Considering a Switch to Goalie: Read this First
By Coach Damon on October 30, 2017
For any field player in lacrosse or even any athlete brand new to the sport who is considering taking on the position of goalie, I advise you read this blog post first.
This is written by a goalie with years of experience both manning the crease myself and teaching lots of first timers how to be great goalies.
It’s a summary of the benefits you’ll receive by switching to goalie. It’s a warning for what you’re about to endure.
Consider this the good, the bad, and the ugly of playing goalie in the sport of lacrosse.
You Will Be Afraid of the Ball
They say that all lacrosse goalies have a screw loose. How else would you agree to voluntarily step in front of rubber bullets with minimal protection?
But the ones who are really crazy in the head are the goalies who are NEVER afraid of the ball. Even I don’t understand this wild breed.
Being afraid and flinching on the shot is natural. Your body is simply trying to protect itself.
As beginners man the crease for the first few weeks you’ll see flinching, you’ll see false movements, you’ll see goalies moving away from the shot or going into full turtle mode. Checkout Colin from TLN’s first attempt at playing goalie.
There are drills you can perform to overcome the fear of the ball but more importantly you’re going to need experience and mental training.
The desire to make a save must completely drown out any feelings of fear.
I don’t recall the exact moment when my desire to stop shots blocked out my fear and I flipped the switch. But I do know it happened with experience.
After a few weeks of being in between the pipes, I stopped fearing shots. The flinching was gone and I was free to move quickly and aggressively into the shot’s path.
So before you start on a lacrosse goalie journey know that you will likely fear the ball for your first couple of weeks, and for some goalies even longer.
Know that this is completely natural and something you will work hard to overcome.
You Will Get Bruises
Even goalies who choose to use the additional protection I’ll discuss later in this post will still have areas of exposed skin that will take a beating in the form of bruises.
You will learn the complete evolution of a bruise from tiny red dot on the skin at first impact, slowly gaining size and morphing into a full skin-Picasso with a blend of lovely purples, reds, blues, perhaps even some yellows, and oh my gosh is that some green in there?!? Bravo
Sure, they sting and leave impressive multi-colored formations on your legs or arms, like exhibit A:
But you will soon learn to appreciate these bruises as marks of pride #goalietats. When treated properly these bruises pose no real health risk.
And of course during practice you can always add some additional protective wear to help eliminate bruises.
You Will Get Respect
Lacrosse goalie is a crazy position. Anyone who understands just a little about lacrosse understands the courage necessary to jump in front of high speed bullets.
With that comes respect.
Years later when I’m discussing lacrosse with a random person and they ask what position I played. When I respond with “goalie” there’s always a level of respect in their response that you don’t get with attack, middie, LSM, FOGO, or defense.
Goalies go first in the hand shake line. Goalies get saluted first post-game, win or lose.
Goalies get respect. It’s a part of this game’s culture.
You Will Get Life Skills
As a result of learning to play goalie in this sport you will naturally learn skills that will benefit you throughout your entire life.
I wasn’t a natural leader when I first started playing goalie.
But lacrosse goalie is one of those positions where if you’re not a natural born leader, you will learn how to be one. There is no other way. The position is too important.
I learned those leadership skills on the lacrosse field and by my senior was voted captain of the team. I honed my leadership skills in my playing days and now use those same leadership skills day in and day out in my current job and everyday of my life.
Besides leadership there are other skills you learn by being a lacrosse goalie. You can read about those in a post I wrote about 8 other life skills you learn by being a lacrosse goalie.
You Will Need Different Gear
If you’re just getting started in lacrosse and are buying gear for the first time, on the men’s side you’ll probably spend about the same amount of money as a field player on your goalie gear.
But if you’re a field player making a switch, you’re going to need to purchase some new gear to be a goalie.
On the women’s side you’ll need to invest in a lot more equipment than the field players.
So you’ll want to want to ensure you can afford that new gear. Or already have access to used goalie gear somehow.
First the items that are the same between field players and goalies (for men):
- Shaft – Attack length is fine for goalies. If you play with a long pole you’ll need to cut it down to a good goalie shaft length, or purchase another shaft to avoid ruining a long pole.
- Mouth Guard
As I outline in my lacrosse goalie gear post, you’ll need to get the following which are specific to the position of goalie:
That’s the required goalie gear at all levels. There’s a few pieces of optional gear that provide additional protection that are worth getting to feel a little more invincible when facing shots.
- Lexi Shield or Guardian Cap for additional concussion protection
- Arm Pads (mandatory at the youth level, U15)
- Shin Guards (mandatory for women, high school and below)
- Lacrosse Goalie Pants (mandatory for women, high school and below)
Be warned that the current lacrosse culture, especially in the men’s game, dissuades goalies from using additional protection like shin guards. You’ll notice field players and fans try to make fun of goalies using any additional protection.
Don’t let that discourage you. If you feel more confident with the additional padding, use it.
Other goalies find that they feel quicker without this additional protection and prefer not to use it. That’s fine too.
Just be sure that you can at least afford the minimal goalie gear before jumping head first into this position. And never jump into goal without having at least the required gear on.
You Will Fight a Mental Battle Unlike Any Other Position
The position of goalie in lacrosse carries unique pressures that few positional players can fully appreciate unless they’ve spent time between the pipes.
As the last line of defense many goalies assume any goal given up falls on their shoulders and they feel some mixture of blame, guilt, and frustration all at once.
As you rise in levels from youth to junior high to high school to college, the fans will be louder, rowdier and drunker. They’ll attempt to get into your head and make you mentally weak.
Negative self-talk will start to enter into your mind and it will be a complete battle to evict it. If left unattended that negative self-talk will be a self-fulling prophecy as you start to think you’re no good, you lose confidence and really become no good.
Like bathing, building mental toughness will be something you do daily.
At the college level even the best goalies will only save 60% of the shots, you better be mentally strong to be able to deal with this level of failure.
You will need to develop mental toughness like no other player on the field.
You Will Need to Be in Shape
Many field players want to make the switch to goalie because they’re out of shape and don’t like the running. Unfortunately for them, goalies need to be in great shape.
In fact I often say goalies should be the best athletes on the team.
Now granted, there isn’t the same level of running at goalie like there is in middie. But talk to any goalie after they’ve gone through a proper lacrosse goalie warmup and they’ll tell you: it’s exhausting.
Your body must be physically fit and explosive to be an elite goalie.
Combine that with the fact that every once in awhile you’ll need to do a 20 yard sprint to either clear the ball or chase a shot out the end line to win possession for your team.
Goalies need to be athletes so this isn’t a sport where you stick the heavy set kid in goal and call it a day.
Finally when your physical stamina goes your mental game goes right out the window. So to ensure that you can last physically and mentally for 4 quarters (and even OT) a lacrosse goalie must be in shape.
Here’s the perfect lacrosse goalie workout to get your body in explosive shape.
You Will Be In the Spotlight
If an attackman gets stripped and loses possession, its barely noticed. A middie gets beat on a sweep which causes a slide and a couple of passes and a goal, yet the eyes are on the goalie.
Furthermore, when a goalie lets in a soft shot, the whole world sees its and impact is felt immediately.
For every other position on the field, there’s a team dynamic going on. If an attack, middie, or D is having a bad day any of the other teammates can help pickup the slack. But the goalie is on their own.
Fans will single you out and attempt to get into your head but you’ll learn to love that trash talk and it won’t bother you.
It’s just another part of being in the spotlight which you’ll grow to enjoy.
You Will Love the Feeling of Making a Save
As a goalie, there’s no better feeling in the world!
Their attackman rips a shot headed to the corner. You drive your top hand directly to the shot, your lead step and trail step get your body in the shot’s path, your bottom hand helps finish the save. Your fans go wild. You throw a perfect outlet pass to a streaking middie and your team is off on the fast break. A perfect save and clear.
A 1×1 stuff is an even better feeling and can change the momentum of an entire game.
You’ll understand that this isn’t ice hockey where goalies save >95% of the shots and you will cherish each of and every save. Even the ones that appear “lucky”. You’ll repeat there is no such thing as a lucky save.
The feeling of making a save will eventually become so rewarding that you won’t even realize you’re getting a bruise in the process.
If you’re looking to make the switch to goalie, I commend you! Goalie is a wonderful position that gave me so many life skills. Being a lacrosse goalie was one of the best decisions I made in my life.
At the same time, I realize that this position is not for everyone.
So if you’re considering a switch to goalie be sure to weigh the pros and cons that I’ve outlined in this post.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Anything I missed about making the switch to goalie? Anything else one should consider? Leave me a comment down below.