Young Goalie Needs Help Facing Shots After a Long Layoff
Today I want to answer another email I got from a young goalie. As the Spring season gets underway for many teams, the issue facing this goalie might be a common problem among many goalies who did not play much in the off-season.
Here’s today’s question:
Hi Coach Damon – I’m 16 and this is my 2nd year playing goalie. Practice started last night. As usual, I was a bit rusty. But there was one thing I was concerned over. Sometimes when an attackman gets near the goal, I simply lose focus. One second I’m on the ball and as the attackman winds up I just blank. All confidence I had of saving the ball is overloaded with the thought of a shot coming that I might not save. I become unsure. Is there a way to improve this mental aspect of my game? Or just give it a bit and see if its just temporary. Thanks a lot. TR
Thanks for the email TR. Guys keep firing me questions, you can ask questions in the comments below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read and respond to every single comment and email.
Ok, let’s get into some lacrosse goalie tips for the scenario that TR brought up.
TR is a relatively inexperienced goalie but even for advanced goalies coming off a long layoff due to an injury or an offseason where you couldn’t see any shots, I recommend the same.
Get back to the basics!
Baseball pitchers don’t start their 1st throws of Spring training with their 99MPH fastball. They start with basics and build up.
Similarly, lacrosse goalies should not jump right into facing advanced shots in live drills. You’ve got to build up.
Start over with learning the fundamental of a lacrosse save and then build up your strength, quickness, and save ability with a series of lacrosse goalies drills.
This is good advice even for experienced lacrosse goalies. The All-American lacrosse goalies you see in the NCAA are experts because they dominate the fundamentals.
Jumping into live drills that goalies are not ready for is the #1 way to destroy confidence.
Before jumping into live shots or drills where you’re going to face a flurry of shots be sure that you’ve rebuilt your basic lacrosse goalie skills.
If you need to, explain the situation to your head coach, that you need a few days of focused lax goalie work before you can participate in live drills. I think they’ll understand.
How blessed are we that we get to play such an amazing game? With such amazing friends?
To play well you must enjoy the game of lacrosse and have fun at all times. Lacrosse goalies are at their best when they are simply having fun.
I found that by focusing on enjoying the moment I was less detached to the outcome.
And therefore less worried about giving up goals during practice.
If you view each moment as just part of the larger process in your journey to become a great goalie I think you’ll find you’ll enjoy the moment more and start playing some truly joyful lacrosse.
What an amazing game we play. Have some fun!
TR you touched on this in your email. Sometimes you’ve just got to be patient.
Every lacrosse goalie is going to go through 4 stages of development.
Since you’ve recognized one of your faults as a goalkeeper with a lack of concentration you might already be in stage 2: conscious incompetence. Where you recognize the skills you’re lacking but cannot fluidly execute them time and time again.
Either way, you have to be patient. Building confidence and skills and advancing through the different stages of a goalie’s career is not something that is done overnight.
It takes hours and hours of practice and games. It takes hundreds of goals given up and hundreds of saves.
The Empire State building sits on a foundation that stretches 55 feet below the Earth’s surface, keeping this structure completely stable.
As lacrosse goalies we need to build a similar foundation to ensure that our game is stable, both mentally and physically.
A goalie who has only played for a year doesn’t have the deep foundation and thus its common to have situations like yours where you lose focus, concentration, or confidence during an important moment.
You cannot gain confidence just by a coach or parent telling you to have confidence. You cannot gain confidence by telling yourself to have confidence. Confidence is developed over time.
With each save you make and each goalie drill you perform you’re building your foundation deeper and deeper.
So be patient, you’ll get there!
Finally if you think the issue is related to being scared of the ball, a very common problem amongst brand new lacrosse goalies, then there’s a few things you can do to address this issue.
In my post on common lacrosse goalie problems, I outlined several steps lacrosse goalies can take to address this issue of fearing the ball.
Here is a recap of what I recommend from that post:
- Get protected – Get the best lacrosse goalie gear you can afford. The best helmet, gloves, jock strap, chest protector, goalie pants, and shin guards that you and/or your family feel comfortable buying. Even get some Nike Pro Combat Football Gear, if you can afford it, to wear on unprotected parts of your body.While some may ridicule goalies who use the additional padding, I feel its crucial in developing your confidence. As a goalie, you’re going to get hit. Every goalie does. But being well protected will leave you feeling a little more invincible and lot less scared of the ball.
- Take shots – The first couple of weeks I was playing goalie, I flinched as hard shots were released at me. It’s a natural human reaction and one that you can only eliminate through repetition.With the brand new goalies and for our lacrosse goalie drills where may take a beating, use tennis balls. It will soften the impact when the goalie gets hit and not intensify the feelings of being scared of the ball. Taking shots is the best way to overcome your fear of the ball. Often after not playing in goal for entire offseason, you’ll notice some feelings of fear creep back into your mind when facing shots. Repetition and practice are the only ways to subside the fear.
- Use Tennis Balls at first – If I notice a goalie is flinching or scared of the shot, we’ll start with tennis balls in our drills. Let’s face it, lacrosse balls are solid and leave solid bruises when they hit your legs. Using tennis balls takes the sting away and allows the goalies to focus on the fundamentals of making a save. By focusing on the ball and not the anticipation that it might hurt, we can slowly wean away feelings of being scared of a shot.
- Start with the basics – Don’t jump into the cage your first day and have a hot-headed attackman start ripping shots at you. Of course, you’re doing to be scared. You’ve got to learn the basics of making a save first. You’ve got to do drills to get your body ready to make a save. You’ve got to learn how to be in the right position to make a save. Get good with a short stick. Start slow and master the basics.
- Encouragement – Early on in my career I was lucky to have teammates who understood the value of a great goalie. Every save I made, even during practices, was met with extreme enthusiasm and fist bumps. For coaches, parents, and players its essential to create this environment for goalies. Because in that type of atmosphere a goalie realizes the joy of a save far outweighs the temporary pain of a bruise. As you get encouragement from your team, you’re more excited at the opportunity to make a save, then you are scared by the potential damage a shot could do.
- Loud / Aggressive SHOT call – In addition to other defensive terms a goalie must use, I make my goalies yell SHOT as the ball is released from the shooter. There’s a drill I learned from Trevor Tierney where you yell “YES” as the ball breaks an imaginary plane of glass 3 feet in front of you. I prefer to have our goalies yell “SHOT” as their battle cry. I haven’t done enough research to confirm this but I feel like verbally associating SHOT with the movements required to make a save helps the goalie’s reaction time to get to shots. SHOT becomes your battle cry to rid fear from your body.
- Give It Time – Changing an ingrained human reaction is not an easy thing. It’s unrealistic to expect your fear of the ball to subside after a few days of playing goalie. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes a full season. Just keep working.
If you follow those 7 steps above you’ll notice that each time to step into the cage you’re more confident when facing shots and less afraid of the ball.
The issue this young goalie is facing is an extremely common one for youth goalies.
Sometimes they get into their own heads and lose confidence or focus.
For this situation these are the things I try to reiterate:
- Get Back to Basics
- Have Fun!
- Be Patient
- Learn how to overcome the fear of the ball
Thanks for the email TR and good luck with the upcoming lacrosse season!
Until next time! Coach Damon
If you have a question about playing lacrosse goalie leave me a comment down below.