My philosophy when it comes to training lacrosse goalies is something I call the Elite Lacrosse Goalie Triad.
I discuss the Elite Lacrosse Goalie Triad my ebook however in this post I want to explain this philosophy to all goalies, coaches, and parents who have not yet read my book.
I think understanding this training philosophy is very important because many goalies are having some part of their training neglected unknowingly by coaches.
Too often I see coaches just focus on 1, perhaps 2 elements of this triad when in reality to train an elite goalie you must cover everything.
What is the Elite Lacrosse Goalie Triad?
To be an elite lacrosse goalie you must dominate 3 areas:
If each of these areas is a circle in a Venn diagram, the elite lacrosse goalie lives right in the middle.
A goalie with technical skills and mental toughness but NO physical skills will be slow and unable to explode to the ball to make saves. They’ll be out of shape and lose concentration towards the end of games when they tire.
A goalie with physical skills and mental toughness but NO technical skills will not be able to easily perform the movements required to make saves. They see the ball and can move towards it but the save technique will not come natural and as a result goals will be given up. They’ll also suffer in the clearing game.
A goalie with technical and physical skills but NO mental toughness will get rattled, lose their confidence, and not perform to the best of their ability.
Only when a goalie masters the technical, physical, and mental elements will they enter into the elite category.
Technical Elements of Lacrosse Goalie Play
If we consider the example of a boxer, the technical elements are things like learning how to throw a jab, an uppercut, and the footwork techniques to avoid punches.
Technical elements of goalie play are going to be things that lacrosse goalies need to master through training, repetition, and good coaching.
Physical Elements of Goalie Play
Next, an elite lacrosse goalie needs to be in shape. Lacrosse goalies should really be the best athletes on the team.
By focusing on the physical elements lacrosse goalies can transform their bodies into explosive save machines.
So many goalies write to me with the question: “How can I be more explosive?” The answer is simple in my opinion: get in amazing physical shape.
Us goalies also need to have the physical stamina to play a full game in goal without tiring physically or mentally. Even though we’re not running around the field as much as middies, playing goalie is still tiring and we must prepare our bodies to handle those physical demands.
If you notice your goalie’s performance fading in the second half, odds are they’re getting tired and need to up the physical element of their game.
Back to the example of the boxer, a fighter might have an amazing hook and vicious uppercut but if he doesn’t have the stamina to go 12 rounds, he’ll lose in the ring.
Exact same thing applies to lacrosse goalies. You can have perfect save technique but if you’re out of shape and not able to explode to the shot, you won’t be elite.
There have been some heavier goalies who’ve had success (Blaze Riorden, Jesse Schwartzman, etc.) but those guys are athletic freaks. Riorden plays in the indoor league NLL in the field with a shortie. These guys are definitely the exception to the rule. I’d argue they’d be even better if they got in shape.
Mental Elements of Goalie Play
The final piece of the Elite Lacrosse Goalie Triad is being mentally tough.
In high school I was a wrestler. There’s not much mental toughness required in wrestling. The constant movement and physical engagement means you don’t really have time to think. You just go – go – go – go -go – until the whistle blows to stop.
Lacrosse goalie is completely different as many times the goalie is alone with his/her thoughts. Lacrosse goalie has been called the most difficult position in sports and I believe it.
As the last line of defense a goalie’s mistakes result directly in goals given up. Whereas defenders, attackman, and middies often can share in the blame, lacrosse goalies cannot. Many goalies feel this burden and instead of shaking it off and preparing for the next shot they’re still ruminating on previous plays when they give up yet another goal.
The speed of the game often means lacrosse goalies are getting scored on regularly. I remember a game in my college career where I gave up 4 goals in 2 minutes. Soccer and ice/field hockey goalies can have a horrible game and yield just 4 goals the entire game.
While youth players may not (and should never have to) deal with trash talking, once the players grow up (high school, college) the sideline fans like to “give you the business” to try and get in your head.
Mental toughness is so many things but most importantly its:
it’s pushing through when things get tough
it’s remaining confident and positive when goals are given up
it’s the ability to develop an unshakeable belief that you’re elite
it’s being a leader of your team
Only when a lacrosse goalie is mentally tough can he/she be considered elite.
After working with this Elite Lacrosse Goalie Triad model I realized there is one more important element to being an elite goalie – that is general lacrosse intelligence, aka lacrosse IQ.
Lacrosse IQ is knowing the defense to direct your team. It’s knowing offense to understand what your opponent is trying to do. It’s knowing where everyone on the field is supposed to be.
Lacrosse IQ is having a general intelligence about the game so that you can quickly read and assess a situation and make a great play or direct your teammates to the right spots.
Lacrosse IQ is developed with experience but you can also strengthen your Lax IQ by watching films of your games or practices analyzing your play, seeing what you missed live. Many mistakes become blatantly obvious on film.
Also digest as much of the sport as you can. Watch college lacrosse live or on YouTube. Compare what those teams are doing versus what your team is doing. Compare what your favorite player is doing to what you’re doing on the field.
Because lacrosse IQ helps every part of the game I don’t think it should be it’s own circle in the Venn diagram. Rather it should surround the technical, physical and mental circles because it is included in all those areas. So we can update our diagram like so:
When training a lacrosse goalie to be elite you must train for the all the elements in the diagram above.
The Elite Lacrosse Goalie Triad is a philosophy I use to train goalies. The philosophy says that a lacrosse must master a handful of different elements to be elite: physical, technical, mental.
Finally they must have a high lacrosse IQ or knowledge of game.
As you are training your lacrosse goalie please be sure to develop all areas – not just the technical.
Until next time! Coach Damon
What’s your goalie training philosophy? Would love to hear about it in the comments below?
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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.