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.
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:
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:
executing proper form
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.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.