Clearing the ball means to get the ball from the defense or the goalie to up field past the midline. In-bounds clearing is when the goalie makes a save or the defense steals the ball and has to get it up field to the midfielders. Out-of-bounds clearing is when the offense throws the ball out of bounce and the goalie or a defenseman picks it up on the end line or the sideline.

Although similar clears can be used for both, it is important to practice out of each situation. The keys to emphasize when teaching clearing are to stay spread out, to always draw a man when carrying the ball, and then to dump it off. It is important for the defense to realize that they have an extra man when clearing the ball and that there should always be an open man.


For in-bounds clearing, the most effective clear to run is a 3-1-3. When the goalie makes a save and calls out break, both base defensemen (defensemen #1 and #2 for the sake of this discussion) banana cut along goal line extended. The banana cut means they run out towards the sideline. Instead of going straight to the sideline, they curve back behind the goal and arc back towards goal line extended. This keeps the defensemen from going too far up field right away. It also gives them time to look up field for riding attackmen when they catch the outlet pass from the goalie. The crease defenseman (defenseman #3) wants to break up field towards the midline opposite the substitution box. One midfielder (midfielder #1) breaks up field to the center of the midline. Another midfielder (midfielder #2) breaks towards the substitution box (high school and college teams have the long-stick midfielder break towards the box so they can substitute in a short-stick midfielder). Finally, the last midfielder (midfielder #3) breaks to the center of the restraining line.

In-Bounds Clear

In-Bounds Clear

The goalie’s first option is to look up field to the midfielders and defensemen breaking up to the midline. If the goalie can get the ball to one of these players, then there is a good chance for a fast break. However, if all these men are covered, then the goalie’s second option is to throw to midfielder #3 at the restraining line. If he is covered, then the goalie’s third option is to throw it to one of the defensemen on goal line extended. When this defenseman gets the ball, midfielder #3 cuts down towards the ball carrier on a 45-degree angle. If this midfielder is open the defenseman throws him the ball. The midfielder can then run with the ball and look to pass up field if he gets covered. This is obviously the best possible scenario.

Sometimes this man is going to be covered and the defenseman has to bring the ball up field. If the defense does have to bring the ball up field, then they should both stay even with the goalie. They simply draw a riding attackmen and pass it off to the uncovered man. This clear is called an inbounds 3-1-3 clear because there are three men along goal line extended, one man along the restraining line, and three men along the midline. This is really the only clear that a youth team needs to run for an in-bounds situation.

Out of Bounds Clear Step 1

Out of Bounds Clear Step 1

For out-of-bounds clearing, a 3-1-3 can also be used. The two defensemen are lined up along the end line with the goalie. Midfielder #3 is at the center of the restraining line. The other midfielders and the last defensemen are on the midline. Either a defenseman or the goalie starts with the ball along the end line. These three have to bring the ball up by drawing a man and dumping the ball off to one another. If one defenseman has the ball and the goalie is covered, then the defenseman is going to have to make a cross-field pass to the opposite defenseman. This is usually a good time to push the ball up field, as the attackmen have to shift all the way across. After a cross-field pass, the defense can clear it up field the same way as in the in-bounds clear.

Out of Bounds Clear Step 2

Out of Bounds Clear Step 2

Out of Bounds Clear Step 3

Out of Bounds Clear Step 3

4-3 Clear

Another good out-of-bounds clear to use is the 4-3. All three defensemen are down on the end line with the goalie. The three midfielders are on the midline. Usually, the riding attack pressures with all three attackmen, so there is a four on three from the beginning. The defensemen and goalie have to all stay on the same plane and just draw a man to cover them and then move the ball on. This is the most basic clear to run, but your defense and goalie must be able to handle the ball well for it to be effective. Following the keys to clearing by staying spread, always drawing a man, and moving the ball quickly allows any formation to work. The 3-1-3 and 4-3 are the simplest to teach and understand and are what we use at the intermediate youth level.

Some great tips to get you going:


Never try to dodge when men are in position to back up.

Never Stand Still

When you have the ball, never stand still - keep moving all the time - if necessary run backwards and forwards - but keep moving. When you are ready to make a pass, take one step back quickly and move. If you are standing still, you're wrong.

Don’t Force it

Never try to force in, with the ball or by a pass, if the defense is drawn in. Pull them out first.

Keep Proper Spacing

Never stand so close together that one defense can cover two offense.

After the Clear

After the ball has been cleared, if you have a wide open opportunity to dodge, do it. If you are sure a man is open, pass to him, otherwise settle the ball down and let your attack get set up. Remember, after a clear the midfielders will need time to catch their breath. Middies rest on offense, not defense, Control The Ball!

Away From the Defense

In moving the ball around the circle, make all passes sharp, short, and to the outside, away from the defense man.

Ride Hard

When you lose the ball, ride it. The close attack must ride and ride hard until the ball is past midfield.

Move to Meet the Pass

Always move to meet every pass, and circle away from your defenseman.

Make Him Play You

Make your defenseman play you and you alone every second you are in the game. Keep moving all the time so that he must center his attention on you an not be in position to help out his fellow defensemen.

Outside Shooting

On all long shots, a man must be on the crease.

Feed Passes

All feed passes must be thrown crsiply and accurately. If it's a bad pass, do your best and make a great catch to help your buddy out.

Try Some Dodges

Every man on the attack should try at least two dodges every game. Learn at least three different types of dodges.

Back Up shots

Always have one, preferably two, men behind the goal to back up shots.

Don’t Rush at Him

Don't rush at a man when riding - particularly behind the goal. Force him to pass - force him in the direction where there is help. Talk all the time and run hard. The success of an attack depends on their riding ability and their desire to have the ball.

Get it Off the Ground

After picking up a loose ball, turn and face the crease immediately. If nobody is open, move in fast until you are picked up.

Pick a Corner

Place all shots, usually for a far corner, and shoot hard. When within five yards of the goal, the shot should be for a top corner.

Give and Go

After receiving a pass, as the ball moves around the outside, look first at the man who threw you the ball to see what he is doing, then at the crease.

Move the Ball

Don't dodge if there is an open man. Don't hold the ball long unless you are planning a dodge. Keep it moving with quick, short passes.

Make Passes Hard

Make feed passes hard.

Loose Ball on the Ground

When there is a loose ball on the ground, go after it fast and hard, you must have the ball!