The Lacrosse Goalie Guide to Handling Blowout Losses
By Coach Damon on June 27, 2016
If you play in enough lacrosse games, inevitably you’ll have a day where nothing goes your way.
You can’t save a single shot, your defense can’t stop anyone, nobody can catch a pass, and the offense struggles to muster any legit scoring opportunities.
That’s right I’m talking about a good, old-fashioned blowout loss.
Today’s post is inspired from a question from a parent whose son is a lacrosse goalie and is having to deal with such blowout losses on a regular basis.
I played in college (4 years SUNY Geneseo), and I have been coaching youth lacrosse for the past 5 years, following the grade levels of my son.
My 12 year old son (6th grade) is now really enjoying playing goalie. He does great with our school 5-6 team, even though we lose more than we win, and he has made a travel team, which has just started playing some tournaments. He is doing some camps this summer, and playing in a summer league too.
One of the biggest challenges is dealing with the blowout losses. My son’s travel team lost all three games in their first tournament, losing one game 15-1. In their second tournament, this past Saturday, they lost a close one (to an older team) and tied one, so they were pretty happy.
As a goalie, I think he might feel a loss harder than others, being the last line of defense. Do you have any advice, stories, to help with this?
Thanks, and I have enjoyed reading your website, and I am going to share it with my son.
Thanks for the question Ben!
For goalies there is nothing more discouraging then being on the wrong end of 15-1 loss.
In this post I will share my tips, advice, and experience in dealing with blowout losses.
Early on in the game it may become obvious that the final score will not end in your favor.
Some lacrosse teams and goalies get really discouraged and give up, making a bad situation even worse.
One tip for dealing with blowout losses is to create mini games or mini scenarios.
While the final result might be unchangeable you can still focus on winning the 4th quarter. On winning the next 5 minutes. On winning this possession.
By creating mini games within the game, you can create attainable goals for your team and goalie so that their head remains in the game for the entire duration.
By looking at each quarter as a separate event you can also remain mentally positive even if score is reason to feel otherwise.
Another tip for dealing with blowout losses is to encourage your lax goalie to focus on the progress rather than the final score.
Sure, if you look at the 15-1 score it’s very easy to get depressed. But if you’re focusing improving a single element of your goalie game.
Perhaps it’s shots beyond 15 yards. Last week you saved 75%. This week 85%. That’s a victory.
Perhaps it’s number of 1×1 saves. Last week you had none. This week 2. That’s a victory.
In a previous post I discuss some other useful metrics to track as a lacrosse goalie.
By focusing on improvement and progress, you’ll help your lax goalies from getting too down on themselves during the blowout losses.
Even while losing there are opportunities to praise the goalie or defense for personal effort and/or good communication.
Just because a personal effort or teamwork resulted in a goal given up doesn’t mean it is not noteworthy.
If the defense executed the right slide package, that’s a positive.
If the goalie made the right reaction to a shot but was just a millisecond tardy, you can still focus on those positive elements.
It’s so easy to simply to focus on the result of the game or the number of goals given up, but often this doesn’t tell the full story.
So in a blowout loss be sure to still find something positive for which to praise your goalie.
Blowout losses are a great time for lacrosse goalies to practice some things in a game that you wouldn’t dare try in a 1 goal game.
Perhaps you’re a goalie who normally plays a high arc and you want to try a flat arc.
Or perhaps there’s a modification to your goalie stance – for example, setting up with hands a little higher – that you’ve been working on in practice.
Or maybe you want to try using a new goalie head in a game.
Go ahead and try those changes in the lopsided game and you don’t have to worry like you would in a close game.
Who knows? You may stumble upon a technique that really improves your game.
A blowout loss is a huge test of your leadership abilities.
Are you the goalie who quits when your team is down by a lot?
Or are you the goalie who still gives 100% and encourages every teammate to do the sample? The goalie who plays as if the score is 0-0 even in the face of a blowout.
Team members take note of that 2nd goalie and I’ve seen more than a few lacrosse goalies earn the respect of their team during a blowout loss by not quitting and inspiring the team to give it their all despite the score.
As a coach or a parent, present those two options above to your goalie and ask them what kind of man/woman they want to be.
Encourage them by telling them how much you admire people like them; people who keep trying even when things aren’t going well.
My first head coaching experience was as a senior in college with the Berkeley Lacrosse Club U-12 boys team.
For the majority of the players it was their 1st time playing lacrosse so we were definitely focused on learning the basics of passing, catching, etc.
We got beat pretty badly in each game so it was a coaching challenge to remain positive, to say the least.
But instead of constantly focusing on the score, we used the techniques I described above – created mini games and focused on progress – instead of constantly getting depressed over our blow out losses.
We improved throughout the season and by the end we got our 1st win!
The youth players dumped the ice chest on my head after the game. I had to explain that the winning team gets the game ball – of course I gave it to the goalie who played amazing that day. It was awesome!
I think it is the responsibility of the head coach to not run up the score when the game is clearly a blowout.
In the heat of the battle, with the score rapidly rising, its difficult to invent methods on the fly to keep the scoring within reason.
So head coaches can be better prepared for these situations here are a few tactics coaches can employ when their team is up 10-0 at the half and is clearly dominating the game.
Stop Scorers from Shooting
Use this game as an opportunity to get your role players involved.
Tell your players who are the traditional scorers that you only want them to drive and pass, no shots.
Tell your players who are NOT the traditional scores that they should be aggressive and look to go to goal instead of passing first.
Getting a youth player the 1st goal of their life is an amazing experience, not just for them but for the coach and the whole team, and one that can come easier in these blowout type of games if the team is coached right.
Minimum Number of Passes Before a Shot
Let your team know there’s a minimum amount of passes they must execute before they can take a shot.
I typically go with 10 but the head coach can make appropriate call given the situation.
Enforcing this rule also helps the team work on possession and crisp passing which are both characteristics that will come in handy against a tough opponent.
Don’t chant out the number from the sidelines as this is somewhat demeaning to the opposing team.
Give the backup goalie more playing time
Blowout games are a great opportunity to rest your better players and give the backup goalie and 2nd/3rd lines of offense and defense more playing time.
There will come a game when you’ll need to lean on your stars so coaches should always take advantage of these games to get the other players more chances.
There will also come a time when the backup goalie will be promoted to starter so giving him live game experience like this is vital to his/her development.
This technique requires a little “parent management”, but that’s necessary to be a successful head coach.
In coaching youth teams I’m always very clear with parents that I try to manage playing time to be as equal as possible for all kids. However during crunch time of a close game we’re going with the starters. And during a blowout the best players will see more bench time.
Once in a game when the score was really bad I initiated a rule that my team could only handle the ball with their off-hand (i.e. left hand for righties, right hand for lefties).
You could even have the goalie play with his off-hand if the score is extremely lopsided.
This will result in more turnovers and goals given up than normal however its a good opportunity for the team to practice their off-hand as any good lacrosse player should be able to catch, dodge, pass, and shoot with their off-hand just as good as with their strong hand.
Continue to Play Hard
I don’t think a coach should ever tell his team not to play hard – blowout or not.
Not playing hard is disrespectful to the sport of lacrosse and could even result in injury to one of your players.
I also don’t tell my team to stop scoring. I just impose the above challenges that make it much more difficult to score. I think this is better for the game.
Even though blowout losses can be tough to stomach, there’s actually quite a few positives that can emerge with the right attitude.
By creating a mini game and focusing on progress, you’ll ensure that your goalie doesn’t lose his mental edge and continues to improve in the face of a blowout loss.
A lopsided game is also a great chance to experiment with a new technique and a great opportunity to prove your leadership abilities.
And hopefully as the goalie and team improves the blowout losses will gradually go away.
Until next time! Coach Damon