In this post I’m going to discuss tips for a common problem amongst lacrosse goalies: how to improve on bounce shots.
There’s no easy way to say this: bounce shots are difficult to save.
Check out this clip from a 2015 MLL game and notice how many bounce shots find the back of the net.
The reason for the difficulty is that to make a save on the bounce shot, a goalie typically needs to make two movements. Moving downwards to react to the low shot and then springing upwards as the ball bounces off the turf or grass. All while simultaneously moving his body laterally and forward to get behind and cut off the shot.
All in all, its a difficult save.
Here is what I teach young goalies when it comes to improving their game on bounce shots.
For the purposes of bounce shots, there is no debate in my opinion. You must step out at the shot, at least at a 45 degree angle.
Stepping out at the shooter is the most effective method of saving bounce shots.
By stepping to the ball and getting your body behind the shot, even if you fail to make the save with your stick your body will be there to block the shot.
You’ll notice that many top goalies make saves on bounce shots with their body because the grass slows down the shot, allowing the keeper to get his chest protector behind the bounce shot.
Watch this quick video of a goalie taking bounce shots during warmup. This is a warmup so he knows bounce shots are coming and they’re not even shooting that hard. But still notice the high number of saves he makes with this body.
We want to attempt to meet the ball as it hits the ground. Ideally, even before it hits the ground.
By attacking the ball with an aggressive step we meet the shot as close to the ground as we can and smother it before it has a chance to beat us on a bad bounce.
Stay “Big” in the Goal
When a shot comes at us, we want to keep our shoulders to square to the shot at every point during the save motion.
This makes the goalie as “big” as possible in the cage. Taking up as much area as possible.
This is sound advice for all types of shots but its worth reiterating here as we discuss how to improve on bounce shots.
Many goalies think that they need to do something completely different for bounce shots but really sound, fundamental goalie save principals are what is required to improve on bounce shots as well.
Don’t Worry About Catching the Bounce Shot
If you’re stepping out to cut down the angle and staying big in the goal, you’re putting your body in great position to make a save.
With a bounce shot you may get your stick on it but its far more common that you’ll block it with some part of your body.
You should still attempt to catch it with your stick as is fundamental save practice however also know the importance of getting your body behind the bounce shots.
If you make a body save, be sure to immediately clamp the rebound so that attackman don’t get any garbage goals.
Read the Crease During Warmups
During my college days we played on turf. On that surface bounce shots are incredibly easy to read as they always bounce true.
However on a grass field, especially a worn one, the bounce shots can hit divots or soft dirt and take unexpected bounces.
Therefore as you go through your pre-game warmup routine, when you get to bounce shots take note of how the ball is bouncing. Even get in a few more bounce shots than normal if you’re accustomed to practicing and playing on turf.
Perhaps there is a bunch of soft dirt or long grass in front of the crease and the ball is staying low.
Or maybe there is hard, compact dirt and the bounce shots are kicking high.
Taking note of how the field conditions are will help you understand what a bounce is likely to do and then react accordingly.
Since you only warmup on one goal, try to sneak in a few bounce shots on the other goal, so you’re ready for the 2nd quarter. This could be well before the game or even before the 2nd quarter starts.
One of the benefits of playing a higher arc is that you’ll be able to step out and cut off the angle of a bounce shot.
I think goalies should be aware and comfortable with various types of goalie arcs so they can switch when the situation warrants.
If you think the opposing team has scouted you as a goalie who is weak on bounce shots consider switching to a higher arc.
The higher arc makes a goalie occupy more of the goal from the shooter’s perspective and allows us goalies to more easily get our body behind a bounce shot.
Practice, Practice, Practice
If you know, and the opposing team knows, that bounce shots are your weakness then you have to work hard to improve this element of your game.
Some goalies shy away from bounce shots during practice because they don’t like them. Perhaps because they’re hard to save or they’re more likely to hit your body in a pad free area and cause pain.
But you cannot avoid bounce shots. All All-American goalies dominate every type of shot, including bounce shots.
So strap on some extra protection/equipment and get to work to improve on bounce shots.
One tip is to practice taking bounce shots on the type of playing surface you’re not accustomed to. So if your team practices and plays on turf, practice bounce shots on a grass field.
If you play on grass, practice taking bounce shots on turf.
The more bounce shots you see, the more you’ll go into unconscious competence, where your body simply reacts naturally and effectively to a bounce shot without a lot of mental energy being spent.
After awhile you’ll start to feel more and more confident with bounce shots.
And we all know a confident goalie is a good goalie.
Drills to Help Improve On Bounce Shots
There are plenty of lacrosse goalie drills that will help you improve your ability save bounce shots.
Here are the goalie drills I’ll focus on if the goalie is struggling with bounce shots. This drills will help a goalie’s overall game but also help him or her improve on bounce shots.
Mystery Shot explained here – Work in some bounce shots into this drill.
Doc Drill explained here – Work in some bounce shots into this drill.
Take Bounce Shots. (Duh!) There’s no better method to improve your bounce shot save ability to then to get reps of bounce shots. Video Tape yourself taking these bounce shots so you can analyze for mistakes or areas to improve.
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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.