12 Lacrosse Goalie Tips to Take Your Game to the Next Level
By Coach Damon on December 14, 2015
When I first started playing lacrosse goalie in college, I sucked.
I had no idea how to play goalie. Nor did I possess the courage to face a 90mph rubber bullet coming my way.
But by my junior year, I was the starting goalie for our university. And by my senior year I was team captain and an All-American contender in our league.
I did this with a devotion to becoming a great lacrosse goalie.
A devotion to studying the position and then practicing what I learned on the field until my body’s muscle memory was complete.
Whether you’re a youth goalie just starting in the goal, or someone at college in a similar situation as me, here are my 12 lacrosse goalie tips that can take your lax goalie game to the next level.
As a youth or beginner goalie, there’s nothing worse than taking a painful shot right to the shins or an exposed area of the body.
It hurts and it saps the youth of motivation to continue improving your goalie game.
Therefore, I recommend every goalie gets outfitted with the right goalie equipment before they get into the cage.
Getting protected with the right amount of padding will help you feel secure in goal and help eliminate the innate fear of getting hit with the ball.
Playing in goal in the sport of lacrosse requires an athlete.
The more in shape you are the better you can in control of your body and the better you’ll be able to move that body to make saves.
Although there isn’t as much running compared to other positions, playing goalie is also tiring. When our bodies get tired, our mind also gets tired and we lose mental focus.
Therefore, being in top shape will help to be mentally alert and focused for the entire lax game.
Pick a workout program and stick to it.
Here are the basic fundamentals of making a lacrosse save:
- Pre-Shot: Square up to the shooter
- Pre-Shot: Balanced athletic, ready position
- Top Hand Straight to the ball
- Lead foot steps into path of the shot
- Move bottom hand to finish in balanced position
- Trail step to finish in a balanced position
Before jumping into the cage to face real shots you need to understand the basics of the save. This way you’ll understand what to work when you start to…
There’s no substitute for taking shots.
You can read and study all day about how to become the best lacrosse goalie in the world. But if you never step onto the field and put what you’ve learned into practice, it’s all for not.
Sports are all the same in this way. While it definitely helps to read and study theory and technique, you’ll never become the best without practicing that theory and technique in real life.
Michael Phelps didn’t become a championship swimmer by simply reading books. Brian “Doc” Dougherty didn’t become an All-American lacrosse goalie by just watching YouTube videos.
You’ve got to practice what you learn to perfect your craft.
Making a save in the sport of lacrosse is about training our muscles to instinctively react the same way every shot. There’s no other method to build this muscle-memory besides getting in goal and taking shots.
If you have space and money, buy a lacrosse goal for your backyard so you can take shots year-round. Here’s a full review of different styles of lacrosse goals.
Here’s a solid warmup plan to follow if you’re just starting out and looking for a solid warmup plan to take shots.
It’s often said that the goalie is the quarterback of the defense.
This is because his/her unique position on the field of always being able to see the ball and being able to see the cuts and movements of the opposing team’s players.
But imagine a quarterback in the NFL that didn’t know his team’s plays!
The goalie must understand the team’s defense better than anyone on the field. Because as a goalie you are the field general.
You’re responsible for telling other’s where to be, when to slide, being a general leader, and helping newer defenders or middies learn the D.
When your coach is covering defensive strategy, as a goalie we need to ensure we’re the #1 student. Asking questions where things are unclear and studying the defense outside of practice.
Every lacrosse team needs a crystal clear set of terms that can be used in the heat of battle.
I’ve previously discussed 41 terms every goalie should know. It’s not imperative that you use those exact terms on your team, but it is mandatory that you have a word to communicate every one of those situations.
As a goalie, you’re responsible for using these terms so you better have every single one memorized and know its exact use.
Also important to keep in mind is that our communication needs to be heard. A loud crisp call needs to be practiced and refined.
Like an NFL quarterback, the lacrosse goalie is going to get a lot of attention.
When the team is winning and things are going well, the attention is great. But when you’re losing and letting in goal after goal, the attention is horrible.
Earning the team’s respect will help the goalie become a better field general and also get through those tough times when the team isn’t playing well.
In order to earn the respect of the team here are a couple of tips:
Work the hardest
When I played on my college team, my mindset was that nobody was going to outwork me.
Whether on the field, in the weight room, or in the classroom, I was going to put in more effort than anyone else.
When I became the starting goalie my junior year I showed up to every practice 20 minutes early to take shots. As other teammates arrived at practice they saw how hard I was working and their respect level grew.
Don’t Complain / Don’t Blame Others
Sometimes in the sport of lacrosse, your chips are down. Your team is letting in easy goals. But never complain and never blame others.
Of course, this isn’t to say you can’t make recommendations to the D if you see a huge problem.
But there’s a clear difference between that and blaming others for why you’re a horrible goalie.
This tip is a valuable lesson not only on the lacrosse field but also in life: never complain and never blame others.
Share the Credit
As I mentioned before, goalies tend to the get the attention when things are going good.
During my 1st collegiate start in goal, I made 14 saves and we won 9-5. After the game all the reporters wanted to talk to me.
I made sure to share the credit with my defense who played awesome that day.
Sharing the credit also means giving props during practice when someone makes a great takeaway or a nice clear. Or delivers a solid hit during a drill.
Share the love and it not only come back to you but your team will also respect you more for it.
Don’t be afraid to Talk a little Trash
Lacrosse is a game and its meant to be fun. So what better way to keep it fun than to talk a little trash to your offense during practice.
This isn’t meant to be mean-spirited at all. Just light-hearted trash talk that will earn the respect of your defense and the entire team.
Here’s some trash talk inspiration. But if you give it, be prepared to receive it 😀
I’ve always said goalie’s need to be the top students of the game.
There are plenty of resources – books, videos, and blogs – dedicated to the sport of lacrosse that will help you learn the ins and outs of playing this wonderful sport and this wonderful position.
YouTube has a wealth of free instructional videos dedicated to lacrosse goalies.
For goalie specifics sites be sure to check my list of the 7 top websites for lacrosse goalies.
There are so many things to be learned from watching game film.
It’s a wealth of information and one that every player especially goalies should be taking advantage of.
As you watch film of games, consider these questions to help improve the defense:
- How is our defensive spacing?
- Did we recognize the offensive set?
- Are our slides coming from the right place and at the right time?
- Are we seeing the ball and our man?
If you’re watching footage of a team you’re about to play you can also scout their offensive:
- What offensive sets do they use?
- Who are the shooters?
- Who are the feeders?
- Where do they like to dodge from?
- Left handed or right handed?
- Where do they like to shoot (high, low, off-stick, etc.)?
In addition to game film, I also encourage goalies to record and review their drills during practice.
As you watch the playback of these drills you can analyze your technique from a new perspective and see if any errors jump out that need fixing.
The best goalies in the word are extremely confident. They play with an air of confidence that you can see.
But how do we get that level of confidence?
First, we need to start at the beginning and take it slow.
When learning the position of goalie we want to think more about like building the foundation of a house versus rapidly constructing a house of cards that will fall at the first sign of trouble.
If we learn our fundamentals and don’t jump into situation we aren’t prepared for, we get more and more confident with our experience.
From each practice or each drill or each game, always try to take away something positive. Even if you gave up a ton of goals, think back to something great.
Perhaps you stuffed a few inside shots, or made a few great off-stick hip saves. These little wins will snowball into something bigger that will help you gain confidence.
We also have the option of “fake it until you make it” where we pretend to have the confidence until we become that confident goalie.
“You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.”
― Paulo Coelho
Playing lax goalie is hard. No doubt about it.
This isn’t a position where a newcomer can step in day 1 and expect to dominate. Every goalie needs to have realistic expectations about their play and their rate of growth.
But having realistic expectations doesn’t mean that we’re not pushing and challenging ourselves to become the best possible goalies we can be.
Having realistic expectations means we don’t get super depressed when as a JV goalie we give up a bunch of goals to the varsity team. Or has a rookie goal we get lit up during a game.
If you’re not tracking metrics as a lacrosse goalie, you should be. Be sure that you’re metrics are trending in the right direction.
This might be the single biggest lacrosse goalie tip I can offer. Have fun!
As I think back to times I’ve dominated in the crease, I was always having fun.
Lacrosse is a beautiful game. You should enjoy every opportunity that you get to strap on the pads and play with your friends.
Because one day you’ll be too old and that opportunity will be gone. Have fun!
Learning to play lacrosse goalie at the highest level is a slow steady process.
Follow these 12 lacrosse goalie tips to help up your game to the next level.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any lacrosse goalie tips you want to share with me? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments.