Lacrosse IQ

Over the years playing sports and coaching lacrosse for over 30 years I have heard the term Lacrosse IQ.  Like many coaches, players and parents I am not sure if we all know what it means.  As with anything in life as you get older you experience many things and gather a knowledge base to refer too.  I have tried to put some lacrosse IQ references in this article so you can review them as a player, coach or parent which I hope helps you better understand the game.

People often speak of Lacrosse IQ but what exactly are they referring too?  The term often comes up when evaluating players and coaches on their knowledge of the intangible aspects of the game.  It is easy to judge the lacrosse skills that players possess; how hard they shoot, can they save the ball, can they clear the ball after a save, how accurate is their shot, can they pick up a ground ball the first time, in traffic, full speed, how fast they run, can they pass, can they catch, can they cover their man, can they throw good checks, etc. These are all critical skills in the development of a lacrosse player.  At some point coaches look for intangibles.

There is no magic pill: Lacrosse like anything else we do in life takes a lot of hard work.  I however have a better term for it…It’s called FUN! There is no magic pill that you can take to become proficient at every level of the game it take a lot of FUN! to improve your game.  Playing and watching lacrosse will help with what I call Lacrosse IQ or Lacrosse Smarts. Here are just a few of the intangible traits lacrosse players of all skill levels may or may not currently possess but can further develop  to improve and demonstrate their lacrosse IQ:

Off Ball Movement or Moving without the Ball:

  • Knowing how to move “off ball” to create space for teammates? This is what I call “One/One Thousand” when you cut to the cage towards the crease if you count to “One/One Thousand” if you don’t get the ball you need to vacate the area and create space
  • Off ball movement refers to how an offensive player moves when they do not possess the ball. Creating space and limiting your defenders’ ability to slide or double-team is an important and often overlooked skill.  This is one of the toughest things to coach players at any level.  Moving without the ball.  When your teammate is running toward you with the ball.  Cut through and bring your defender with you so he can’t double team your teammate.

Pushing the Pace or Transition:

  • Transition refers to the process of moving the ball from the defensive end of the field to the offensive side.  Odd man transition is usually referred to as a fast break; 4 on 3 players or 5 on 4 players. Even transition refers to a 4 on 4 or 5 on 5 or a “slow break” situation.  Many coaches teach their team to slow it down and settle in on offense on a slow break. Players with a high Lacrosse IQ and who are given the flexibility to think for themselves at a young age will recognize the situation or match-up and take advantage of an “even” transition offensive opportunity.  This is what I call finding the “Two on One” Lacrosse is a game of 2 on 1 if you really think about it.  When Clearing the ball you have an extra man to pass too and when you are on offense you are trying to find the “Two on One” by dodging and beating your man and passing to your teammate because his man had to cover you.  Basketball, Hockey and Soccer players understand this quickly.  Pushing the Pace means playing FAST or quickly between whistles.  If you know the ball is going to go out of bounds and the other team is going to get it.  Just sprint up-field and get ready to ride the other team and try and take it away to create a transition opportunity.

Ground Ball Hound:

  • Can the player contribute to his team’ success on ground balls even without picking up the ground ball?
  • Most players are taught the “man/ ball” team approach to ground balls. You will often see a player with a high IQ knock a ball to a teammate or into an open space where he will have a better chance of picking up a ground ball.  This hockey move is frequently mastered by players who may be considered undersized. These players are smart enough to avoid a physical mismatch but they are able to utilize their speed and agility to dominate on ground balls.


  • Do they know how to “hedge” on defense to assist a teammate without actually sliding?
  • Hedging is a skill in which a defensive player positions himself in such a way to force an opposing player (not his man) to think twice about dodging to the goal or making an aggressive offensive move.  A player hedging gives the appearance of sliding or doubling without actually leaving the man they are covering.  This subtle move is a signal to lacrosse coaches that the player knows what they are doing.

    Move the ball off a ground ball or GB2:

  • I have a rule with my High School and Coyote teams.  When you pick up a ground ball (especially in the offensive end of the field) you should move the ball twice off that ground ball.   So when I pick up the ball I hope I have two teammates within 10-15 yards away from me (or adjacent) so I can pass them the ball.  We do this because when the ball is on the ground everyone is looking at the ball.   By moving the ball twice the defense has to adjust.  Just think how quickly you can play the game and create transition opportunities just by picking up a ground ball and passing it to a teammate right away and in turn they pass it to another teammate.  You will create many “Two on ones” if you can master this simple rule.

Do they recognize game situations:

  • Picture a situation where your team has a lead, time is winding down, your team is in the middle of a substitution and your team was just awarded the ball following a shot or following the ball going out of bounds.  A player with a low lacrosse IQ might hurry and pick up the ball, step on the field and allow the referee to start play with a quick whistle. The high IQ player might walk to the ball, adjust his gloves, tie his shoe; all legal moves which will allow his team to complete their substitution, catch their breath and prepare to clear the ball.  A low lacrosse IQ player will force the situation on offense and make a risky move when his team has a lead and when they are killing the clock.  High lacrosse IQ goalies will draw goalie interference calls and take advantage of the time the rules allow for him to return to the goal following a shot (5 Seconds), trying to score a goal with a minute left and your team is up by a goal.  You should just possess the ball, one more goal for your team does not matter but having the other team make a save and start a fast break could allow that team to tie the game and then win it.

There are many other Lacrosse IQ moments but these are just a few that will help you gain more lacrosse smarts and hopefully improve your game.  Watch as many games as you can and ask yourself what would I do in that situation.


See ya on the field!


Coach Lou