The premise was pretty simple – interview the top goalies and coaches in the game and figure out what makes a lacrosse goalie elite so goalie coaches like myself along with youth goalies could replicate those results.
There was just one problem.
I didn’t know any top goalies and coaches.
I had a small lacrosse network back then and I wasn’t connected to any pro goalies. I reached out to a few pitching my idea and none bit at the offer.
One fateful day Ryan LaPlante who played/coached at the University of Denver and played in the MLL with the Outlaws reached out to me to get a copy of a save edit video I made of his 2015 NCAA championship performance.
I pitched him the idea, he was into it. With that the Lax Goalie Rat podcast was born.
Ryan gave me an intro to a few more Denver area goalies and the show spread from there.
Ironically I ended up interviewing Dillon Ward from then MLL Denver Outlaw (now PLL Choas) and NLL Colorado Mammoth – one of the greatest in the game right now – in one of my first episodes
Goalie is a unique position. While there are skills are carryover from other sports and other positions, the lacrosse goalie is a unique breed.
I’ve interviewed every current PLL goalie, well except Scott Rodgers. Hoping to convince him to come on shortly.
Each episode is loaded with awesome advice and great stories however here are 7 things I’ve learned from various episodes.
The “Give Me the Ball” Mindset
Imagine this scenario. Overtime of a championship game. As the face-off whistle is about to blow, starting the sudden victory and high pressure OT – what is the goalie thinking?
If you were like me when I was starting out, you’re thinking – I hope we win this face off and score a goal!
I then interviewed Jacob Stover on the podcast. He bounced around to a few teams in his 1st year of the PLL and then ended up on both championship winning Whipsnakes teams.
His Dad was an NFL kicker and thought him an important mindset.
I want the ball.
Give me the ball.
And I will make a play.
This a complete mindset shift for most goalies. Instead of thinking – I hope we win this face off, you’re now thinking…
I want the ball.
Give me a ball.
And I’ll make the save and send our team on a fast break.
When a goalie has properly embraced this mindset shift it shows. It shows in his communication to the team, it shows in his body language, it shows in his overall swagger.
One Possession at a Time
It’s the cliche – goalies need a short term memory.
In talking with the pro’s this cliche comes up all the time. It goes by names –
Short Term Memory
Next Shot Mentality
Staying Fully present
Don’t think about the past
One possession at a time
They all mean the same thing. In order to achieve success in the position of goalie you must learn to be fully present in the current moment.
Lacrosse is a fast game and for many goalies the thought of what they should have done differently on that last play still haunts them while the opposing team is driving down to score again.
Being fully present also means you’re not thinking towards the future. Oh no, what happens if they score here?
For some goalies this manifests itself in the form of thinking about your save percentage, or what school or team you
You’re going to get scored on. That’s a fact. In professional lacrosse there have been 0 shutouts. In NCAA D1 lacrosse there have been <10 shutouts in hundreds of thousands of games played.
Getting scored on as a goalie in lacrosse should be the equivalent of getting scored on in basketball. You think for a few seconds about what you could have done differently and then you do the equivalent of sprinting to the other end of the court – you move on.
Lacrosse is a beautiful game. It is meant to be played with friends and enjoyed.
So many goalies (including the pro’s themselves) start putting so much pressure on themselves to perform that it removes the fun from the game.
The stress and mental battles you fight remove the joy from the game. Ironically when that happens a goalie becomes stiff and plays worse.
So many of these pros hype on the fact that when they’re having fun, they play their best. And when the game became a chore or something they dreaded, that’s when they played bad.
As a goalie if we’re not having fun, we’re tense and tight and cannot react to a shot.
Whereas if you’re having fun and you’re loose, playing goalie is much easier. That comes directly from the professionals!
Physical Halftime Hack
Dan Morris was a national champion at Maryland and played for PLL Whipsnakes in the inaugural season.
I had him on the podcast right after he played in the World Games representing the Philippines.
On our show together he shared this amazing physical hack.
I thought that was absolutely incredible! I love the idea of a physical reset after playing a bad half.
And then of course if things are going well, we reinforce that feeling by keeping the lid on and staying locked in.
Train like you’re #2 – play like you’re #1
Elite lacrosse goalies understand that to be first, you must train like you’re second.
This is a theme that emerging several times in interviewing the top goalies in our game.
But the amazing thing with the elite goalies, even though the hunger to get better burns incredibly strong inside them. As soon as that game whistle blows their mindset changes.
In game, they’re #1. They morph to become an incredibly confident goalie that cannot be beaten.
Practice like you’ve never won. Play like you’ve never lost.
It’s this weird dichotomy – when its time to train, the mindset is I gotta get way better. When its time to play, the mindset is I’m the best.
Tough concept to grasp and that’s why these guys are the best in the world at what they do.
The Weight Room Matters
Many pro goalies discussed how truly important getting into the weight room was for their overall goalie game.
The weight room builds quickness and makes your body more explosive but it also helps with your overall confidence.
PLL Atlas Goalie Jack Concannon talked about this on our episode together.
I was a never a big workout guy in high school. So when I got to Hofstra was really the first time I hit the weight room consistently. I ended up putting on 40lbs of muscle and just the quickness and the confidence that gave me really helped me get to where I am today.
Pushing your physically is a great way to train yourself mentally.
Setting a tough physical goal and pushing through the mental blocks to achieve that goal is phenomenal mental training.
Everyone has a Bad Game Or A Slump
One of my go to questions on the podcast is – tell me about a time you went through a slump or bad game? How did you recover?
Out of the nearly 70 goalies I’ve interviewed every single one went through a slump.
Each had a method to get back to playing at an elite level.
Get back to basics – stance, arc play, save technique
Talk with a friend, parent, or trusted coach
Try something new
Whatever the pro’s preferred method was, this fact was true – all the pro’s have gone through slumps and you will too.
Having a concrete plan to get out of a slump and back into the flow, and to do so quickly, is what separates the pros from the rest of us.
There are Different Styles of Goaltending
One of my main coaching philosophies is that are many ways to excel at the position of lacrosse goalie.
Sure there are non-negotiables like you absolutely must be in an athletic stance. But as long you hit on the main points there’s a freedom in your play.
It irritates me quite a bit when coaches have a “this is the right way to play, and everything else is wrong” attitude.
Thus I was pretty pleased to discover the pro’s also know there are different styles of goaltending.
The stance or save technique that Blaze uses would not work for Adam Ghitelman.
The wide stance used my Matt DeLuca would never work for his battery mate Charlie Cipriano.
Each goalie in the PLL plays in a slightly different way and yet each finds success in their game.
They are eager to help
I’ve said this a few times on show.
If I had a podcast about quarterbacks, there’s no way I’m getting Tom Brady on the show.
But yet here I am interviewing the most elite goalies in our sport today. These guys make themselves so available to grow the sport of lacrosse.
Not just me to either, pretty much everyone at the end of the show would drop their Instagram or email address and say if any young goalies have any questions, hit ’em up.
Pretty unprecedented to have that level of access to such elite athletes and its a real credit to these amazing goalies.
Starting a lacrosse goalie podcast was one of the best things I’ve done. Spending an hour or two talking shop with another elite lacrosse goalie is a great way to spend an afternoon if you ask me.
I want to thank all the PLL professional goalies who were so generous with their time. They came on the show and brought the heat! Dropping awesome knowledge about what makes them the top goalies in the world.
There were many lessons that I’ve pulled out of these interviews but here are the ones that kept repeating themselves or that I found to be especially amazing:
‘Give me the ball’ mindset
Next Shot Mentality
Helmet on / helmet off physical halftime reset
Train like you’re #2, play like you’re #1
The Weight Room Matters
Everyone goes through slumps
So generous with their time
Have you listened to the podcast episodes? What was your favorite?
Plus get free access to my entire lacrosse goalie toolkit!
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.