Denver Goalie Jamie Faus on Letting the Game Come to You
If there is one thing Denver lacrosse is known for, its pumping out tremendous goalies. With great goalie coach Trevor Tierney leading the way its no wonder Denver has produced several All-American and All-American mentions including Jamie Faus.
Jamie played at DU graduating in 2014 and in this post I want share some of his wisdom. He has particularly good insight when it comes to the goalie mental game, something many lacrosse goalies struggle with. The source of these questions and answers come from this chat and this video.
Like other interview style posts (Scott Rodgers interview, Shane Doss Interview, Brian Phipps Interview) I’ve sprinkled in some of my own comments after Jamie’s responses.
Interview with former Denver University goalie Jamie Faus
Everyone says the mental aspect of playing goalie is tougher than the physical aspect, what’s your thoughts?
By far the mental side is the toughest part of playing goalie. Being able to stay in their mentally for 60 minutes is tough.
One Saturday you could be playing a game that ends 6-5 and then the week you could play in a game that’s 20-19. You have to be able to keep an even keel in there mentally and just move on to the next play. More than any other player on the field. Lacrosse goalies don’t have a second to go to the bench, take a few plays off and recover mentally.
You let in a goal, the faceoff could be won by the opposing team and instantly there’s another play coming at you. If you’re still thinking about the previous goal, you’re not mentally alert and ready for the next play.
Moreso than other goalie position in sports, because its so high scoring, lacrosse goalies need to have a short term memory in cage.
Last year (2014) you split time with another goaltender Ryan LePlante, him starting the 1st half and you coming in the 2nd half. What was that like?
Yeah, that was something I’d never done before and it was a challenge. But it was fun having to figure out how you had to mentally prepare yourself before going in the 2nd half.
You’re taking warmup shots pregame but not going into the game for another half hour. You can’t feed off that pre-game energy and hype like you can as the starter, at least that’s how I felt.
I tried to play the role. In the 1st half I was a backup goalie so I played that role. I was on the bench cheering on my teammates and helping the team in any way I could.
Then when halftime rolled around I switched mental roles, become the starter, and started getting mentally prepped to start my game.
What do you to prepare prior to a game or the night before?
I try to be as focused as possible but at the same time as loose as I can be.
I feel that’s the best way for me. Some goalies will be very intense before the game, not talking to anybody. I found out the more calm and relaxed I am the better I’m able to focus.
It all falls into place when I’m calm and excited to get out there and have fun.
Embrace the nerves you feel as excitement for the game and just go out there and have fun.
My focus is way better when I’m relaxed. Some time to get nervous pre-game.
I found the more you try to force yourself into a certain mental state it doesn’t work. It has to happen naturally.
Can you talk about some times when you’re in a good flow state?
Sometimes I feel like I’m a step ahead of the play, like I can sense what’s coming a little better.
I think when athletes at a higher level who’ve been practicing their sport for so long and been exposed to every sort of play on the field. They’re able to get into that state where they’re very relaxed and playing at a natural level where they’re not thinking and they’re able to play a step ahead.
As you get more comfortable at higher speeds, the game slows down for you.
Coach Damon: Sounds like the Unconscious Competence.
Do you have any pre-game rituals? What are your favorite pre-game foods?
Yes, I do have a few pre-game rituals. I usually get to the locker room about 2 hours before the game. I always get a gatorade and 4 cliff bars that are provided for us.
I then head to the training room and hop into a hot whirlpool for about five minutes. That actually started last year when I had some lower back problems as a way to loosen up my back. Don’t have any lower back problems this year, but I guess it just stuck as something i’m superstitious about.
I always get a good stretch in before the game as well. I’ll save you a good amount of reading and just say there are a lot of other small quirky things built into those 2 hours leading up to the game. As for a pre-game food, I always try and get some good carbs the night before. We also have a pregame breakfast, but I never really stick to one specific food.
How do you string your heads? And what type of mesh and strings do you use?
I use the Warrior Nemesis (link to Warrior Nemesis 2). To string it I just use the warrior hard mesh stringing kit.
It’s kind of hard to explain how I string it. Our coach Trevor Tierney actually designed the head, so he knows how its supposed to be strung, and showed me how it’s done.
The top is done as any other goalie head is strung. The side wall is very tight at the top causing the top half of the mesh to be very tight, this allows for a nice channel in the mesh to develop as you loosen the sidewall towards the bottom of the stick.
You train a lot physically. How does that help you?
I think it has to do a lot with the mental side. Having the confidence of knowing that you’ve done more than the other guys out there.
Having an able body allows you to have an able mind.
Being confident with the athletic shape I’m in allows me to be more confident in net with my skills.
So I look at it as another piece of the puzzle. Getting strong, getting my feet quicker on the ladder, my vertical jump going up, that translates to me as my quickness getting better.
Knowing that I’m everything I can to get better without a stick in my hand gives me confidence when I do have my goalie stick in my hand.
Coach Damon: As someone who also trains a lot physically I couldn’t agree more Jamie Faus here. So many questions about playing goalie have this answer – get in great shape physically. How do I increase quickness? How I increase confidence? How do I improve my play out of the cage? Get in great shape.
As a goalie what do you do to maintain consistency?
Great question. During the season, you see a lot of shots in practice. I take my warmups at the beginning of practice to work on fundamentals, and work with the coaches to fix specific problems I may need to fix or improve on.
My week starts off fairly light, as I take less shots on Monday’s and build up to more reps in net throughout the week. Since we have such a long pre-season and quite a long season, you are going to find your rhythm in seeing the ball fairly quickly.
I would say more so then anything, staying mentally fresh, focused and relaxed are really the keys to consistency.
As a former Salisbury Knight, I loved playing under Coach Bobby Wynne, how did his coaching and your time at Salisbury help to make you the player you were heading into the Denver Pioneer program?
Love hearing from a fellow Sarum Brother. Coach Wynne is one of my favorite people in the world, and as you know an unbelievable coach.
Coach Wynne really helped prepare me for the college level in a few ways. One being that his practice are very high paced, intense and very competitive. Practice like this really helped me prepare for the high intensity, pace and level of competition in practice at the college level.
Coach Wynne also does a great job at preparing his team for games, and how he structures his practices leading up to the games, best preparing his players for the opponent. Having scouts on other teams and understanding game plans and putting them in throughout the week, helped to prepare me for a game week at the college level as well.
Most of all, Coach Wynne breeds a competitive spirit and love of hard work and competition amongst his players. One of my favorite quotes of Coach Wynn is, “The distance between the pent-house and the out-house is only so far.
Coach Damon: Great advice for being a great head coach there.
I heard you were a gym rat is that true and how does lifting help you protect the cage?
During the off-season I do put my hours in at the gym.
I live at the Hotchkiss School in CT where my parents teach, and have worked with the strength and conditioning coach there (Mark Knapp) for a few years. He’s quite an incredible mind. I have worked on building my strength and explosiveness with Mark, all while trying to maintain good lacrosse goalie flexibility and quickness.
I think that training the correct way, is helpful to optimize your physical abilities. I see my work with Mark, paying off more out of the cage, say on ground balls around the net and being able to get out of my goal quickly to get them, rather then it has in saving the ball.
As a fellow goalie looking for a tip, is there anything you do to keep yourself calm during a long possession by the other team? It seems very easy to become anxious and jumpy.
Great question, and something I do struggle with at times. I have found that making sure I am breathing the same way I would if the ball were at the other end of the field has been key in staying focused.
For me this means talking a little less to the defense, being more of a conversation starter and asking question, like “whose hot?”, “whose the 2 slide?” rather then constantly telling the defense, who is hot, who is the two, as well as where the ball is and what defense we are in.
By talking less, I am breathing more and staying relaxed, allowing me to keep my focus.
What do you find most satisfying about your position and what is the biggest save you’ve ever made?
I find the adrenalin and pressure of the position to be the most satisfying, I guess pretty addictive actually.
I also love the bond that you make as a defense, with the guys in front of me. There’s nothing better then having a great game as a defensive unit and having great chemistry back there.
I don’t remember any one save as being my biggest. But whenever a goalie is able to make a big stop and get the ball out quickly in transition, turning into a goal at the other end is huge. Whether that save stopped a run by the other team, or the save was the end result of the other teams long possession.
Any time a goalie is able to contribute to the momentum of his team in a positive way, or halt the momentum of the opposing team is huge. The faceoff guys and goalies, are really catalyst’s in the game.
My son is a 12 year old, playing goalie for the 2nd year. What were the keys to your success at a young age and what advice would you give him?
I played a lot of wall ball when I was younger, which helped in building my stick skills.
It is just as important to be able to clear the ball as a goalie as it is to save the ball. I also spent a lot of time out on the field with my dad as he was and assistant coach for the varsity team at Hotchkiss.
I was fortunate enough to watch a lot of great goalies in the New England West 1 league, and really study and watch a former Hotchkiss goalie Miles Kass, who went on to have a great career at Georgetown. Being able to watch Miles every day helped me gain an understanding for the position and how the best are successful.
What was the hardest part about making the jump to college lacrosse and what is one thing you wished you had worked on more in high school to prepare you for D1 lacrosse?
The first practice I had here at Denver, I felt like a fish out of water.
The pace at which the college level is played, is far faster. Not only are shots obviously faster, but guys move the ball much more quickly, run faster, and compete harder.
It’s hard to have worked on in high school, but the lifestyle of a division one athlete in any sport is quite time consuming. Being able to balance your academics, athletics, and social life can be hard to get used to.
Anything you want to say to a young goalie to help them improve their game?
Have a stick in your hand as much as possible so you’re confident with it.
Have a short term memory.
Let me the game come to you. Trust yourself in the cage. Don’t go out thinking you need to make 100 saves. Yes, goalie is an important position but don’t think everything starts and ends with the goalie because you have a whole team out there with you. Trust your teammates and trust yourself.
Great interview with former D1 goalie Jamie Faus. He really provided some awesome goalie wisdom in his responses.
One concept that was totally new to me was talking less in goal to focus more on breathing.
I’m usually so all about coaching my goalies to constantly communicate that it was interesting to hear his perspective of “starting the conversation” with questions but not over-communicating, thus allowing him to focus on breath. Something I’ll definitely have to consider.
I’ve always been a gym rat myself and totally agree with Jamie that goalies must do everything we can to get better including putting in hard work in the gym. Having an able body gives you confidence in the cage that you’re ready to make saves.
Finally, it’s cool to see how Jamie embraced the split starter role. Many athletes would let their ego get in the way but Jamie embraced his role as both a start and a backup goalie.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Just curious if there are other specific current or ex lacrosse goalies that you like to see featured in an interview style article like this? Let me know in the comments.