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Lacrosse Clearing: Why Does It Matter?

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Lacrosse Clearing: Why Does It Matter?

The clearing is one of the most significant elements of lacrosse, therefore it is very important that players would fully understand: what it actually means, how to run clears, and why it matters.

Whether you are a new lacrosse player trying to understand the basics, or just a sports fan wanting more information, read on to find out all about lacrosse clearing definition.

What Is Lacrosse Clearing?

In a nutshell, clearing means getting the ball from the defense to the offense as quickly as possible. It typically occurs when a goalie prevents a shot, and then clears the ball to a defender or midfielder, allowing the ball to move to the offensive side of the field.

There are two main types: a settled clear, and an unsettled clear.

Unsettled Clear

An unsettled clear offers a great opportunity and occurs when a member of the defence, usually the goalie, takes possession of the ball during live play, requiring the team to get it up the field and into the offensive half.

Settled Clear

A settled clear occurs when the ball changes possession from one team to the other, on their defensive half of the field, after a stoppage in play has occurred.
This could mean that the ball was picked up on the sideline after it went out of bounds or on the end line. In this case, the clear cannot legally begin until the referee has blown the whistle.

In many cases, players will be able to use the same clear for different scenarios - it is a good idea to practice each situation in drills, to ensure that you and the team are fully prepared for any eventuality.

Clears can increase the chance of a fast break which, again, can boost the chances of a successful goal.

Tips For Individuals

There are a few ways individual players can boost their chances of success when going for the clear:

Practice the basics

Getting a solid grip on the fundamentals is essential: practice catching and throwing with the stick to make sure you are ready to take on any opportunity.

Watch your spacing

It can be easy to lose track of spacing when you are on the field, but a successful clearing play relies on plenty of space - make sure you focus on this to avoid the risk of teams bunching up.

Practice footwork

It is hard to hit a moving target, and they are also tougher to guard. While a defenseman will need to hold their position, the other team members will need to be constantly on the move, keeping themselves open for a pass.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Always be aware of where the ball is, even as you are breaking out into position for the clear.

Remember, it could come from a teammate in any direction, so constant vigilance is critical.

Similarly, make sure you talk to your teammates - get used to calling out and communicating to help remind teammates to run the clear.

The Goalie

As the goalie, your first attempt to spot a clearing pass should be wherever the shot came from.
  • The player from the opposing team that shot on goal will usually be least prepared to play defense. You can take full advantage of this and sometimes start a fast break immediately.
  • In case that doesn't happen - you still have a few seconds before you have to get the ball from the crease via a pass or running it out. The crease can be a lifesaver here: riders cannot enter the zone, giving you a buffer and some breathing space.
  • There is one catch - once you leave the crease, you cannot return while you are in possession - this will automatically result in the other team being awarded possession.
  • You will also need to ensure that your team stays inside - there is a chance you will run far enough to cross the midline, so do not give away a free penalty through lack of concentration.
  • If your opponent is not guarding you, you can take the chance to set up an unsettled fast break from the midfield. In most cases, however, the aim is to get the ball to a teammate and get back in goal as soon as possible.


Defensemen need to always stay in their assigned spot - if the goalie knows where to look for you, they will not have to waste time finding you.

In many cases, however, defensemen can be a secret weapon - one of them will typically remain open in the early stages of the clear.

If you typically play as a defense, focus on stickwork and long passes to make sure you are ready for action in a match.


It is no secret that midfielders are amongst the toughest players on a team, and will typically be the power behind a clear, taking care of the majority of the running, planning and execution.


Attackmen have a steady balance to maintain: they should be ready to be in a position to score, and make themselves an active threat in this area, while also being in a position to ensure that the ball moves to the offensive side.

Stay topside when helping to advance the ball, and don’t be afraid to move to get the ball, making yourself fully available for the ball carrier to pass to you if required.

What About The Team?

As well as working individually, there are also a number of elements you need to work on as a team, to ensure that your clear results in a goal.

Always look for the fast break

As soon as the team gets the ball for the clear, players need to be breaking out, looking to receive a pass.

In case of an unsettled pass, or one which starts with the goalie - the first check for a free player should be to whoever is guarding the shooter.

Spread out

While the ball is on the defensive half of the field, you are vulnerable - a single slip could provide possession to the opponent's right in front of the goal.

To avoid this, advance the ball up the sides - if something goes wrong, there is time to regroup and regain position before the opposing team has an opportunity to score.

Keep an eye on the clock

You have just 20 seconds to get the ball on the right side of the field, and only another 10 to get the ball into the restraining box of the offense area.

This may seem very very quick, but try not to panic - keeping your head together as a team will allow you to make smart, focused decisions.

Play as a team

You will only win as a team if you play as a team - this involves:
  • clear communication;
  • working together with throws and passes, rather than individual runners;
  • making passes as easy as possible - clears are not the time to be a hero or pull off the most memorable game;
  • all in all - work with your team and make sure you have a real chance to win.

Catching clears on the run

Whether you are the goalie or a middie, knowing the right lacrosse drills can help to improve chances of success. One of the best options for a clearing drill is to practice catching a clear ball on the run, and this includes all members of the team, starting with the goalie.

One of the most effective lacrosse clearing drills involves lining defenders and middies up by the goalie.
  • Each player takes a turn to run toward the midfield line - the first runs to the right side and is fed the ball by the goalie, the second - runs to the right side, and is fed the ball by the goalie, and this is repeated with the third in line, and so on.
  • This is a fantastic clearing drill for practising catching clears on the run, and should be repeated regularly - you will be able to react almost instinctively in a game.
  • To build the practice once your players catch clears well, improve the drill by adding a player to ride the clearing player after they have caught the ball - this is one of the top lacrosse defensive strategies, so it is good to practice it ahead of the game.

In addition, defenders should practice cross-field passes - this will help them to clear the ball passing to an open teammate on the far side of the field. This is a key lacrosse clearing trick which can put the other team on the back foot.

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

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