lacrosse numbers advantage unsettled situations

“Numbers Game” Man-Up/Man-Down Practice Drill

This is one of our all-time favorite games to play at any practice! Use this drill with youth teams all the way up to college to teach players to read and respond to unsettled and transition situations. It works on ground balls, stick skills, ball movement, defensive rotations and communication, everything!

"Unsettled situations" happen hundreds of times in every lacrosse game, especially with youth and beginning players. Any time someone drops the ball, misses a pass, or gets his stick checked, an unsettled situation is the result. A second ago your team had the ball and you were Clearing. Suddenly the other team has the ball and your guys are out of position. Or one of your players picks off a pass from the other team and you have a 4-on-3 Fast Break or 5-on-4 Slow Break for example.

If you watch tons of lacrosse games in the stands and on TV like we do, you will hear big-time college and high school coaches calling out "Numbers!" or "Push the Break!" at times when their team gets the ball unexpectedly. Any time your team has more players than the other team in one part of the field, you have the "numbers advantage" in that particular time and place. This is the time to go to the goal!

It's easier to score goals with a numbers advantage than it is in settled 6-on-6 situations. Use the Numbers Game to give your players lots of reps and experience with all kinds of different man-up and man-down scenarios in practice so they know how to respond when they see the exact same plays on game days!


Split up your players into two teams, one for Offense and one for Defense. Put a goalie in the goal.

You can start this game from the midfield line, sideline or end line.

Put your Attack on Offense and your Defenders on Defense. Or you could mix all your players together so everybody gets the chance to play both sides of the ball. This is how you develop well-rounded athletes!

numbers man down unsettled situation lacrosse practice drill

Figure 1.) Coach will throw out a loose ball and call a random number, "2!" through "6!". In this case Coach calls "3!". The first three players from the attacking team (Blue) will go for the loose ball.

The Defense is always Man-Down in this game. Since Coach called "3!" the Defense will send one less. The first two players from the Defending team (Red) will drop into the "hole" to play defense "from inside-out".

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  • Make it competitive! Try to Time your drills and Keep Score in all your practice games.
  • Keep 'em guessing: Mix up the numbers so your players are paying attention. All your players need to know which number they are in line so they know to go or not depending on the number you call.
  • Call out "2" through "4" for beginners. Give them less complicated situations to start with. Call out more "4's", "5's" and "6's" for more experienced players, high school and college teams.
  • Send in an extra Defender after 5 or 10 seconds to make it even strength. These numbers-advantage situations don't last very long in games.
  • Keep the Offense spread out! Teach your players to keep "Space!" on Offense so one Defender can't cover two Attackers. Don't bunch up. Make it harder for the Defense to rotate to cover the ball.
  • Just slow them down on Defense. The more "Time!" your Defense can force the Attack to use creates more opportunity for the Offense to make a mistake, to throw the ball away, commit a penalty, more time for the rest of your Defenders to get back and help, etc.


Try this game at your next practice and let us know how it goes!