6 Lacrosse Goalie Drills to Improve Stepping to the Shot

6 Lacrosse Goalie Drills to Improve Stepping to the Shot

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When readers join the Lax Goalie Rat email list I send them a bunch of free resources (you can join here) along with a single question to find out what their biggest challenge is when it comes to being a lacrosse goalie.

For a good majority of the goalies, parents, and coaches who email me back, the main obstacle that they’re trying to overcome is the inability to step to the shot.

Recently I discussed the basics of making a save in lacrosse and in that post I outlined the importance of moving our body into the shot’s path in order to make more saves.

The fact is that if you only try to make saves with your hands you won’t be successful. A successful goalie gets his/her body in front of each shot.

But stepping into the path of a rubber bullet is not a natural thing for us lacrosse goalies. Thus a common problem that beginner lacrosse goalies face is building up the instincts of stepping on every shot.

That is, seeing a shot and then moving your body and attacking that shot with both your hands and your body.

Even if you’re a goalie who uses a lateral step to make saves, the concept is still the same. We want to train our instincts to see the shot and then drive off our back foot and get our body into the shot’s path so that we either make the save with our stick or with our body in the event the stick fails.

This post is all about drills you can introduce into your routine that will improve those instincts and make stepping a habit in your save process.

Lacrosse Goalie Drills to Improve Stepping

Here is a series of lacrosse goalie drills that you can incorporate into your practice routine that will improve the goalie’s step to the shot:

Walk the Line

In this drill, we’ll simply perform our basic save movement in a line for 10-15 yards.

With each save we really want to visualize a shot coming at us and then visualize making the save to that area.

“Walk the Line” is a great warmup drill because it gets the goalie:

  1. visualizing saves
  2. stretched
  3. focused
  4. executing proper form
  5. building muscle memory

As you walk the line be sure your stepping as this is a critical element of the save process.

A variation of Walk the Line is to it with a weighted shaft to help build up some endurance and strength in the arms.

Working the walk the line drill into your routine will help build muscle memory so that the step instinctively becomes part of your save movement.

No Pocket Stick

This is a great drill to help a goalie step because there is no mesh to make the save.

For this drill, grab an old goalie head without mesh and attach it a shaft.

Use tennis balls and fire normal shots at the goalie from 7-10 yards away. Make sure to hit all the different quadrants just like a normal lacrosse goalie warmup.

The ball should pass through the stick as if you’re going to catch it but the goalie’s body should back up the shot. and hit the goalie in the body.

Without having the goalie head to rely on emphasis will be placed on stepping and getting your body behind the shot.

Goalie Drills for Stepping: Nerf Ball Shots

Here’s a drill I picked up from Christian Buck, author of the book Thinking Inside the Crease, and its perfect for training your body to attack a shot. In fact this might be my favorite lacrosse goalie drill.

In this drill we use these nerf balls (like these ones) because they float and move in odd directions which is great.

The idea behind this drill is to wait as long as you can, and then react to the nerf ball with a perfect save movement.

This drill is great because it slooooooows everything way down. As goalies our brain is in this fight or flight mode and as soon as we see a shot we often react without really seeing the shot.

The movement of a shooter’s stick causes us to flinch. In the video demonstration below you’ll see several examples of goalies flinching instead of seeing the nerf ball and stepping into its shots path.

Goalies are at their best when they are completely still prior to the shot and then only use the minimum amount of movement necessary. This drill will help that and it will help with a goalie who struggles to step on every shot.

Commit to the ball and move through it.

Here’s a video of Coach Buck demonstrating the drill:

Goalie Drills for Stepping: Doc Drill

This drill comes from former pro lax goalie and coach Brian “Doc” Dougherty.

The Doc Drill works 3 important elements of a lacrosse save – move your top hand to the ball, clear vision of the ball, and most important for this post – moving your feet with a step.

For this drill we need a short stick, a wall, and a ball.

We’ll stand about 10-12 feet away from the wall and shoot the ball against the wall. When the ball ricochets off the wall we’ll pretend like its a shot coming at us and make the save with a good solid step to the shot the path.

After making a save, since we’re stepping at forward angle we’ll be moving closer to the wall with each shot. Rather than restarting the position just keep doing the drill until you’re closer and closer to the wall. Once you’re just a few feet from the wall, then reset to your starting position.

Here is a video of Doc demonstrating the drill:

Tennis Racket Reaction

This one is courtesy of MLL goalie Scott Rodgers and I call it the Tennis Racket Reaction drill.

It’s a great drill for building that step into your save process.

For this one the goalie stands in the cage, without the stick. Another player will toss a ball to the coach who has a tennis racket.

The coach will simply volley the ball at the goalie who makes the save. Similar to the Goalie Lead Hand drill the goalie will drive his top hand to the ball but also step and complete the save.

Works our reaction time and save technique especially for those close-in shots.

Here is an Instagram video of Scott Rodgers performing the drill:

Body Block

For this drill put your stick down. We’ll use tennis balls and take shots at medium speed from 5-7 yards.

Put your hands behind your back to really emphasize getting your body behind the shot. The idea is to block the ball with your body, ideally your chest protector.

With no stick you really have to focus on making that step to stop the shot.

In addition to the specific drills above, a lacrosse goalie should also incorporate drills that improve foot speed.

Because having quick feet is a critical component to stepping quickly into that shot path.

Conclusion

Whether your goalie style is to attack the ball at a 45 degree angle, a 30 degree angle or with a flat step, a lacrosse goalie must train his/her body and his/her instincts to step to every shot.

Saving a shot with your top hand is an important part of the save, but its only part of the save. You must step.

It’s certainly not a natural reaction (in most goalies anyways), but it is a habit that can be created through practice and repetition.

Use these 6 lacrosse goalie drills to improve your goalie’s ability to step to the shot:

  • Walk the Line
  • No Pocket Stick
  • Nerf Ball Shots
  • Doc Drill
  • Tennis Racket Reaction
  • Body Block

After working those drills over and over hopefully you see your ability and instincts to step to the shot improve greatly.

Until next time! Coach Damon

Anyone have a different drill they use to improve your goalie’s ability to step to the shot? Leave me a comment down below, I’d love to hear it.

## Main photo courtesy of Travis Warren.

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2 thoughts on “6 Lacrosse Goalie Drills to Improve Stepping to the Shot

  1. reaction ball drill: you’ll need your goalie stick a reaction ball and a wall for this drill. thrpugh the reaction ball off the wall and let the ball come back to and force your top hand and your stick to the ball and over-emphasize your step to the ball.

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