Baiting the shooter is the concept where the lacrosse goalie will setup in their stance on their arc, cheating to one side. Purposely leaving open a part of the goal in the attempt to bait the shooter to shoot where we want.
The shooter sees this open part of the net and shoots right where we’re expecting him/her to shoot making the save much easier.
Baiting is definitely an advanced technique in lacrosse goaltending.
When we bait a shooter, we’ll purposely cheat to one side. Thus taking one side of the cage completely away from the shooter.
I recommend always cheating to the off-stick side such that the area you’re purposely exposing in the goal is your stick side.
Reason being that stick side saves are much simpler as they require less movement from the goalie.
Since we’re cheating to one side of the goal there’s a pretty high chance that the shooter will attempt to shoot right where we’re expecting it.
And when we know where the ball will be shot this makes the save much easier.
How to Bait Shooters – High and Low
Another method of baiting shooters is to do so vertically – high or low.
In this technique we’ll purposely setup our stance either higher or lower than normal, allowing the shooter to see a lot of space down low or up high.
When they shoot the ball in that spot, the save is much easier as we’re already expecting them to the shoot in that location.
We can either setup in a high stance, standing taller and hands higher than normal, baiting the shooter to put it low. We when bait the shooter low the goalie is ready to pounce to attack that low shot.
Or we can setup in a low stance with low hands and bait the shooter high. In this case, the goalie is ready to spring up out of that low stance and attack the high shot.
Like with side-to-side baiting, I have a recommended approach here which is to bait the shooter to shoot high, setting up lower in your stance.
It’s much easier to move upwards towards a high shot than it is to move down to save a low shot.
As a smaller goalie (5’8″) I loved to bait shooters high. I’d setup in my stance a little lower than normal and that lower stance combined with my smaller height exposed a lot of the upper goal.
Then when shooters tried to rip it upstairs I was ready to spring to the high shot.
This worked especially well against cocky players as they tend to think high shots look prettier.
Don’t Guess While Baiting
Just because we’re baiting the shooter to fire to a particular area of the cage doesn’t mean that’s the way it will play out.
Using the baiting technique we’re still reacting to the ball. However, its just that we now have a better understanding of where it might be.
But just because I’m baiting the middie to shot high doesn’t mean as soon as the shot is launched I automatically spring high.
Opponents of baiting say that using the baiting technique makes goalies shift from reacting to the ball to guessing where it will be shot.
Baiting the Shooters in close
Some goalies may chose to simply bait when a shooter is in close, in a one-on-one situation, and then use their normal setup for outside shots.
When an attackman is in close this is an ideal time to bait shooters as stopping a 1v1 shot is a tough task.
When an attack player has the ball on the doorstep of the crease, the odds are overwhelmingly in his favor. The 6′ by 6′ goal gives him/her a lot of open area to deposit the ball for a goal.
Baiting shooters in close helps to put a little advantage back on the side of the goalies.
Most common for one-on-one situations is to drop your stance a little lower exposing the top part of the goal. We’ll also keep our hands a little lower than normal which also opens up space in the top part of the cage.
Then as the shooter releases we’ll spring out of our stance and make the high save once the ball is shot.
Baiting Shooters in action
Check out this video of Brian “Doc” Dougherty, one of my favorite goalies and also a big time baiter.
0:01 – When the shooter rips the shot, he’s directly up top yet look how far Doc is cheated to his off-stick side. Doc is a lefty so he’s exposing the space on this stick-side and sure enough the contested shot goes right there. Easy save.
0:13 — With the shooter in close, 1×1, notice how low Doc is setup in his stance exposing the top part of the cage. Shooter tries to put it high and Doc explodes upwards making the save.
I also love how quickly he makes his outlet passes after the save, but that’s not the point of this post – we’re talking about baiting!
Here’s a video with 2015 MLL goalie of the year Drew Adams, also a big fan of baiting the shooter:
0:15 – Even though the middie is about ‘Top Left’ on the field, look how Drew is setup against the post exposing that entire area of the goal. He’s baiting the shooter to hit that open spot. The attackman obliges and shoots it right where Drew is expecting. Save. Note: I normally don’t encourage the baiting the shooter to shoot off-stick as that is a tougher save to make. But Drew is a world class goalie in the MLL and can get away with that.
0:32 – As the attackman drives from X, Drew is setup in a low stance baiting the shooter to stuff it high which he does. This is a highlight video so you already know the result – SAVE!
Drew Adams is a big proponent of baiting the shooter. In this video he talks in detail about how he does it:
Mix It Up
If baiting the shooter is a technique you work into your goalie game, I definitely recommend you mix it up.
Shooters at the higher levels are smart.
After seeing you in action during the game, they’ll quickly realize that you’re baiting and make adjustments to their shot location.
Your coach can help identify if this is the case and provide tips mid-game. By all means, if baiting keeps working, stick with it. Just be aware that we might not want to bait the entire game.
As lacrosse goalies we’re faced with the tough challenge of covering a 6′ by 6′ area.
One technique to give goalie’s an edge is to bait the shooter into shooting where we want.
Whether we bait side to side, or high and low we’re essentially helping the shooter put his shot where we want. With this information, our save process becomes much easier.
Keep in mind these techniques take practice, patience, and a belief that they will work before attempting them in a game situation.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Do you use baiting in your lax goalie game? Let me know in the comments below.
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.