8 Life Skills I Learned From Being a Lacrosse Goalie
By Coach Damon on March 23, 2016
Lacrosse is my passion and I love the sport.
I would love to coach lacrosse goalies as a full time job but unfortunately I’m not there yet.
Hopefully one day I can do that. I’m trying to build LaxGoalieRat.com to help out in that endeavor and I appreciate all the support everyone has given me so far.
In the meantime, to pay the bills and to support my habit of buying new lacrosse goalie gear, I work as a web developer and designer based in the Bay Area.
Prior to going out on my own I worked for a large consulting company in the IT space and then a small startup in San Francisco, also in technology.
While working in the office or managing my freelance web design business, there are valuable skills that I use everyday that were either discovered or strengthened as a direct result of being a lacrosse goalie.
At the end of the day lacrosse is about more than wins, losses, and save percentage. Whether you realize it or not, by playing the position of lacrosse goalie you are learning invaluable life skills.
Here are the 8 skills I learned from being a goalie that transcend the sport and that I use in my professional career and my life everyday.
On most teams the lacrosse goalie is the single most important player. There may be championship lacrosse teams without a great leader as a goalie, but I don’t know any.
Goalies must be the leaders of the defense. If the goalie folds under pressure, so will the team.
Lacrosse goalie is one of those positions where if you’re not a natural born leader, you will learn how to be one. There is no other way. The position is too important.
The leadership skills that I learned on the lacrosse field easily transitioning right into real world situations in my life, including while working in the office.
Leadership on the lacrosse field means being honest with your teammates and yourself.
To become a leader on the lacrosse field your teammates must trust you. So when you let in a goal nobody panics but they look to you strength and guidance through the tough times.
In my first job I described above I was responsible for the team who wrote the software that produced the paper bills for Pac Bell. If you got a bill from Pac Bell it came from us. (I know I’m dating myself, they’re now AT&T).
One day I got a panicked call from the manager of the printing center that every single bill was coming out as garbage with overlapping text on every single one. Major software bug.
Luckily for me my talent for guiding the team through the process without panicking was thoroughly honed on the lacrosse field.
Nothing compares to the amount of pressure that comes with being a goalie.
You’re the last line of defense and any mistake is amplified as it results directly in a goal for the other team.
Playing goalie in the sport of lacrosse teaches you how to how handle intense pressure.
Lacrosse goalies learn to understand that while this pressure will always exist, the important thing to not let it effect your performance. The mental training allows the body to perform the same in practice as in a game against the worst team in the league, as in the NCAA championship game.
So years later when I walked into an interview for a dream job or stepped into a pitch meeting with a potential 7 figure client, I knew my experience as a lacrosse goalie had trained me to handle this pressure.
Was I nervous? You better believe it. But my lacrosse goalie background and the ability to handle that pressure allowed me to perform at a high level despite the high stakes.
For anyone who’s never played goalie, its hard to understand the level of mental focus and concentration that’s required.
The goalie must be 100% focused for four 15 minute quarters with just one slip in concentration normally resulting in a goal for the other team.
It’s intense but developing this level of focus and concentration is extremely valuable life skill.
In the office instead of focusing on running a defense and stopping a 90 MPH shot, I’m focused on getting my work done.
Because I had spent so much time on the lacrosse field teaching my body and mind to focus, when it came time to design a new website or tackle a seemingly impossible task at work I knew how to tap into that power developed as a result of playing lacrosse goalie.
Playing lacrosse goalie is a tough position. So learning how to play in college while balancing a job and the school course load required an extremely strong work ethic.
Great goalies know that to be the best you must outwork the competition. That’s exactly what I did on the lacrosse field and exactly what I did in the office.
Fast forward a few years and I’m sitting in an interview room. We really like your resume Damon but our ideal candidate needs to know PHP. Do you think you can learn it quickly?
Just like I learned to play goalie from scratch? “Yeah, of course!” I said confidently.
To be great in any endeavor you have to put in the work. Not just the bare minimum that everyone else is doing.
I’m referring to developing the type of work ethic of a champion.
This type of work ethic cannot come from a coach or a parent. It has be developed within you. Because when you step into the office, there’s no parent to look over your shoulder and push you.
Sure you have a boss but you’re never going to work as hard being pushed vs. being pulled by internal desire to be the best in your endeavor.
Confidence is the lacrosse goalie’s most precious asset.
Even when goalies understand every technical aspect making a save, without confidence they’ll fear the ball and let in extremely easy goals.
Letting in easy goals continues to destroy the confidence and off they go into a horrible downward spiral.
On the other hand, a goalie playing with extreme confidence has a strong belief that any shot, even a 1×1 on the door step, is going to end up in his goalie stick.
They carry a swagger that is picked up by the defense and the entire team.
Having confidence on the lacrosse field is the single most important element to a goalie’s success. I’d argue that in life having confidence is alos the single greatest element of success.
With its doing a sales meeting, job interview, or chatting up a cute girl, having the confidence in yourself to perform at the highest level is something that a lacrosse goalie learns.
A top lacrosse goalie in the NCAA will have a save percentage around 65%.
So about 35% of the shots he/she faces result in a failure; a goal for the other team.
This can often be difficult for new lacrosse goalies who get so mentally down on themselves after giving up a goal. But this mental beating only serves to produce more failure, more goals.
Sure, even the most elite goalies make mistakes and disappointed. In fact, due to their competivie drive they probably hate it more than anyone.
However they also know how to deal with the failure. They realize its an inevitable part of their journey to become an elite lacrosse goalie.
They don’t allow disappointments to sidetrack them, but rather the failures they endure fuel them to strive towards their goal of long-term success.
Dealing with failures is something I learned how to do in between the pipes and when I entered the office for the my first job out of school I was already prepared.
So when the 1st major failure came my way I didn’t quit, I didn’t panic. I took responsibility and used that failure as fuel to further my working career.
As a I wrote about in 7 habits of highly successful lacrosse goalies, the All-Stars are constantly learning their craft.
They are humble enough to realize that the lacrosse goalie coach has a different perspective on the game and is probably spot on with his criticism.
If your ego is too large and you start to think you know it all, you’re in trouble on the lacrosse field and you’re in trouble in the work setting.
An ideal employee is one who is confident and yet contains enough humility to understand when a colleague or a client is right.
By bringing humility into our lives we’re eliminating aggression, arrogance, pride, and vanity. All qualities that make us poor lacrosse goalies and poor co-workers.
My sense of humility was strengthened in the crease and its something that made me an outstanding contributor and leader in the office.
When I’m in the office I’m humble enough to understand when someone else has a better idea.
This sense of humility is necessary to succeed in the crease and in the office.
When I played ball at Cal our motto was “Team First”.
In a previous post I described what team 1st means on the lacrosse field:
Team First means Commitment. Always doing what is best for team. Period. Both on the field and off the field, always do what is best for the team.
Team First means Acknowledgement. Always giving props to every player’s role. To the goalie’s saves, to the defender’s strip takeaways, to the face-off middie’s ground ball win. Don’t save the acknowledgement simply for the goal scorers.
Team First means Accountability. Everyone carries their own weight. Everyone works their tails off and those who do not get called out. That’s accountability.
Team First means Self-Awareness. Every player on the team is not a goal scorer and every defender is not a specialist in stripping opponents of the ball. Each player on the team has a role and every player should accept that role. That doesn’t mean a player can’t work hard to change their role with time. However each player accepts the role he or she is currently in.
Team First means Situational Awareness. If your team is up by a goal with little time and you, as the goalie, just make a save, is it a smart play to try a risky outlet pass to start a fast break? Situational awareness is about understanding the game, understanding what defense you’re in and having every team member execute accordingly.
Team First means Trust. Every member of the team trusts each other. Players trust the coaches and vice versa. When its time to slide on defense you trust that your teammates will pickup the second slide. When you’re deep in a hard practice you trust that everyone else is giving their full effort just like you are.
Team First means Ownership. If a goalie is giving up a bunch of easy goals, you own it. You don’t make excuses about your defense or the playing conditions or whatever. You don’t go on internet forums and ask “My defense sucks, what can I do?”. You own your mistakes and dedicate yourself to fixing them.
All of these Team First qualities that I embraced on the lacrosse carried over into the office and into my life.
Making me not only a top performer at work but also amongst friends and family.
For the majority of lacrosse players after finishing their NCAA careers they start their life in the professional world.
The good news for lax players and especially goalies is that while we’re practicing and playing the game we love we’re developing skills that will help us dominate in the office.
These skills include:
- Ability to Handle Pressure
- Strong Work Ethic
- Focus and Concentration
- Dealing with Failure / Set Backs
- Team First
It’s no wonder that I love this sport of lacrosse so much. In addition to being fun, have a look at all the life skills you get out of the creator’s game.
Until next time! Coach Damon
What have you learned on the lacrosse field that translated into your professional life?