If you have ever been to a lacrosse game, you may have observed that lacrosse players are constantly shouting “I’m hot! I’m hot!” People sitting in the stands that are unfamiliar with lacrosse are usually baffled by this.
Some of these people believe that the player just needs a nice, cool towel. Others believe that lacrosse players need to stop bragging about their looks on the field. Although we are handsome by nature, lacrosse players are yelling “I’m hot!” for a far different reason.
The term ‘hot’ in lacrosse refers to the defensive player that is the first to abandon his assigned man to stop the offensive player with the ball from having a free path to the goal. Once a defender is beat in a one-on-one situation, the ‘hot’ man must leave his assignment to be the second line of defense.
Although this defensive shift seems simple on paper, there are many subtle complexities that have to do with the ‘hot’ man in lacrosse. It is an essential concept to master since most of defensive strategy is founded on this basic defensive shift. The subsequent paragraphs will serve as a comprehensive guide to all of the little details concerning the concept of the ‘hot’ man in lacrosse.
Explanation of the Lacrosse Term ‘Hot’
The lacrosse term ‘hot’ is imperative to proper help defense. Defensive players will inevitably get beat in a one-on-one situation at some point. There needs to be another defensive player that steps up and takes care of the immediate offensive threat. This physical defensive shift of another player to provide support to a beat defender is called a slide.
If no other defenseman presents themselves as backup, the offensive player will be able to stroll right down broadway and score an easy goal. Obviously, no defense wants this to happen.
With all the bustle of offensive players deliberately cutting and switching places, it is easy for the defense to lose track of who exactly is in the most opportune position to provide defensive support. If the wrong defensive player abandons their assignment to provide support, this may open up an even better opportunity for the offense to exploit. For this reason, lacrosse players and coaches invented the term ‘hot.’
It prioritizes the immediate offensive threat above all else, even if it means leaving another offensive player open. It is much better to force a tough, contested pass than to allow your opponent a one-on-one opportunity with the goalie. The designation of the ‘hot’ man spurs a defensive player to action, even if they are reluctant to vacate their initial responsibility.
The player designated as the ‘hot’ man is entirely dependent on the defensive scheme that a lacrosse coach chooses to implement. The concept of the ‘hot’ man sets the foundation that man-to-man defense is built upon. The ‘hot’ man is not as relevant to zone defensive schemes since players are specifically assigned to their own distinct sections of the field.
Good lacrosse coaches instruct their players who the designated ‘hot’ man is in all of the miscellaneous game situations. Confusion as to who the ‘hot’ man almost always leads to defensive breakdowns. More defensive breakdowns equates to more goals let up.
Reasons Why Lacrosse Players Communicate This On Defense
Proper communication of who the ‘hot’ man is at all times is absolutely necessary to solid defense. As the offensive players move and switch places, the ‘hot’ man may change as well.
Offensive players can dodge and attack the goal at any given moment. Thus, the defense must know who the ‘hot’ man is at practically all times in order to properly slide. In the event that a defender gets beaten, the ‘hot’ man needs to be fully prepared to make the appropriate defensive shift.
Communication is the most effective means for the defense to work as a cohesive unit and keep the ‘hot’ man on red alert. This is why you hear the defense yelling “I’m hot!” every five seconds. Although it may seem a bit repetitive, it is absolutely vital for keeping everyone on the same page.
Typically, the goalie mans the helm when it comes to this defensive communication. If the ‘hot’ man is not communicating with the rest of the defense that they are the first slide, the goalie will almost certainly give them a piece of their mind.
After all, the goalie is the one that pays the price for the lack of defensive communication. Lacrosse goalies tend to wake up the following morning with extra bruises after one-on-one situations with opposing offenses.
Is There Always a ‘Hot’ Slide In Lacrosse?
Zone defenses are based around the premise of passing defensive responsibility from one player to another as the ball moves into different sections of the field. Each player is responsible for their own particular field area. Thus, the ‘hot’ slide is not as emphasized in this type of defensive scheme. Rather, the notion of ‘passing’ defensive responsibility serves as the foundation of defensive help in zone schemes.
In man to man defenses, there is always a designated ‘hot’ man. However, the designated ‘hot’ man does not necessarily have to slide every time there is a dodge.
When Does the ‘Hot’ Slide Actually Go?
The purpose of the ‘hot’ man is to support a defender who has been beaten. Say hypothetically a defender is closely guarding an offensive player and matching feet with them on their dodge. In this type of situation, there is no reason for the ‘hot’ man to slide. The defender is not in dire need of support.
There should only ever be a ‘hot’ slide when the man with the ball has an open, free shot at the goal. Otherwise, there should be no reason that the ‘hot’ man should slide unless specifically instructed to do so.
Lacrosse goalies should be talking to the ‘hot’ man throughout this entire process. When it comes time for the ‘hot’ man to actually slide, it is standard for the goalie to yell “Fire!” The term ‘fire’ means that the ‘hot’ man needs to abandon their defensive assignment right now and slide immediately.
The whole purpose behind sliding is to take care of the impending danger and buy time for the defense to recover. It should be avoided whenever necessary because it creates opportunities for the offense. It opens up other offensive players, granting them time and room to shoot, pass, or dodge to a more precarious position on the field.
The bottom line is that the ‘hot’ man should be designated at all times regardless of the situation. Having the lacrosse IQ of knowing when to slide versus when not to slide plays a key role in the effectiveness of a lacrosse defense.
Where Does the ‘Hot’ Slide Come From?
In man to man situations, where the ‘hot’ slide comes from is contingent on how the opposing offensive is setup and where the dodge originated.
Sliding from the Crease
For instance, if the offense has a man on the crease (the circle surrounding the lacrosse net), the ‘hot’ slide normally comes from the crease. Thus, this type of slide package is termed “sliding from the crease.” The defensive player situated on the crease is in the most opportune position to stop the ball. This is because the offensive player is sprinting toward the net to have a better opportunity to score.
The defensive player on the crease is able to meet this offensive player halfway and force them into making a decision. They can either shoot a contested shot, make a tough pass to the crease player, or back away and reset the play. In the end, all of these options result in a harder shot or more time for the defense to recover.
Another common offensive setup is the open set. In this type of offense, the crease is vacated and all of the offensive players lie on the outskirts of the offensive half. Since there is no defensive player manning the crease, the ‘hot’ slide must come from an adjacent defenseman. Thus, this type of slide package is coined “adjacent sliding.”
In an open set, there are two adjacent defensive players that could potentially be the ‘hot’ man. Which adjacent player should be designated as the ‘hot’ man must be communicated prior to the dodge. Effective communication is essential to prohibiting a potential defensive breakdown.
Related Defensive Terminology
I referred to a couple of these lacrosse terms in the article, but I thought I would write formal definitions for these key defensive calls.
- Slide – A defensive shift where a defensive player leaves their assignment to prevent an offensive player from having a clear shot at the goal.
- Fire – A defensive call that notifies the ‘hot’ man to desert their current assigned man to stop the ball.
- 2 – A defensive call that notifies the ‘hot’ man that another defensive player is ready to switch onto their assignment once they slide.