Low Saves: Drop to Your Knees or Stay on Your Feet? | Lax Goalie Rat

Low Saves: Drop to Your Knees or Stay on Your Feet?

When we’re talking about making low saves as a lacrosse goalie: there are 2 schools of thought.

Some coaches teach kids to drop down to their knees for saving low shots.

Other encourage goalies to stay on their feet to make all saves – including those coming in at their ankles.

In this post I want to analyze the pros and cons of each style of making low saves.

Should you drop to your knees or stay on your feet to make low saves?

Dropping to Your Knees

Some goalies and goalie coaches prefer the strategy of dropping to the knees to make a save on a low shot or wormburner.

The primary benefit of dropping to your knees is getting your body low in a quick manner.

Instead of just having your stick low with legs as backup you now have more of your body providing backup to the stick.

If the goalie tosses in a little butterfly split a la ice hockey goalies then the legs occupy even more space in the cage for a potential save.

Here is Trevor Tierney giving his lesson on that technique:

Watch a Trevor Tierney coached goalie play like the 2015 Ryan LaPlante and you see this technique in action. Dropping to the knees to help block lows shots.

If the goalie is really tall even when dropped to the knees you still might be able to reach a high shot, kinda like this –

Another variation of dropping to your knees is dropping to your butt for low saves.

Here’s the Goaliesmith guys giving a demo of this split-save technique:

Dropping to your butt or using this split save technique offers the same set of advantages that dropping to the knees does.

Mainly you can get a little more of your body behind the shot.

Interestingly enough I’ve watched a lot John Galloway training videos and even spoken about his technique for a podcast episode.

Never once did he mention dropping to his knees for low shots.

And yet you often see photos of him ending up on his knees or butt during saves.

I emailed future Hall of Fame goalie John Galloway about this. Asking him why he ends up on the ground for low saves even though I’ve never heard him teach that technique.

File this one under: do anything you can do to make a save.

So for some goalies even though they don’t practice or train this dropping technique when game time rolls around they do anything they can to make the save.

Dropping Disadvantages

One the major disadvantages of dropping to your knees is the horrible position you’re left in the event you do make a save.

You won’t be in good position to make another save should the offensive team scoop up your rebound and attempt to score.

You also won’t be in good position to throw a quick outlet pass. You’ll have to first get to your feet and regain balance or else risk throwing a super risky pass from your knees.

Sometimes that split second (or full second) it takes to get back to your knees will mean that wide open middie is now covered.

When dropping to your knees is your instinctual behavior, it’s also very easy to be fooled on bounce shots were you drop to your knees and the ball bounces up over you into the goal.

The pic above (goalie in black) is a good example. That ball comes in at normal chest height and he’d probably have a better chance of saving that shot by staying on his feet.

Stay On Your Feet For Low Saves

The other technique – and the one that I teach – is to stay on your feet for low saves.

I think goalies make more saves over time staying on their feet.

Here’s another Goaliesmith clip showing low save technique when staying on your feet:

Even though we’re staying on our feet, we still need to lower our center of gravity and get down on low saves.

Staying on our feet doesn’t mean we don’t get down to low to make the save. It’s just that we don’t drop to our knees in this style of low save.

We use standard save technique and drive our top hand to the ball with lead step.

There are a lot of different styles to play goalie and I’ve always said you’ve got to find what works for you.

That said, I feel pretty strongly about goalies not dropping to their knees.

In fact I wrote dropping to knees as a bad habit goalies need to break.

When young goalies have the idea of dropping to their knees in their head, they start to use it as a default. Dropping to their knees even on high shots. Or dropping on bounce shots that end up high.

As I discussed above, many times when a goalie ends on the ground they’re just trying to throw whatever body part they can in front of shot, and that’s fine. But – in my opinion –  your default save technique for lows should be to always stay on your feet.

Undo the Habit of Dropping to Knees

So let’s say you’re a goalie who has the habit of dropping to their knees on low shots and you want to break that habit.

How do you do it?

Practice.

That’s really all I can offer you. Take low shots and practice the proper technique until the habit is gone.

If you drop to your knees for a save, punish yourself by running a full field sprint or doing 25 pushups.

Get tired? Then don’t drop to your knees.

Conclusion

Ultimately there’s no one correct way to play this beautiful position we call lacrosse goalie.

One the variances afforded to the position is your technique for making those low saves.

There are 2 choices: drop down to your knees/butt or stay on your feet.

While both offer pros and cons I feel pretty strongly lacrosse goalies make more saves over time by staying on their feet.

Until next time! Coach Damon

What’s your low save technique? Drop to knees? Or stay on your feet? Leave me a comment down below.

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15 thoughts on “Low Saves: Drop to Your Knees or Stay on Your Feet?

  1. I honestly think a hybrid approach is the best way to go. You should try to remain on your feet as much as possible so you can get the pass back out as quick as possible to start the transition. However, there are certain shots (especially when your stepping and forced to cover a lot of ground and the shot is low on the far pipe) that you need to stop the ball by any means and going down is the quickest and most efficient way to do that. I say put it as a tool in your arsenal but use it sparringly.

    1. But do you practice it? It funny how we train a certain way and then when game time rolls around our technique totally changes in the name of making saves. I get the mentality of doing anything you can to make a save. But if a kid has practiced a certain way for hours, does it make sense to change it up when game time rolls around? Are we better for it? Not sure.

      1. I wouldn’t practice it but I wouldn’t correct them if it happens either. Again as long as it isn’t something they’re doing consistently or on routine saves then let it slide. You want your players to be reacting and not thinking. If a coach is too rigid on you need to do this or that in this situation they are not going to play quickly as they are more worried about their steps and hands than the ball. So I would push the fundamentals in practice but if they go down to a knee every now and again, I’m yelling “Great Save”.

        1. Interesting approach Jamie. I get the idea of not overthinking things and just reacting. But when they’re learning the position thinking is the only way. Reminds me of this post I wrote about the 4 stages of development where at first the only way is to think through it then with experience you can execute your save movement without thinking. Anyways thanks for the comment.

  2. Great teaching points Damon. I work with my local high school’s club team, specifically with the goalies, and I see a lot of goalies try to almost sweep the ball on low saves, doing a full circle around their reach and dropping to their back knee. I try to get them away from that, so this post should help.
    Another point I’d like to add to the cons for kneeling is if you play with a longer goalie shaft, kneeling or dropping down can get your shaft caught in your equipment, slowing down or stopping your movements. Just a thought

    1. True on the goalie shaft. I played with an attack shaft so never even thought of that. Direct movement to the ball is most effective – nobody will ever convince me otherwise haha

  3. I agree wholeheartedly on the conclusion! Keeping the feet, and stepping with both feet leaves a goalie better positioned for bounce shots, rebounds, and outlet passes. Stepping with both feet also covers the entire goal face better.
    Need to fix the prescription, however. “Don’t do that” coaching always involves more time, frustration, and backsliding than “do this instead” coaching. To get down on low shots quickly, goalies need to be taught to throw their hips/butt downward- while staying on feet. (Not going-to-ground as a taught technique. Ugh!)

  4. Yeah, I think Galloway has a point, and you mention it here as well; sometimes it really is just about making the save. Not that I specifically practice dropping to my butt or my knees on low shots, I can still think of a number of saves I’ve made with the splits technique, and getting that, albeit somewhat painful, fantastic kick save, whereas if I stayed on my feet and tried to step to the shot normally, the ball would’ve beat me to the backside pipe. It’s definitely interesting to think about the split second decisions the brain makes in these situations and how they change not only game to game but shot to shot.

    1. Yeah I do think sometimes its about just making a save. I guess my issue is I don’t think goalies should practice one way and then play games another way. So if they don’t flop around during practice they shouldn’t all of sudden adopt this technique during just because they want to do everything they can to make the save. If they’re not practicing it they have better odds making the save like they’re trained.

  5. This is off topic but I had the tryouts for my second season of club and they’re doing a different approach where your judged every week to see your skill and hard work is the biggest factor. What is hard work for goalie like in practice? I know of chasing the ball and running hard and try to make good clears, but what else is considered hard work,

    ps I heard back on Wednesday and I made the team

    From, Liam

    1. 100% focus and concentration on every drill. Rooting everyone on even when you’re not involved in the drill. Cheering on teammates. Always hustling during the conditioning. Loud communication. Hope that helps! LEt me know how it goes.

  6. Such a good read. We have a lot of kids in HS that do the splits and flop for the drama of it all and sadly the crowd and parents support it not understanding the 101 rules of being a good GK. I agree with doing whatever it takes to stop a shot, but as soon as an attackman gets you to move you have already lost.

    Nothing beats – a quiet GK with fast hands and perfect positioning.

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