Lacrosse coaches frequently use the term ‘slide‘ when talking defensive strategy. It is difficult for novice lacrosse players to grasp defensive concepts if they do not know the meaning of this one single word. For this reason, I created this article to clear the air and teach you all the essentials about defensive sliding.
The lacrosse term ‘slide‘ refers to the physical shift of a defensive player to provide support to a teammate that has been beat. For this to happen, the player must leave their initial defensive assignment behind to stop the immediate threat of the uncontested man with the ball.
Although this defensive rotation seems simple on paper, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs smoothly. All of these peculiar facets of the defensive slide are addressed later in the article. Keep reading to learn about the importance of the slide to defensive strategy and the reasoning behind this basic lacrosse concept.
The Meaning of Slide in Lacrosse
To put it in simple terms, the lacrosse slide is synonymous with a ‘defensive shift.’ It is the second line of defense that prevents the ball carrier from having an uncontested path to the goal.
There are a few different classifications of defensive slides in the lacrosse world. These slides are outlined in the list below.
- 1 Slide / Hot Slide – The primary shift of a defensive player onto the ball carrier to prevent them from having a free shot at the goal. The defensive player must leave their initial assignment behind to stop the ball carrier.
- 2 Slide – The secondary shift of a defensive player onto the man left behind by the primary shift.
- 3 Slide – The tertiary shift of a defensive player onto the man left by the secondary shift. This tertiary shift leaves the player farthest away from the play open since they are the least likely to make a play on the ball.
The descriptions listed above are the technical definitions of the different types of slides. Often times, lacrosse coaches simply refer to the hot slide as simply ‘the slide’ when addressing the team. They also refer to the 2 slide and the 3 slide as ‘2’ and ‘3’ because it is easier to communicate to players on the field.
So if your coach is explaining something about sliding, they are most likely talking about the initial slide to the ball. It is standard for lacrosse coaches to use the phrase ‘slide packages‘ to describe the series of slides that take place when an offensive player dodges. The details on the types of slides involved with these so called ‘slide packages’ is discussed in the latter portion of the article.
The Reasoning Behind Defensive Sliding
Offensive players regularly beat defenders in one-on-one matchups, but they do not score a goal every single time they beat their defender. The central reason for this is the slide.
Defensive schemes prepare for this exact situation each and every time an offensive player touches the ball. Once an offensive player dodges past their initial defender, another defender should always be prepared to take his place (in theory). The action of this secondary defender stopping the ball and providing support to the primary defender that has been beat is called a slide.
In the absence of a proper slide, the man with the ball would have a free path to the goal. A free path to the goal results in a one-on-one situation with the goalie. These types of situations put a lot of pressure on the goalie and almost never work out in favor of the defense. If you are curious as to the most likely outcome of these situations, just take a look down below.
The defensive slide wards off the impending danger and buys time for the defense to recover. This additional time is extremely valuable. It allows the initial defender that was beat to get back into the action and find a man to guard.
Essentially, the point of the slide is pressure the man with the ball just enough to allow the defense to get back to full strength.
So when your lacrosse coach uses the term ‘slide’ while addressing the team, just mentally think to yourself ‘defensive shift’ for simplification purposes. This will make learning defensive lacrosse concepts much easier to learn down the road.
Importance of Sliding to Defensive Strategy
All man to man defensive strategies are founded on the concept of the slide. I will even go as far to say that it the backbone of man to man defense.
The primary slide is what initiates the rotation of the entire defense. Once the primary slide goes, there is a cascade of other defensive slides that occur. Most notably, the 2 slide and the 3 slide that we defined earlier.
Theoretically, this series of defensive shifts results in all of the nearby offensive threats being covered. If the defensive rotations is performed properly, the only offensive player that should be open is the one that is farthest from the play.
Thus, the entire defensive rotation hinges on the primary slide. For this reason, the timing of the primary slide must be precisely calculated. If the slide is too late, the opposing ball carrier will have a free shot at the goal. If the slide is too early, the ball carrier can simply pass the ball to the open man that the defensive player just slid from.
Certain lacrosse teams elect to slide early or slide late on purpose to exploit the weaknesses of opposing offenses.
The Implications of Deliberately Sliding Early
For instance, defenses may resolve to slide early on the most dangerous offensive threat every time they dodge. If they know that the dodger is likely to get by the initial defender, it is more favorable for the defense to slide early than late.
This way, the defense can double team their most skilled player, pressure him to give up the ball, and force another offensive opponent to make a play. Many lacrosse coaches like to implement this defensive strategy because it takes the ball out of the best player’s hands.
The Implications of Deliberately Sliding Late
On the other end of the spectrum, certain defenses may choose to slide late if on ball defense is one of their strong suits. On ball defenders may bait ineffectual players into dodging towards certain parts of the field. Once these offensive players reach the point of no return, a late slide could come and force a turnover. This is especially useful on players that do not have the best stick protection in the world.
These are just a few examples of how sliding can influence how a team molds their defensive strategy. It provides defenses with a plethora of options as to how to optimize their defensive tactics for their upcoming opponent.
Examples of Different Types of Defensive Slide Packages
As aforementioned, the different types of defensive sliding techniques are frequently referred to as “slide packages” by lacrosse coaches. The assortment of slides associated with these slide packages are essential to how defenses operate. The most prominent of these slide packages are explained in detail in the subsequent paragraphs.
The crease slide is the standard slide package to use when the offense sets up a man on the crease and dodges from above the goal.
The crease man is in the most opportune place to slide in this kind of offensive situation. When an offensive player dodges past their defender, their overarching mission is to score. To maximize their scoring chances, they sprint toward the goal. The crease defender only needs to take a few steps before obstructing their path completely.
The purpose of the crease slide is to make the ball carrier do one of three things: shoot a contested shot, force a tough pass to the crease, or back out and reset. All of these options work in favor of the defense.
When sliding from the crease, it is extremely important that the slide man is replaced with another defenseman. Otherwise, the offensive player on the crease will be left wide open. If the offensive player on the crease gets the ball uncontested, they will be an even worse threat than the initial ball carrier.
Proper communication is key prior to the initial dodge. Not only does the primary slide need to be prepared, but the 2 slide should be prepared as well.
The adjacent slide is the standard slide package to use when the offense does not have a man on the crease and dodges from above the goal.
In this type of structure, no defensive player is able to slide from the crease because there is no one stationed there. For this reason, sliding from the crease is not an option when the opposing offensive dodges to the goal.
The defensive player in the most favorable position to provide defensive support is the player that lies adjacent to the ball, hence the term “adjacent” sliding.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Well aren’t there technically two adjacent defenders anytime an offensive player has the ball?”
It is a good question because there are two defenders that lie adjacent to the ball. Typically, the adjacent defender that is positioned closer to the goal is the one that slides in this type of slide package. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. Adequate communication is crucial to ensure there is no potential confusion as to which defender should slide.
Dodges from behind the goal are a bit trickier than dodges from up top. For this reason, there is a specialized slide package designed specifically for dodges in this area of the field.
The coma slide is the go to slide package for dodges originating from behind the goal.
As far as the origins for the actual name of the ‘coma’ slide, there are multiple explanations. In my personal opinion, the best explanation that I have heard is that coma is a short abbreviation for COMe Across. Other lacrosse enthusiasts have jokingly referenced that the coma slide is so called because it leaves the offensive player in a coma.
Whichever explanation you choose, there is no denying that the coma slide is an effective means to stall dodges from behind the goal. In this type of slide package, the player in the most opportune location to slide is positioned on the opposite side of the goal from where the offensive player dodges to.
When an offensive attacker dodges from behind, it is common for a teammate to mirror the ball carrier on the opposite side of the goal. The defenseman guarding this player is usually the one that slides.
I provided a textbook example of how a coma slide should be executed below:
Which Player Is Supposed to Slide?
It may be tempting to designate one player exclusively to be the slide man in a defensive setup. Although this may seem like a good plan on paper, it may not be the most effective means of dealing with attacking dodgers.
It is far more beneficial for defenses to constantly adapt who the slide man as the ball moves and the offensive setup changes. Offenses are always trying to mask their schemes and confuse defenses with movement. Their intention is to leave the defense in as precarious of a situation as possible when the dodge does finally come.
Rather than designating a slide man, it is better to communicate with the defense and change the slide man to fit the circumstances. This is why defensive coaches invented the term ‘hot’ to keep the defense on the same page.
At the core of it, the lacrosse term ‘hot’ refers to which player is in the most advantageous position to slide if the offensive player dodges past their initial defender. Check out my article What Does Hot Mean in Lacrosse if you want to read more into the fundamental defensive meaning behind the term ‘hot.’
This communication always deems the defensive player in the most prime location to provide defensive support as the slide man. This shortens the slide and ultimately results in better team defensive recovery.
So in summary, any defensive lacrosse player could potentially be the slide man! If they are in the best spot to provide help, they should be the ones sliding.
Do Defenses Always Have to Slide?
Defenses do not have to slide every time there is a dodge. In fact, they shouldn’t.
If the defense slid every time the offense dodged, there would be a lot of unnecessary rotation on the part of the defense. Any time the defense has to bustle around and switch assignments increases the likelihood of a defensive breakdown. All of this complex rotation and movement opens up cracks in the defense. This creates opportunities for the offense to find open players and attack vulnerable spots on the field.
This is the underlying reason why sliding should be used as a last resort only. The defense should remain with their assignments if the on ball defender doing his job.
Some of the most high caliber defenses rarely ever slide. You know why? They have no reason to. The on ball defense of these teams is so suffocating that offensive players have a futile time dodging past defenders and drawing additional help.
Offenses feed off of defensive movement because it creates time and room for their players to operate. Without time and room, virtually every offense will have a tough time putting the ball in the net.
How To Tell When a Slide Is Necessary
Sometimes, identifying whether the initial defender is beat is not so easy. It may look like the initial defender is in control of the situation, when in actuality the dodger is manipulating the situation to delay the slide and maintain the one-on-one situation.
Making the decision of whether to slide or not ultimately comes down to past experience and lacrosse IQ. If the offensive player has a clear step on a defender and is barreling toward the goal looking to score, this is an obvious situation that demands a slide.
On the other hand, if the defender seems to be putting good pressure on the dodger, but they are starting to creep closer and closer to the goal, sliding may or may not be necessary.
In these types of circumstances, the player that is designated as the ‘hot’ man must communicate with the goalie and the nearby defensemen to make a decision.
Many defenses label a specific area around their goal as the ‘danger zone’ to limit this confusion. If a dodger breaches this so called ‘danger zone,’ it warrants a slide regardless of whether the dodger looks closely guarded or not.
Keeping everyone on the same page is imperative to defensive success. This is why so many lacrosse teams implement this strategy. You cannot have the primary slide commit to the ball carrier without a 2 or a 3 slide to back them up. The defense needs to move as if they were on a string. When the primary slide commits, everyone has to commit or there will be consequences to pay.