Great Warmup, Bad Start To Game: 5 Simple Solutions | Lax Goalie Rat

Great Warmup, Bad Start To Game: 5 Simple Solutions


I got another great question from a reader that I’m going to address today. Please keep the questions coming! Email me anything at [email protected].

Here’s today’s question about a goalie having a great warm-up but then struggling in the game:

Hi Coach Damon – My son has a particular problem that I’m looking to get some advice on. Before games he has a great warm-up. He’s saves everything and looks pretty good. Then once the game starts he doesn’t do that well. He doesn’t see the ball that well and is very slow to react to shots.  Any ideas on we can improve this? Chuck, San Diego, CA

To summarize, the question is this: keeper has a great warm-up but doesn’t do well once the game starts, what to do?

This scenario of lax goalies having a great warm-up but then struggling in the beginning of the game could be caused by a number of reasons.

In this post I’ll dig into these potential reasons and then provide some simple solutions to turn goalies in save machines once the action begins.

Too Used to the Warm-Up

Lacrosse goalie is a “read and react” position. As we go through our warm-up we’re getting physically and mentally prepped for reading and reacting.

If the goalie is too used to the person warming them up, they’re no longer training those “read and react” mental and physical muscles.

The keeper becomes very proficient in stopping shots from that particular shooter because they know their tendencies. They know what a low shot looks like from this shooter. They know how this shooter releases his shots.

Quite simply – they’re not reading and reacting anymore but acting on memory from experience of saving this particular coach’s or player’s shots.

The simple fix here is to change shooters for the warmup.

By rotating who performs the warm-up, the goalie will see a different style of shot coming from a different lacrosse stick. In this way, the goalie is now having to read and react once again and when the game starts he/she should be ready.

The goalie coach should be one of the shooters however often times for games you can grab a player who isn’t playing that day to perform the shots while the goalie coach provides critique and encouragement to the young goalie.

Make sure they’re following the perfect warm-up plan for lacrosse goalies, which includes shots from both hands (left and right) and a variety of locations around the field and a variety of shot angles.

This will help ensure the goalie is ready once the 1st whistle blows.

Change Shooter Lacrosse Goalie Warmup

Warm-Up Too Stationary

Often times during warmups you’ll see the shooter simply standing still and firing shots on the goalie.

How often does this occur in the game?

In the game, shooters are almost always shooting on the run perhaps with a defender breathing down their neck and throwing checks at their hands.

When a shooter is stationary, it’s very easy to concentrate on the ball in the shooter’s stick. The goalie can easily focus on the ball coming out of the stick and react to make the save.

But the game scenario provides a lot more distraction for the goalie. Thus when the game starts often times goalies are not mentally ready for the distractions and don’t see the ball as well.

The fix for this problem: vary the warm-up with shots from sweeps and dodges so that the goalie is better prepared for game like conditions.

Shots on the run are also apart of my lacrosse goalie warmup plan.

Lacrosse Warmup Shots on the Run

Shots on the run like this are very different then a stationary coach firing on the keeper!

Warm Up Without Passes

A very common mistake in pre-game warm-ups is having the shooter fire a shot at the goalie who then passes it back to the shooter. Rinse and repeat until the goalie is supposedly warm.

As with the previous example this is simply not the way it happens in the game.

Many shots in the game come off a pass where the goalie must move positions on his arc to get into proper position to make the save.

The fix: after you’ve gone through the initial warm-up, add a feeder into the mix.

The goalie will setup as if the feeder was going to shoot and then will move to square up to the new shooter on the pass.

Vary the feeders location ensuring that some feeds are taken from behind the goal so the goalie gets work playing feeds from X.

Like the previous example, the feeder and the shooter should perform some reps where they’re on the move and not stationary.

By making the goalie changes positions and quickly get setup in his/her goalie stance we’ll ensure their footwork and concentration is ready once the game starts.

Lacrosse Warmup Add Passes

Warm Up Without Screens

Continuing the theme of simulating game scenarios in the warm-up, I like to have my goalies take a few reps with screens.

The screen can either be an attackman standing in the crease blocking the goalie’s view or a defender on the shooter blocking the goalie’s view of the shot release.

The purpose of the warmup isn’t to tire the goalie so this is typically done later in the warm-up for just 5 or so reps.

In this scenario it’s paramount that the goalie focuses on the ball and not the myriad of distractions that the screener presents.

This way when they eventually see screens during the game, they’re ready and focused on the shot.
Lacrosse Goalie Warm-up
Ignore the cheerleaders and focus on making saves!

The Importance of the Goalie’s 1st Save

When I played in goal at Cal, in every single game, I was always a little nervous until I made my first save. This is a natural feeling for a position like goalie that carries with it such great pressure.

After the very first save I got into a nice rhythm with good timing and confidence.

Therefore I truly believe that the goalie’s most important save is the very first one.

This trend is seen in other sports as well such as basketball where a player might not be relaxed and confident until they make their first shot. Baseball fielders typically breath a great sigh of relief once they make their first play in the field.

The same is true with lacrosse goalies.

Unfortunately, there’s no great tip to remedy this situation. It is what it is and goalies/coaches should recognize that.

The coach can help by letting your goalie know before every game that you want them to focus on their toughest save – the first shot on net.

And then you want them to focus on the next toughest save they need to make – the next shot on net.

If your goalie gets off to a rough start, applaud any save they make, even if they are giving up rebounds on the easiest shots.

Yell encouragement and confidence builders, like “great stop!” Tell your defensive players to pump him up by tapping his helmet or with pats on the back.

Help your goalie build their confidence and let them know that your trust their ability. With support from the coach and teammates, your goalie will reestablish the confidence they need to come up big when you need them.


If your goalie is having a great warm-up and then struggles once the 1st whistle blows, some changes to the warm-up might be in order.

I recommend you try the following in the warm-up:

  • Change shooters to ensure goalie sees variety
  • Introduce shots on the run
  • Add a few shots off of screens
  • Introduce shots from feeders
  • Psych the goalie up to get him/her mentally confident and ready

Then also understand that some goalies will not enter the flow of the game until they’ve made their 1st save. Thus as you’re performing the warm-up ensure the goalie has supreme concentration for that first and most important save.

I emailed my response to this question to the Dad via email a week ago. He wrote back:

Thanks for tips! They were amazing. I want to share this story with you. I shared these ideas with my son’s coach and together we changed his warm-up for the following game. He saw a total of 26 shots, saved 16, and only allowed 5 goals. The team won 10-5 and my son was award the 1st game ball of his career. Thanks so much for the advice!

Stories like that are the reason I created this blog and am loving it so much.

Getting the proper lacrosse goalie knowledge and coaching to the youth goalies is what is all about.

Until next time! Coach Damon

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2 thoughts on “Great Warmup, Bad Start To Game: 5 Simple Solutions

  1. HI!
    My son made the JV/V lacrosse team this year and we couldn’t be more proud. There is a senior goalie ‘ahead of him’ and another sophomore ‘next to him’. He is second or third in line each Varsity game (sharing JV equal time).
    I am hoping you can share some tips for him so that during those varsity games he is staying warmed up just in case he gets asked to go in. We suggested a jog to the end line and back between quarters and passing as well but wondering if you had a specific set of things he could/should be doing…..I just want him to be ready if and when he does get the ‘nod’…..
    Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Hi Amy – Congrats to your son! I think you’re doing the right things. Most backups need to get their warmup in before the starter. But he stay physically ready by jogging and passing. The other key to stay mentally ready. Meaning he’s not spacing out during games but is ready to go in at any moment, because injuries happen in the blink of an eye. Hope that helps. Good luck!

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