The 3 types of Lacrosse Goalie Arcs I Teach: which is right for you? | Lax Goalie Rat

The 3 types of Lacrosse Goalie Arcs I Teach: which is right for you?

While the mechanics of making a save are virtually the same for every lacrosse goalie, there’s still many different ways to play to the position.

One of the main differentiators has to do with the lacrosse goalie arc that is used.

The way you play your arc is extremely important because it sets us up to make a save. Being in a great position makes our jobs easier once the shot is taken.

Arc and angle play have many different approaches and in this post I want to discuss the 3 different types of lacrosse goalie arc’s – traditional arc, shallow arc, and high arc – and also help you determine which type of arc is right you.

Traditional Arc


The traditional arc is a semicircle about 1-3 feet in front of the goal line. They’re are 7 points on this arc. See the infographic for a visual description.

As the ball moves to different zones on the field, the goalie will adjust his position on the arc to be in position to stop the shot.

This is typically the first arc that young goalies learn and you can even see it in use in the highest levels of D1 lacrosse and the MLL.


This arc is the most basic to learn. Knowing where to be is very intuitive even to a first time goalie.

Because you’re out away from the goal line, we’re cutting down the angle on outside shots.


In the traditional arc (and high arc) when an attacking middie sweeps its extremely easy for the goalie to be caught out of position.

Because we’re further towards the shooter we have less time to react to the shot when compared to the flat arc.


Jesse Swartzman of the Denver Outlaws is one example of an elite goaltender who uses a traditional arc.

High Arc

Lacrosse Goalie High Arc


In a high arc we’re going to move in semicircle similar to the traditional arc, however in this case we’re even further away from the goal. About 3-5 feet. We recommend this arc for shorter goalies since you will appear much larger in the cage.


The high arc cuts down the angle and minimizes the distance a goalie needs to move his hands and body to reach a shot.

By being closer to the shooter, from the shooter’s perspective he will see less open cage and often miss the goal entirely with his shot as he attempts to shoot for a corner.

Since you’re closer to the shooter you have less time to react and thus the high arc is best for goalies with quick feet. Generally these tend to be the smaller goalies.


The high arc cuts down the angle significantly but can also leave you out of position. There more movement required to reach the positions on the high arc and more movement means more chance that we’re out of position.

This young lady is playing a very high arc – she’s almost at the top of the crease circle. Notice how that leaves her way out of position on a quick pass.

We can also be put out of position by a quick skip pass. The goalie will need to move quickly from one position on the arc to another and this is often too challenging.

Because we’re further out of the goal, any rebounds given up while playing in the high arc have a higher probability of leaving the crease where an attackman can pick them up and put it back into the goal.


You can see this style of arc in action with smaller goalies such as Niko Amato (5’8″) and Adam Ghiltelamn (5’9″)


Flat Arc

Lacrosse Goalie Flat Arc


A flat arc is one where you setup your stance extremely to close to the goal line. In some cases your heels are even touching the goal line. But for most goalies in a flat arc your feet will be 1-1.5 feet above the goal.

The flat arc is becoming more and more popular today as opposing team’s develop faster shots and nastier fakes.


Because you are further away from the shooter, the flat arc gives goalies more time to react to the ball.

The flat arc is great for larger goalies (taller than 5’10”) because you can still reach all corners of the goal with your large reach.

There is less movement in a flat arc and thus it is harder to get out of position. So goalies using a flat arc will typically find themselves in the proper position to increase the odds of making a save.


Being deeper in the goal gives the shooter more open net to look at. You appear much smaller in the cage.

This is fine for goalies who taller however for short goalies (under 5’9″) playing the flat

Especially for short goalies (under 5’9″) playing the flat arc increases the distance you need to travel


Goalies who use this arc include Trevor Tierney and Mike Gabel from the Boston Cannons. Here are some highlight clips of these 2 goalies so you can see this goalie arc in real live game play.

Which arc is best for you?

If you’re a goalie just starting to learn the position, I’d start with the traditional arc. It’s easy to learn and gives you a balance between the pros and cons of high/flat arcs.

If you’re a smaller goalie, I’d then learn the high arc. It’s extremely important that you develop your quickness and your reflexes through drills in order to succeed in playing this type of arc.

If you’re a larger goalie, I’d play the flat arc. This gives the most time to react to the shot and since you have a larger body type you’ll take up a sufficient amount of the cage and also be able to reach shots to the corners.

Regardless of which type of arc you play there are situations in the game where you must adapt. When the ball is inside, close to the crease, you should NEVER be in a high arc. The attackman will simply take a step to either side and you’re out of position. In this situation I recommend goalies sink back and adapt a flat arc.

Learning a new arc is going to feel uncomfortable at first, therefore its important that you work on your arc play in practice for a few weeks until you start using it in an actual game.

During practice put tape down on the turf (or grass) to define the spots on your arc. Eventually you’ll want to be able to walk the arc without looking down however when you’re learning its ok to look down and check your positioning. With time, the correct positioning will start to feel natural.

In every arc type while walking the arc, be sure to step with your inside foot first. Our legs should never come together and touch. Step with the inside foot first and then trail step to get into the proper position.

Infographic of the Different Goalie Arcs

If you’re a visual person I created this graphic to demonstrate the various types of lax goalie arcs and their associated pros and cons.

Lacrosse Goalie Arc Infographic

Share this Image On Your Site


There is no definitive rule of whether you play a high or shallow arc. Play what works best for you.

That said, if you’re a smaller goalie who specializes who making saves with quickness a higher arc will reduce the amount of distance you need to cover. Your foot speed will more than make up for it.

Even after deciding which arc is best for your style of play, it’s important to know and practice all arc types since there are situations on the field when one arc is extremely beneficial to another.

Until next time! Coach Damon

Got any tips for lacrosse goalie arc play? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 

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4 thoughts on “The 3 types of Lacrosse Goalie Arcs I Teach: which is right for you?

  1. Nice job Coach. The “arc question” is one that I am asked all the time and I am glad to see that you conclude with what works best for the individual and that they should learn how to play all of the “arcs”. I would argue that the level or distance from GLE should be situational and not simply a choice of one “style” of arc over the other.

    Recent history has demonstrated the efficacy of a flat arc and has made it easier for non goalie coaches to teach the position which is great. Teaching a flat crease makes the goaltender position easier to learn and teach, but in my opinion it is very one dimensional. Hockey goalies primarily play a flat crease because they can cover a large percentage of the goal without moving, but when time permits most hockey goalies will move out to shorten the angle and gain a bigger advantage over the shooter.

    As shot speeds continue to increase I think we will see a trend towards a higher and more situational understanding of the arc mixed with a split leg style. With high school kids shooting in the 90’s goaltenders will be forced to adjust their angle play and rely on hand speed, body saves, and a split leg style, rather than a step to stance style.

    In the end there isn’t one way to play the position and the best goalies in most sports tend towards the unorthodox and the popular “style” of play tends to follow the success of others which was clear in you presentation.

    Keep up the good work.

    Quint Moores

    1. Hey Quint! Thanks for that awesome comment! I’ve also found that different arcs work better on different days. Some days when a goalie is just “on” I’ve seen the higher arc work wonders. Again, thanks for the great comment! Coach Damon

  2. I tend to agree with the “hybrid” arc concept. For example if the shooter is farther out say just inside the restraining line, the “flat” is appropriate. If the player has just dodged and is say 10-15 yard, then the goalie would step out to cut off the angle, much like a hockey goalie, in my opinion. The issue is “if” he makes a pass to an attackman sitting on the pipe. However, “if” he continues with the shot, then statistics are greater of stopping shot. Now, back to the “if” he makes a pass scenario , has the defenseman arrived late to the slide? Is the defenseman in position to check the attackmans stick? These I believe factor into “arc’ play. You talked about “split leg”, is this where you have a “5” hole open and you use your stick to stop, or is it where you drop to your knees? If its the latter, then I tend to tell my goalies to step out and lower your hips, keeping body behind the ball and back fairly straight.

    End the end it entirely up to the player and comfort level… and they have quick hands/feet and in shape. Respectfully, cololax

    1. I think the hybrid approach makes a lot of sense. I’d rather have the goalie better setup to defend a 10-15 yard shot then to be in worse position for that shot but better able to defend an attackman on the pipe. That’s a tough save regardless. I didn’t talk about “split leg” style, that was in a comment from Quint above. I think he’s referring to butterfly style like ice hockey goalies. For low saves I actually coach my goalies to stay on their feet. Some prominent goalie coaches teach dropping to knees but I think more saves are made over time on your feet. Thanks for the comment.

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