Lacrosse Goalie Slang and Terminology

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What are the lacrosse goalie terms that you use on the field?

When you’re in the heat of the match, there’s no time for a long conversation. Communication must be short, compact, and easily understood by all members of the defensive team.

In a perfect world, we could stop time and have a friendly chat with our D-man. “Excuse me, Pete, you’re playing pretty solid defense at the moment. But that man you’re defending is within scoring range, and I’d like you to get a little tighter on him and lockup his hands to prevent a shot. Okay, great talk. See you out there!”

But lacrosse doesn’t work that way. It’s a fast pace game, and in time, a defensive unit needs a clear set of defensive terms that everyone on the team knows with zero doubt.

You don’t need to apply these exact terms, but everyone on the team must use the same term.

Here are the suggested lacrosse goalie terms that you can introduce in your defense and perhaps even your whole team.

As a goalie and leader of the defense, you will essentially be giving these instructions, so you must know what these calls mean and when to use them.

If your team is already using another term, do not switch. For instance, if your call is “clear” instead of “break” after a saved shot, that’s fine. Just keep on using “clear” so as not to confuse your team.

The great thing is that you have a defensive term for each one of these situations. The various names are broken out in categories depending on when you might use them in the game.

Ball Position

As a goalie, you will call out the ball’s position always so your defensive unit knows precisely where it is.

  • X – The ball is behind the goal at “X”
  • BACK LEFT – The ball is behind the net, left side
  • BACK RIGHT – The ball is behind the net, right side
  • SIDE LEFT – The ball is on the left side of the field
  • SIDE RIGHT – The ball is on the right side of the field
  • TOP RIGHT – Ball is on top right
  • TOP LEFT – The ball is on the top left
  • TOP CENTER – Ball is top center

Defender On The Ball

These terms will be used for defenders watching the man with the ball. As a goalie, you must talk to the on-ball defender to help him keep a good position and remind him how to play solid defense.

  • HOLD – This command is used when you do not want the attackman to push any closer to the goal. The defender should tackle and not allow his player to freely advance closer to the goal. When a player becomes a shooting threat, we’ll shout HOLD to limit his advance.
  • TURN – This directs the defensive player on the ball to turn his opponent in the opposite direction. Frequently used when an attackman runs from X, and you want your long pole to turn the attacker back inside into the oncoming slide.
  • POKE – This lets the D-man know he should be poking or checking the player with the ball to avoid easy assistance.
  • PIPE – When a player runs from X, Back Left, or Back Right, you’ll shout PIPE to indicate that your defender has reached the goal line extended (GLE). Yell this just a step before GLE so that by the time the defender treats the call, he’s at the PIPE. This is a crucial call since it informs the D man to turn his player.
  • LIFT – Defensive warning to get your stick under the attacker’s hands or stick and LIFT to disrupt the shooting or passing motion.
  • SHIFT LEFT – The player defending the ball is out of position a little and should SHIFT.
  • SHIFT RIGHT – Same as above, but in the opposite direction.
  • ISLAND – Let’s a defender acknowledge he has NO slide help. Hopefully, this is an irregularity. This term is also a note to off-ball defenders to set up the slide.
  • YOU’RE GOOD – Let’s defender know his positioning is ideal, and no adjustments are required. Just keep on playing solid defense.

Defenders Off The Ball 

  • CLEAR – A save has just been made, and it’s time to commence the clear. Each member of the defense should separate from an open spot on the field.
  • SHOT – Most of the time, defenders do not have an eye on the ball while playing defensive. The goalie shouts “SHOT” when an attackman shoots to indicate that a shot has been taken.
  • CHECK – An offensive pass just penetrated the crease, and defensive players should check their opponent’s sticks. This should be the loudest command you to make because it means a crucial feed is coming into the crease and must be stopped.
  • FIRE or SLIDE – This means that the on-ball defender is beat and the team must slide. This call must also be given loud and with urgency.
  • SAG IN – The defensive block is too expanded and should SAG IN a little closer to the goal to not get overexpanded.
  • STICKS UP – Warning for D units to keep their sticks in the passing lanes, especially on man down.
  • CUTTER or CUTTER 34 – Alerts your team that the offensive side is assigning a cutter, and the player with the ball is looking to feed. You can also add a jersey number to this call for more information.

General Communication

  • NUMBER UP – Each player should locate the man they’re guarding.
  • BALL DOWN – Let the team know that the ball is on the loose.
  • RELEASE – Let the team know that you’ve picked up the loose ball, and no more hits should occur.
  • MIDDIES GET BACK – Command to defensive middies to sprint back to the defensive end to help out on D.
  • MAN COMING IN – Let the team know that a new offensive player is entering from the box.
  • HERE’S YOUR HELP – This call is used while on a clear. When a defender picks up a loose ball, and you need him to pass it back to the goalie, we’ll let him know HERE’S YOUR HELP.
  • GILMAN – Use this when you want your team to perform a GILMAN clear, i.e., short time on the clock, man down, and in a struggle during the clear. This is also used when the other team is doing a GILMAN clear. In this situation, the defenseman should be near their attackman to deny them from getting the loose ball.
  • ROTATE – When you are using a rotation defense, this call tells the team to execute the ROTATE slide.
  • SHOOTER 24 – If your scouting call shows that #24 is their shooter, you should yell SHOOTER #[jersey number] to remind the team. The SHOOTER call should let the #1 slide knows that he needs to go earlier.
  • FEEDER 24 – Similarly, if your scouting call shows that #24 is a feeder, you can yell FEEDER when he has the ball. This lets your team know when to be ready for the feed and slide a little later than usual.
  • PICK LEFT / PICK RIGHT / PICK BEHIND – If the offense is applying screens or picks, you need to call those out so the defender knows how to play them. Call PICK LEFT / PICK RIGHT, or PICK BEHIND anytime you see a pick structure.
  • TALK D – The goalie should not be the only one communicating. For excellent defensive communication, everyone should be talking or acknowledging. If you see your defense is quiet, yell TALK D to evoke them to be vocal.
  • SCREEN – The defenseman in the crease is screening you and needs to move out of the way.
  • FAST BREAK – This informs the defense that the offense has a fast break developing, and they should set up in a triangle to stop the four on 3.


The goalie must ensure the slides are correctly set up.

  • WHO’S HOT? – If you don’t know who the slide is, shout, “WHO’S HOT.” If you know who’s hot, and he isn’t calling out, “I’m hot,” then you can shout, “Jason, you’re hot.” The defender with the #1 slide duty should yell I’M HOT to let the team know he’ll be the slide.
  • WHO’s 2? – Same idea as before but for the 2nd slide. The defender should shout I’m 2 to let the team know the 2nd slide is covered.

Offensive Formation 

  • They’re in 2-2-2! They’re in 1-3-2! They’re in 2-3-1! – The goalie should identify what offensive formation the offense is using and call it out to the team. When the offense changes their formation during a possession, you should also shout out the new formation.

Other Terminologies

  • GET TO THE HOLE – Whenever there’s a broken clear or play, you would want your D to make sure they get to the top side of the crease first and then number up from there. Remember that you always play defense from the inside out.
  • WHO’S GOT POINT ON BREAK? or WHO’S GOT 2? – When the ball is on the other end of the field, always ensure your defensemen know where they’re going if a fast break happens.
  • HOLD or GO for fast breaks – On a fastbreak – a “hold” or a “go” call for the point man – sometimes you need/want that point man on the break to go sooner or later. “Hold,” orders him to let the guy leading the break come to him before he plays him, usually a shooter who isn’t a threat. “Go,” orders him to force a play earlier.
  • UP AND OVER – On a clear, let a teammate on one side of the field acknowledge he has someone open on the far side of the field. When they’ve got somebody on their hands, it can be challenging to see it.
  • MAN ON – When a teammate has a defender/rider tracking that they may or may not be aware of.
  • MIDDIE BACK – When one of your poles has the ball and is heading for the midfield line. It lets the team acknowledge a middie must stay on the defensive half to avoid going offside.
  • SHUT OFF – Imagine the other team has the ball in the stick of a poor shooter or poor passer on offense or just when clearing. You want your D to reach on their guys and shut them off to put more pressure on the shaky player. It can be tough to get this one working with a young D, but college and up…they should know what you’re doing. It is a great call when a long pole who doesn’t want to shoot comes across midfield with the ball.
  • RESET – After something dynamic has happened, like a slide or a contested ground ball or a failed clear, and the defense has chased for a shot possession, but they’re out of position. Making this call advises the defense to hurry up and be ready to stop the next attack.
  • STILL GOT IT – More and more in today’s game, we’re seeing men’s players make big fakes to try and trick the defense. STILL GOT IT – exactly means that the player still has the ball.

Other Useful Terminologies

  • Attack area – The zone of the lacrosse field with the opponent’s goal.
  • Attacker – Offensive player who is responsible for scoring goals.
  • Clear – When the defense gets the ball and tries to get the ball into their offensive zone on the lacrosse field.
  • Crease – A circle around the lacrosse goal that is the goalie’s area. Only the goalie and defensive players can enter the crease, and only the goalie can handle the ball while in the crease.
  • Cross-check – When an opponent has the ball or is within five yards of the ball, a player can body check them. A body check must make contact from the player’s front and between the waist and the shoulders. There is also a stick check where you may hit the player on the stick or gloves to knock the ball away or keep a player from getting the ball.
  • Crosse – A name for the lacrosse stick.
  • Defender – A defensive player. There must always be at least four defensive players on the defensive side of the lacrosse field.
  • Defensive Area – The side of the lacrosse field where the goal you are defending resides.
  • Face-off – To start play, the ball is placed on the ground between two players. When the referee blows the whistle, each player tries to gain control of the ball.
  • Goal – 6 foot by 6-foot poles with a net or a point scored when the ball enters the net.
  • Goalkeeper – Player that resides in the crease (see crease) and protects the goal.
  • Fast break – When the offense quickly moves the ball such that they have a player advantage at the offensive end.
  • Man-up Man-Down (power play) – In lacrosse, when a player commits a foul, they may receive penalty time. During this time, their team will have to play with one less player creating a power play or Man-up for the other team and a Man-down for their team.
  • Midfielder – The lacrosse player responsible for transitioning between defense and offense. They play the entire field.
  • Offsides – A lacrosse penalty when one team has more than six players on one half of the field.
  • Ride – When the offense tries to stop the defense from clearing the ball. See clear.
  • Settled – A playing situation where all the lacrosse players are in their proper positions. Usually means they had time to set up.
  • Slashing – Hitting another player with the lacrosse stick on an area other than their stick or gloves.
  • Stick – The stick with a net on end is used to catch, throw, shoot, and carry the ball.
  • Transition – Moving the ball from the defensive side of the lacrosse field to the offensive side.
  • Unsettled – A playing situation where some lacrosse players are out of position or not set up, often giving an advantage to the offense.
  • Wing area – Area in the middle of the lacrosse field between the attack zone and the defensive zone.
  • X – The area behind the goal.

Tips for an Effective Communication

Goalies need to be loud but not always shouting. Your voice pitch should vary depending on the situation.

If a shooter is heading towards the goalie or a feed is made to the crease, the pitch should be very excited and higher. Whereas calling out the ball position is less critical and can be more relaxed.

Save your voice for the most intense moments. Your rhythm should be clear and concise but not dull or monotone.

Use Names – People react better to their name. So use names or nicknames when you’re making a call at a particular player, even when a goalie on a new team will ask for the long pole’s names and commit them to memory for use during the game.

Ask your teammates if they can hear and understand you from the sideline when you’re yelling the defensive terms. Produce a strong voice. If your teammates can’t listen to you or your voice lacks conviction, you need to work on it. Developing your voice is a skill you can learn, just like proper goaltending.

Even if you’re a young goalie whose voice hasn’t lost, yet you can still be loud and clear with your calls.

Final Thoughts

As a goalie, you are the quarterback of the defense line. Your voice is a powerful tool in giving the information that a defender needs to help improve the team’s overall defense.

Learn and put in practice these lacrosse goalie terms, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a field general and championship-caliber goalie.

If you’re a coach, it is recommended to print out this list and review it with your team during practice. That way, everyone is speaking the same language during a game.

Click on this link to see the “Reaction and readiness training drills for lacrosse goalies”.

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