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  • ReLaxing Luke

3 Steps to Winning Defensive 1v1s (Longpoles)

Scott Ratliff is one of the best defensive players in the world...

Recently, I wrote about winning offensive 1v1s. That article taught attackmen the proper strategy to win 1v1s. It wasn’t fair to give attackmen ammunition without giving back to the defense. Hence this article. Here, I will go step-by-step on how to win defensive 1v1s with a long pole. I will release a separate article for SSDMs (Short Stick Defensive Midfielder).

As a long pole, 1v1s are my favorite part of playing defense. It’s you and the ball carrier. You get the honor of facing him. As a defenseman, you should take it personally when the ball carrier dodges at you. He chose you because he thinks he’ll beat you. YOU! How dare he? You need to be angry. And you must relish the opportunity to single handedly dominate your opponent. This is the mindset required to win 1v1s. Mindset is just as important as technique.

That said, fury isn’t enough. You need proper technique. Luke Skywalker had the heart to fight Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back; however, Luke doesn’t defeat Vader until he refines his craft.

Step 1: Defensive Stance, Stick Out

An attackman can initiate a 1v1 anywhere on the field. Experience helps, but you’ll have a gut feeling when a 1v1 scenario occurs. The attackman makes room. He caught the ball while moving. He has happy feet. He’s twirling his stick around. These are giveaways the ball carrier is about to charge you. For my example, you and the ball carrier will be at X (behind the net).

While the attackman is making space, you must, if not already, get into defensive position. Your knees are bent, your stick is out in front, and you’re taking away a side. Taking away a side is when you position yourself so the ball carrier is forced a certain direction. If you’re a lefty, angle yourself so the ball carrier goes to your right. If you’re a righty, angle yourself so the ball carrier dodges to your left.

Whatever you do, don’t stand straight at him. This makes it easier to dodge. Instead of having one option, the attackman now has two. This is why you must take away a side! Move him to the side you’re most comfortable with him being. Now you are in proper defensive position with your stick out in front. What next? Step two.

Step 2: Moving Feet, Attack When in Range

Now that step one is complete, you are ready for step two. A big reason young defensemen get beat is their feet were flat. While waiting for the dodger, your feet should be moving. Do chop steps in place. Don’t have flat feet! You will lose!

When the attackman runs at you, begin backing up. You have to give some ground. While backing up, once in range of your pole, poke check him. Do this before he initiates his dodge. By doing this, you throw him off. A plethora of young poles play passively. They let the ball carrier make the first move. This puts them at a disadvantage. They react to him instead of the attackman reacting to them.

By throwing a poke check, you are on the offensive. If he’s doing a split dodge, you may disarm him. Make sure you throw the poke check at his stick or bottom hand.

If you’re really good, you can throw the poke check between his bottom and top hand. Then, attack his bottom hand until he lets go. Finally, lift check until his top arm is completely raised. Continue doing so until the ball drops. This is the quickest way to strip a dodger during 1v1s.

Unfortunately, most attackmen won’t allow the above to happen. After giving ground and throwing a poke check, you are ready for step three.

Step 3: Don’t Let Man go Topside, Force Pass or T/O to Win

I placed our example at X because it’s easier to explain topside. Topside is the ideal angle for the ball carrier. It leads to the heart of the defense and sets up easy shots for offensive personnel. You cannot let your man get topside.

At X, topside is allowing your man to get past GLE (Goal Line Extended) and wrap around goal. You can’t let him beat you past GLE.

Assuming you followed steps one and two, your man should be heading the direction you forced him. To stop him from getting topside, pivot your back foot in front of him. Then, shove him back. Continue this until he passes the ball. Congratulations, you won the 1v1. If you make the ball carrier throw a pass, you win.

There’s more complexity than what I just wrote, but that’s step three in a nutshell. I’ll go into specifics for the more advanced player.

While forcing the attackman one way, keep your hands on him. Remember, one hand is on the butt of the stick while the other is higher. Don’t hit him with the open part of your stick. You will be called for a cross-check. To get around this, punch him with your bottom hand. You should be punching his hip. Specifically, the hip that is closer to topside.

When you shove your man, make sure you close space quickly. The attackman needs space to make something happen. You cannot oblige him. Footwork is what wins defensive 1v1s, but you should be throwing checks at opportune times. If he’s hanging his stick, hack it. Push him back, hack down on his bottom hand, and close the gap. One check you SHOULD NOT throw is the trail check. By throwing a trail check, you are surrendering your position. If you’re winning the 1v1, there’s no point in sacrificing your advantage. If you throw a trail check, any attackman worth his salt will pull his stick in and run around you for a goal.

Lots of young players throw trail checks when beaten. Don’t do this. Coach Bill Wilson, Air Force lacrosse head coach, taught me that when beat, it’s better to hustle back and get side-to-side with your man. Shove and disrupt him. By then, your teammate should slide or you’ll have regained positioning. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it’s this: DON’T TRAIL CHECK!


By following these steps, you are extremely prepared for any 1v1 situation you face. If you continue struggling, it may be a physical issue. To be an elite defenseman, you need footwork and speed. If you’re slow and trip over yourself, no technique will save you against good attackmen. I truly hope this article helps you improve.

Was this article helpful? Learn anything? Did I forget anything? Whatever your thoughts, connect with me on Twitter or Instagram so I may read them. Also, you can subscribe to my website and comment directly onto this article. You’ll then be notified every time I publish a new article. Any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading!

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