Have you ever served as a youth goalie coach? What tips do you have for working with kids? Share your advice with me in the comments!
I was at the gym yesterday listening to my own podcast (that’s not weird, right?) that I did while back with Andrew and Mike Gvozden.
Something that Andrew said really stuck with me:
One of the things that separates good coaches from bad coaches is the ability to connect with kids because that’s your audience.
It’s so true. I’ve been to camps (lacrosse goalie and other) where the coach was one of the best in the game at teaching the sport but he talked for like 25 minutes.
You could see the look of boredom roll across the eyes of each young camper. He lost them before a single bead of sweat had fallen.
When it was finally time to start practicing everyone’s legs had fallen asleep because they were seated for so long.
If you’re going to be a great youth lacrosse goalie coach – yes you absolutely need to understand good goalie technique and be able to teach that.
But you also must have the ability to connect with kids. To get the information that’s in your brain, into theirs, and do so in a fun way that makes the training enjoyable even when it hurts.
For those parents and ex-players who’ve been thrust into the goalie coaching position, this post is for you.
It’s my tips when it comes to connecting with youth goalies and being a great youth lacrosse goalie coach.
I started playing soccer at the age of 6 and really never stopped playing organized, competitive sports until I graduated college at the age of 22.
From baseball, basketball, wrestling, tennis, soccer, and lacrosse – it’s fair to say I’ve had tons of youth sports coaches in my day.
Each coach that lead my teams had his own personality, own coaching style, own philosophy, and own approach. There are plenty of different coaching styles and each can be successful in the right situation.
But I think when you’re coaching youth – and especially youth goalies who are more mentally fragile than other position players, the style that works best is positive reinforcement.
I’ve seen too many goalies wilt and lose their confidence and joy from the negativity and criticism from harsh coaches.
Believe me, it can be frustrating as heck trying to teach a 11-year-old to attack the shot and not flinch.
But youth don’t respond well to negative criticism.
So instead – catch them being good.
I think when you see a young goalie perform some element of the save technique properly give them positive reinforcement.
Sandwich that positivity with some coaching points if need be.
Also understand that right after a youth gives up a goal in a team competitive drill or a game, while extremely tempting, is the worse possible moment to provide criticism. They feel bad enough already, believe me.
Anything constructive criticism you provide at this moment will be lost. Make a note and revisit the topic at a later.
In my experience when you make positivity the primary driver of instruction, you reinforce the good, which makes the young goalies more receptive and open-minded to constructive feedback.
The key to training great youth goalies is drilling home the fundamentals.
Fundamentals are actually the key at every level but often times youth coaches overcomplicate things.
That’s why I teach:
(P.S. these are all lessons from my online camp – Not a member? Info here):
Quick, succinct lists that youth goalies can easily remember and internalize so that with a few years of practice, it’s all second nature.
Something I learned from the Devon Wills podcast, you can even simply things further. For example, in this set of low saves, I just want you to focus on punching that bottom hand.
Simplicity and clarity are two crucial elements when you’re trying to create a connection and coach a young goalie to be dominant in the crease.
In the spirit of keeping things memorable, fun, and simple one tactic that I learned from the Goaliesmith guys is to use mnemonic devices or acronyms for remembering things.
It’s a proven fact that mnemonic devices help anyone remember things and here’s a few they shared in the podcast that I love:
If the shooter gets a hands free shot within 8 yards, we must read ’em and beat ’em.
That is – read their body language (mostly shoulders) and anticipate and beat them to the spot where the shot is going.
BSC stands for Ball / Slide / Command and it’s a great acronym for teaching goalies how to communicate with the defense.
B – Where’s the ball? Top Right!
S – Who’s the slide? Both 1 and 2 slide. Woody you’re the go! E you’re the 2!
C – How’s the on-ball defender? Poke! Lift! Pick Left! You’re good!
Having trouble throwing good outlet passes? Crow Hop and over Top!
Nemonic device to remind goalies before throwing do a crow hop to get balanced and then make sure that release comes right over the top.
Using these little catchy phrases helps makes training memorable, fun and also creates a great connection with the little keepers.
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“Crow Hop Over the Top” for more accurate and consistent clears #goaliesmith #technique
Anyone else use any other phrases like this? Let me know in the comments below.
This one might have more to do with being a great youth lacrosse coach and less to do with connecting with kids but its still a very important point.
You must provide a great example for those kids.
They will mimic you in every way so your demeanor in many ways is more important than your ability to teach the technical skills of blocking shots.
If you have bad sportsmanship towards a referee during a game. They will have bad sportsmanship.
If you show passion and enthusiasm for the sport of lacrosse (like the great Scotty Rodgers), they will have that as well because those things are contagious.
The goalie’s attitude starts with their coach. And if you can provide a great example I think you’ll connect better with the goalkeepers and be a better youth sports coach in general.
With the growth of the sport of lacrosse, especially at the youth level, more and more Moms and Dads who never played the sport are stepping up to fill the void in coaching, especially at the specialty positions like goalie.
In fact the odds are you are not an D1 All-American or an MLL goalie sensation. But you can still be a great lacrosse goalie coach.
I consider myself a great coach and I didn’t play D1 ball in college.
The great thing is – success on the field in your playing days isn’t a prerequisite to being a great coach.
Understanding the game and more importantly, the position of goalie IS however a requirement (as is passion and enthusiasm which I discussed above).
If you’re reading this article, that’s a great start. There used to be a serious void of lacrosse goalie training materials online so lack of knowledge on how to coach the position was understandable.
That’s not the case anymore.
My site, other goalie sites, Instagram, YouTube, goalie training videos. The material is out there for you to study.
By studying and bringing some knowledge into the training sessions you’ll create a better connection with the kids.
I do think your demeanor is ultimately more important than technical knowledge but a coach who doesn’t know much about the sport will eventually lose the connection with the kids when they realize they know more about goalie than you.
You can’t teach a kid calculus when they don’t understand basic math.
Yet many parents want kids to move straight to the advanced stuff. Good coaches are not pressured by this.
They start with the fundamentals and tailor training programs to the goalie’s current level and his/her goals.
Like a good teacher, the coach gets to know his players as individuals, is sensitive to their needs, both in sports and their personal lives, understands what works and doesn’t work to motivate an individual player to do his or her best, and helps them learn new skills.
What motivates one goalie might not even affect another. What allows one kid to learn a technique might be completely different from the next youth goalie you coach.
So always be sure to customize the goalie training to match the specific goalie and you’ll not only be a great goalie coach, you’ll have a great bond.
One of the best ways of connecting with kids and creating a lifelong bond is also teaching the mental toughness and grit components of the goalie position.
If you’re familiar with the lacrosse goalie triad that I teach in my camp, being mentally strong a pillar of the elite goalies anyways.
If you can not only show them how to save a shot but you can also teach them things like GRIT, you’re helping them become successful young men and women and they will bond with you, respect you, and connect with you in a way like no other.
You must help them have the right attitude and learn to react with a desire to work harder to overcome the challenge before them.
A quick tactical note: a great opportunity to have these mental discussions is during the physical training you do with your goalies.
While we’re doing physical training, I constantly talk about the value of hard work, and that you can only get stronger and better through effort and demonstrating grit.
For example, I’ll tell them stories like the Tale of Two Wolves (camp members: here’s the story) while they’re doing wall sits or jumping rope.
The struggles your young goalie will go through are real and by teaching them to be mentally tough you’re not only helping them succeed in this position, you’re creating a great connection.
Coaching youth lacrosse goalies can difficult at times but it’s extremely rewarding when done right.
Many of the tips in this post are just generally good advice for youth coaching in general applied to the lacrosse goalie position.
But when they’re executed properly and you coach with passion and create a true connection with the young goalies, the kids can’t wait to come to practice.
Some of the best feedback that I have ever received was when a parent told me that her son’s favorite the week was Sunday – because that was the day we trained together.
Create a connection and these young tenders will be your lifelong mentees and you can watch them develop and grow into beautiful young men and women.
That’s what it’s all about!
Until next time! Coach Damon
Have you ever served as a youth goalie coach? What tips do you have for working with kids? Share your advice with me in the comments!
The Lacrosse Goalie Summit replays give you access to best goalie coaching out there. Coaches like Ted Bergman, John Galloway, Matt Deluca, Brian Phipps, Kyle Bernlohr, Liz Hogan, Caylee Waters, Lyndsey Munoz, Chris Buck, Taylor Moreno, Sean Quirk, Goaliesmith, Meg Taylor, Drake Porter, Emily Sterling, Brett Dobson, and so many more. These sessions give your youth the confidence and the tools to be amazing in the crease!
4 thoughts on “How to Be A Great Youth Lacrosse Goalie Coach”
Great article and especially the advice on positivity right after a goal being scored. I’m a parent/coach with over 35 years in the sport playing and coaching lacrosse and my son has the same passion for the sport I do. I was a crease defenseman but he was drawn to goalie like a moth to the flame. My point writing this is that initially , sadly to say his first couple seasons , I would be that idiot yelling something he should’ve done differently to make the save as the ball is still in the back of the net. My next brilliant move after realizing this was not helping him was to turn my back and walk a few steps so as not to yell anything negative, what an idiot I am ! There in his worst moment of being a goalie I have now figuratively and literally turned my back on him! The realization of this hit me like a truck. I immediately made major changes in my coaching and parenting styles on the sidelines and started diving into everything I could be about positive coaching like your site and others. The change was dramatic in his play and our connection together in the sport. We completely changed our practice and game time routines and I now yell ‘get the next one’ and some positive advice as soon as one hits the net. I realized as you stated, there’s not a single player or person on that field that feels worse right then then he does, so why in the world would I add on to that , in my case as a goalie parent , the person I care most about in this world. I just want parents/coaches to know that it’s never too late to change, and as hard as it may be the results are dramatic and well , well worth it. Thanks for the site and all the great advice on it !
Thanks for adding that TC. Great point about not turning your back after goals. Post goal is not only not a teachable time but also not a time for a coach to let off steam. Be with the goalie. Support them. Give that goalie the encouragement they need right after giving up a goal. Love it. Thanks for the comment and compliment on my site, I appreciate it.
I have also had a ton of success (if your program is large enough) with letting the kids mentor each other. The younger goalies in your program look up to the older goalies. Letting them practice near each other, talk about what works and doesn’t work for them, how to run and communicate with the defense and what to watch for with shooters since they see almost college age kids everyday in practice, it’s a huge asset. Sure they aren’t perfect but it’s easy to tweak small stuff. Plus as the older youth 6-8 grade reach high school they have a relationship with the older guys, they know how the high school kids run defense and they usually have befriended the kids on defense too. It’s a win win for everyone including the coaches because let’s face it the kids in the cage are seeing things we aren’t and can teach us something too if you are willing to listen.
Great point Neal! Really smart to let kids to mentor each other.