Finding a Lacrosse Goalie: Attributes to Look For
By Coach Damon on May 2, 2016
If your team is lucky you’ve already got an established goalie manning the crease. But for some youth teams that are just starting up or recently got bit by the injury bug, you may find yourself without a goalie.
Ideally, a youth will step up and declare his undying love of getting bruises, blocking balls and saving shots and be on his way to All-American stardom. But unfortunately this is usually not the case.
So as a coach when you have a group of 15-year olds show up for the 1st day of practice how do you find that perfect ball of clay that you can mold into a starting goalie?
I’ve coached several youth teams and many more goalies privately. Here are the attributes I look for in a potential lacrosse goalie.
It’s not imperative that the new goalie possess all of these traits. This is more of a wish list and the more items the potential goalie has, the better off they’ll be in their 1st year of playing goalie.
Here are the physical traits I look for when trying to predict which youth could excel in the goal. A great potential goalie doesn’t have to have all of these traits, however the more they are blessed with the easier it will be to turn them into a great lacrosse goalie.
As a goalie we’re reacting to shots. Therefore its obvious that we want a kid who has quick reflexes.
Reflexes can improved upon via drills however quicker reflexes are always better when it comes to selecting a lacrosse goalie.
While I have seen some slow footed goalies have success, it’s far more common that elite goalies have quick feet.
They can quickly step and move their body in one direction.
The essence of a lacrosse save is moving your top hand to the ball. So the quicker the kid’s hands are the better he’s going to be at saving shots.
I haven’t done enough research to determine if this correlation is real but I’ve always noticed people who are good at ping pong have the same hand speed and reflexes that would make them a good lacrosse goalie.
Again, both quick feet and quick hands can be developed via drills but I always try to select a goalie who has natural quick feet and hands.
Good Hand-Eye coordination
This trait is often hard to judge until you start shooting on the kid however for those goalies who do have good hand-eye coordination and sharp eyesight, you’ll notice that they see the ball all the way from the shooter’s release point to the mesh of their own goalie stick.
This is an important trait for goalies as there are some kids without the sharp vision and hand-eye coordination and they’ll always be a little late reacting to shots.
High Tolerance to Pain
As a lax goalie you’re going to take a few lumps. Those lumps often come in the form of a lacrosse ball direct to the shins. And it hurts.
A goalie who is able to accept the pain and not complain or get gun shy is an extremely valuable asset to have in the cage.
Strong desire to play goalie
Goalie is a tough position and its even more tough when a player is thrown into the cage against his/her will.
It’s best to always seek a volunteer who is eager to accept the challenge that is being a lacrosse goalie – who wants to step up and be our goalie?
While its rare that you’ll find someone who wants to strap on the pads and jump between the pipes, these gems do exist. I was one.
Kids who are competitive really hate to give up goals. Doesn’t matter if its a game, a practice, or even just a warmup.
The thought of giving up should infuriate potential goalies so much that it drives them to perfect their craft.
The best goalies are mentally tough. They’re not going to get rattled when they let in a few goals.
You can see it in their body language after a bad play. The mentally tough will shake it off while the others sulk their shoulders, whine, or even cry.
Good Attention Span
A goalie needs to maintain a high level of focus for the entire game.
Lapses in focus usually result in goals thus we want to look for a goalie who shows they he/she can concentrate for long periods at a time.
Goalies are not involved in the action when your offense has the ball so you’ll need to find an individual who will not take a mental vacation when the team is not playing defense.
Hustle is a great trait for any lacrosse player. But when I’m working with a goalie I want someone who puts in the work when its time to do so.
He/She never slacks off during practice, drills, or plays.
Lacrosse IQ / Ability To Learn
Most new players will not have much in terms of lacrosse IQ since they are brand new to the game. If they come from a sport like basketball they may understand slide packages a little better since basketball has a similar set of rotations.
So I’m not expecting much in terms of lacrosse IQ for my new goalies.
But I am looking for is someone who learns extremely fast. They quickly learn how the game is played. How offensive and defensive plays work, where defenseman should be at all times, etc.
Every goalie will learn this element however the faster you can develop a goalie’s lacrosse IQ, the better they’ll be.
Lacrosse goalie is a position of leadership. Successful goalies not only make the saves, they also lead their defense.
The kid who is comfortable around the others, making jokes, telling stories, and just displaying general leadership signs is often the one you want to select to play in goal.
Just like field players, successful lacrosse goalies come in all shapes and sizes. Just because a kid is the biggest or slowest doesn’t mean he’ll have success in the goal.
In college I stood only 5’8″ and yet had a very successful career.
In the MLL you have goalies like Brian Phipps and Brett Queener both listed at 5’9″ (which usually means they’re shorter haha) and then you have goalies like Scott Rodgers at 6’4″.
Successful lacrosse goalies can be any height. The physical and mental traits I discuss above are far more important in determining success.
This post outlines the ideal qualities to look for when you have to select a new goalie.
It’s true that most of these qualities can be developed in a player however the higher level you start with, the easier it will be to develop that kid into an All-American lacrosse goalie.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Did I miss any traits that successful lacrosse goalies have? Let me know in the comments.