What’s the difference between Men and Women Lacrosse Goalies?
By Coach Damon on October 14, 2015
Since I am of the male gender a lot of my tips and posts reference the male lacrosse goalies and game.
But what about the women lacrosse goalies? Is playing lacrosse goalie in the women’s game comparable to playing in the men’s game?
In everything that I’ve written is it safe to just swap the words “she” and “he” and assume the piece of advice is still applicable?
In this post, let’s take a look at that.
There are so many differences between the game of men’s and women’s lacrosse that they are often considered two different sports.
The equipment, the field, the sticks, the level of contact, the rules; they all have uniqueness depending on the gender.
But what about the goalies? While there are some small differences, the end result is that the techniques used to play goalie in the men’s game are no different than that of the women’s game.
That said, there are a few differences in the games that warrant how the female goalies should be trained.
Here are some of the differences between the two games and how they slightly effect the goalie play for women.
1. Men’s Sticks have deep pockets while Women’s sticks are shallow
The head of a women’s stick has an extremely shallow pocket compared to the men’s stick. This means that in the women’s game you won’t see the high variation of stick and shot angles that you see in the men’s game.
Most of the shots you’ll see as a female goalie will be overhand or slightly side-arm.
The important point here is make sure your coach shoots on you with a women’s stick during practice.
This way you get accustomed to seeing how the ball releases out of the female stick and not the male stick.
Due to lack of women’s goalie coaches, often times men will be in charge of coaching female lacrosse goalies. Since they’re used to the men’s game they use their own stick and think everything is the same. It’s not.
For example, the underhand shot is completely unique to the men’s game. It’s near impossible (especially at the youth level) with the shallow pocket of the female stick.
2. Most women’s shots will be taken in close proximity
For a variety of reasons the shots that women lacrosse goalies have to save will inevitably be from closer range. This is due to:
- The amount of body checking in the women’s game is far less
- The crease is slightly smaller (8.6 foot radius vs. men’s 9 ft radius)
- Defensive slides cannot come from the crease, must come from the side when an attacker is looking to sho0t (Shooting space foul)
In the women’s game you just don’t see shots from outside 8 yards.
Therefore during our practice with female goalies we want to focus on close range shots and drills which increase reaction time and foot speed in tight.
Also a significant amount of time should be dedicated to saving one-on-one shots.
The technique to make the saves is still the same however women won’t see the high velocity outside shots that are typical in a men’s game.
3. Difference in rules require some slight alterations to the goalie’s game
In the women’s game every player has to freeze/stop on the whistle. So if a goalie chases out a ball and doesn’t win it, their team is toast as a restart happens with the goalie stuck on the sideline or end line.
Therefore, I encourage female goalies to NOT chase out shots unless it’s blatantly clear you’re going to win it.
A fews years back a rule change to the men’s game eliminated the 5 second grace period for goalies after chasing shots. So, this is now a similarity between men’s and women’s lacrosse.
Before the rule change I encouraged men’s goalies to chase out ALL shots even on one’s where there was doubt they could win because the grace period allowed them to get back into the cage before the game restarted. This is now no longer the case.
Another change is that women have 10 seconds to exit the crease upon a save, while men only have 4 seconds.
I still recommend using the same progressions when leading a clear. However women don’t have to be as rushed in their reads.
You can give your team a little more time to break out after a save before exiting the crease to make your way up field.
Throwing outlet passes is exactly the same between the two genders. No difference there.
A final difference in rules is the legal size (length) of the goalie’s stick. In ladies’ game the shaft and head must be between 35-1/2” and 52” while in the men’s game the stick can between 40″ and 72″ long.
Either way, both men and women should use a shaft length that feels comfortable to them. While I played I preferred a shorter shaft as it made the stick feel lighter in my hands.
Well, nearly everything else. Both men and women lacrosse goalies must:
Good save technique is good save technique regardless of gender.
There is no need to add the word female to this question: “How can a female goalie work on improving off-stick hip shots?” Same goes for any other specific technique question – the way a male goalie saves an off-stick hip shot will be the same as the way a female goalie does it.
Therefore for the majority of what you see here on Lax Goalie Rat anytime I only reference male goalies, its purely by accident or habit. Just assume it applies to the women’s game as well.
It’s no surprise that men wear very little protection considering there is a high-speed rubber projectile traveling at them.
Perhaps it’s pure tradition but I ultimately see more pads being introduced into the men’s goalie game with time.
While machismo may prevent the men’s goalies from using additional pads, luckily on the women’s side there isn’t that aspect to deal with.
Men and women goalies use the exact same goalie stick. In fact, check men’s stick setups vs. women stick setups and you’ll see the overlap.
All of the normal equipment used by men will also be used in the women’s game (each link goes to a product that I recommend)-
- Lacrosse Goalie Helmet
- Goalie Throat Protector – Attaches to helmet and protects the throat from taking any shots.
- Chest Protector – The chest protector I recommend for women – STX Sultra Women’s Chest Protector is the first piece of lacrosse equipment specifically designed for women’s bodies.
- Lacrosse Goalie Stick – I prefer the STX Eclipse head with 12 Diamond Mesh on a Warrior Kryptolyte 11 shaft cut to your desired length.
- Women’s Pelvic Protector – I used a supporter designed for ice hockey goalies but since I’m male I had more to lose 🙂 It’s still important for women to protect this area.
- Goalie Gloves with a reinforced thumb – These goalie gloves are also specifically made for women and come in smaller sizes then men’s goalie gloves to accommodate smaller hand sizes.
- Cleats or Turf Shoes – I always preferred mid to high tops to give my ankles more support and protection from shots.
- Mouth Piece – I recommend goalies get fitted with a custom mouthpiece from their dentist. This makes communication on defense much easier. However in the event you cannot afford a custom mouthpiece the attached Shock Doctor makes some nice ones.
Here’s the full break down of all lacrosse goalie gear needed to play in the women’s game.
The equipment listed above is no different from what a men’s field goalie would wear.
There are a few equipment differences between men and women. Shin guards and goalie pants are required in the women’s game while they’re not in the men’s game.
- Lacrosse Goalie Shin guards – You can also use normal soccer shin guards or field hockey shin guards. I don’t recommend baseball catcher shin guards as these are going to restrict your movement too much.
- Lacrosse Goalie Pants – Most goalie pants are too bulky and restrict movement (#1 no no) however these pants by Brine give good freedom of movement while still offering protection to the legs and hips of the female goalies. These lacrosse goalie pants are also made for women.
- Lacrosse Goalie Shoulder Pads – The STX Sultra Women’s Chest Protector I recommend above comes with pads to protect the shoulders. If a goalie is dinged up in the shoulder area or wants additional protection you can velcro an additional shoulder pad onto the chest protector. But remember – don’t restrict movement.
The shoulder pads is an optional piece of equipment so if you feel good in goal without them, by all means don’t use them. However I recommend, especially for 1st time goalies, that you use this extra protection to feel more confident in the cage.
Especially during practice. In games when our adrenaline is running we’re typically ok without any additional padding.
Just because you’re wearing the extra pads doesn’t mean we change our goalie style.
We’re not hockey goalies who block shots with their pads. We’re lacrosse goalies who catch shots with the stick while getting our body behind the ball in the event it misses our stick.
Big difference in style and don’t let the extra padding change the way you play in the goal.
Unfortunately, the lacrosse companies that make goalie equipment have not built many things specific for female goalies.
The same gear that men use is really the only thing available for women even though the body shapes are vastly different.
So if you’re a female goalie be careful about sizing of the equipment, specifically the chest protector as you want to ensure it’s wide enough to fit your full chest.
Ultimately, in the sport of lacrosse goalie is goalie whether you are male or female.
The technique to make saves is the same for men and women, but the game is different. The types of shots female goalies will see differs because of their rules and thus our practices and drills must be customized a little for lady goalies.
However, if you focus on the fundamentals lacrosse goal play, you’ll be a great goalie, regardless of your gender.
Now that you’ve read all that – here’s why the female goalie position IS different.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any female lacrosse goalies reading LaxGoalieRat.com? Leave me a comment down below.