How to Play on the Crease in Lacrosse
Only certain types of lacrosse players can truly excel while playing on the crease. Most players that spend the majority of their time around the cage aren’t extremely skilled runners or dodgers. However, a creaseman who knows what he’s doing can often be the most dangerous offensive player on the field — and one that the defense must account for at all times.
Crafty players are normally very successful scorers in the crease, but a good crease player has to be willing to play off of the other players on the field. A certain degree of humbleness is necessary, but the creaseman can be a major offensive force with the right attitude and intellect around the goal.
A great creaseman trusts that his teammates will get him the ball in a good spot and at the right time. Since crease players don’t drive to the goal with the ball, they have to learn to position themselves around the goal, capitalize on their teammates’ play, catch feeds, and score goals.
Hot Tip: Read the Feeder
Practicing one-on-one drills is a great opportunity to develop chemistry with your team’s feeders. One-on-one situations normally call for an offensive player to drive past his defender and to the goal by himself. This situation can be modified for crease work by including an offensive and defensive player on the crease.
The defensive player should slide from the crease when the dodging offensive player has clearly beaten his defender. This leaves the offensive player alone on the crease waiting for the feed. When the dodger sees the slide coming, he should pass to the crease man for an easy catch and finish in front of the cage.
A big part of positioning yourself in the perfect spot has to do with team chemistry – teammates that work well with one another tend to move the ball around with ease. Just a subtle glance can be enough of a signal between you and a ball carrier to set up a move and goal-scoring opportunity.
During a game, you have to trust that your teammates know when and where to get you the ball. They aren’t always going to hit you when you’re open, which can be frustrating, but you have to trust that your teammates are trying their best to help the team win.
Hot Feet, Cool Hands
Not moving your feet is the cardinal sin for playing on the crease. You can easily ruin a perfect scoring chance by standing still and waiting for a pass to get to your stick. However, many crease players are guilty of committing another deal-breaker: They stiffen up their hands and body as they wait for the pass. Improper body positioning around the crease almost always results in the ball bouncing off the head of the stick. To boot, most crease players normally absorb massive hits as they search for the ball.
As soon as the ball leaves the passer’s stick, you should be moving your feet towards the ball. Don’t wait for the ball to get to you. In general, most openings around the crease are created when a defender slides to the ball and leaves a player unguarded. Fill the void created by his slide as you move to receive the pass.
Once you’ve moved to the ball and are ready to catch it, do your best to relax your upper body – especially your hands. Keep your elbows bent and the head of your stick next to your helmet. If the pass is inaccurate, you’ll have to move your hands to reach for the ball. Exhale as the ball is about to enter your stick; taking calm, controlled breaths should make you more relaxed.
Finishing the Job
Now that the hard part of getting open and catching the ball is out of the way, it’s time to get the ball into the cage. This seems like an easy task from so close to the goal, but some players still shoot themselves in the foot with poor habits. Here are some tips for making the most of your scoring opportunities by the crease:
- First and foremost, you should be relaxed when preparing to shoot from in front of the cage. Tensing up and ripping a sidearm crank shot is going to end disastrously.
- Once you catch the ball, calmly find the goal before you shoot. Look for an opening in the goal and decide where you need to place your shot.
- Once you’ve turned your head and body towards the goal, prepare to shoot. Don’t over think it when the pass comes your way: Be relaxed, find your spot, and release the ball.
- Pick your spot on the cage — preferably one of the corners — and take an accurate and controlled shot.
Accuracy is your number one priority when finishing around the goal. Nothing is more embarrassing than ripping a shot as hard as you can and having it nail he goalie right in the chest. Or worse yet, having your shot miss the goal entirely from three yards out.
Being the Creaseman
If you’re the primary creaseman for your team, do your best to be a threat every second that you’re on the field. Don’t forget your footwork, because it’s the key to racking up goals inside. Trust your teammates to get you the ball in good spots, and don’t get too frustrated if they occasionally miss you. Remember, you’re the most dangerous offensive player on the field when you’re on the crease, so make the defense respect you.