to where the shot came from for a quick outlet pass.
•    In the second second look to your other midfielders and start to look at your defenders on the wings.
•    In the third second look to see if you have an attack man on your and look to dump it to the open defender.
•    In the fourth second get out of the back of the crease away from trouble.
•    Practice counting “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, pass”  to know just how long it takes to clear the ball out of the crease.
•    Have a game plan for end line and side-line clears as well.
•    Make sure everyone is in their places. Clearing is a team game.



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