Many youth teams struggle to find someone who wants to play goalie. One of the main reasons is simply that youth goalies feel that practices are no fun.
For the youth coaches out there who are wondering how to make practices more fun for youth lacrosse goalies when it seems like for most drills the goalie is just getting hammered, this post is for you.
Lacrosse is a beautiful game and it should be fun. If your goalie is not having any fun playing there’s definitely a problem.
To play well and improve, a goalie must enjoy the game and also have fun.
Of course some practices will be tough. Getting better and improving physically is not always smiles and sunshine. But below I share with you some thoughts on how to make practices fun for youth lacrosse goalies.
Go Nuts on Saves
Everyone celebrates goals. No questions asked. It’s a natural thing. Ball goes in the goal, the crowd goes wild, the players hug and general good vibes are shared by all.
But not everyone celebrates a lacrosse goalie’s saves with the same vigor.
Whether its a game, a scrimmage, or just some drill during practice, anytime the goalie make a save the team culture should be to go absolutely nuts.
Parents, defensive teammates, and coaches should all be enthusiastically giving that little goalie props.
Lacrosse goalie is a hard position and there is a fair amount of getting beat up that goes with the title. But the feeling of everyone getting behind you when you make a save will make every bruise worth it.
I’ve even seen examples on youth teams of kids volunteering to play goalie because they see how excited the team gets after saves and they want to get in on that glory.
Give Your Goalie the Upmost Respect
Playing goalie in the sport of lacrosse is hard work. It takes guts and as a result every team should give a huge level of respect to their keepers, even when they play bad.
That’s why lacrosse has the tradition of saluting the goalie first immediately after a game or ensuring that goalies go first in the post-game handshake line.
I think this level of respect starts with the coach. If teammates see the coach respecting the goalie at every available opportunity they will also give the keeper the respect he deserves.
This also means you’re not publicly shaming the goalie on missed saves. A quick one-on-one conversation can still get your point across and allow the goalie to save face.
During practice think of ways to give the goalies special respect and the beating they take during drills becomes a little more bearable.
Encourage Them to Get Protected
Lacrosse goalies don’t wear enough pads in my opinion. Culture, machismo, tradition, peer pressure, I’m not sure of the exact reason but goalies are getting beat up for no reason – especially during practice.
The other excuse I hear all the time is I can’t move as fast with pads. Professional swimmers can’t swim as fast with board shorts and drag suits but that doesn’t mean they don’t train with them. Football pants don’t seem to limit speed that much anyways.
When the protection rules come from the coach the youth goalie has no choice but to get protected.
If they want to strip the goalie pants and shin guards for the games go ahead but during practices where goalies can take a beating this extra padding will make things more fun by eliminating pain and most importantly eliminating fear of the shot so they can focus on making saves.
As a coach you can help promote of a culture of goalies getting protected. If attackman, middies who don’t understand the position give the youth goalie some lip for wanting to use extra padding, that’s where a coach might need to step in and ensure it doesn’t happen.
Do Realistic Shooting Drills
As a youth coach, I encourage you to only put your goalies in the line of fire in realistic situations.
Lining the entire team up around the 8-yard mark and having them rip time and room shots at the goalie one at a time is not a realistic situation. That happens on maybe 1% of shots in the game, its not realistic.
I’m 100% for goalies facing shots during drills in practice, no problem with that. However if they are going to face shots it should be a realistic situation.
If you’re doing a shooting drill with no defense put a cone down on the ground and tell offensive players they must shoot before that cone. That way, middies and attackman don’t crank unrealistic shots at the keeper.
Furthermore, lacrosse goalies need a mentor, a counselor, a motivator, and a guide. You don’t need to have any experience coaching lacrosse goalies to fill those roles.
I believe a goalie with a dedicated coach who is looking out for them and fully dedicated to them will have more fun in practices.
Additionally this dedicated goalie coach can watch them as they perform drills and exercises to ensure the effort is there, even if they’re not capable of providing technical feedback.
With experience, that coach will be able to learn to the position and start to provide tips to their lacrosse goalie when they notice something ashtray.
Also during games, its ideal to have a goalie coach who will watch over their gameplay, as well as someone to go to for guidance. A dedicated lacrosse coach can fill this role and make the position more fun for the youth goalie.
Mix the Goalies into Line Drills
Lacrosse goalies do need special training due to the uniqueness of our position.
But rather than send the goalies off to goalie island every single time the team starts line drills consider working them in once in a while.
Goalies need good stick stills and the change will breakup the monotony of goalie island and make sure the goalie is continuing to have fun during practices while they improve their game.
Get the Right Goalie Mentality
At the end of the day if a goalie isn’t having any fun, this position might not be for them.
Plus get free access to my entire lacrosse goalie toolkit!
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.