There are few things in lacrosse more exhilarating than a sudden-death overtime game.
60 minutes of back and forth battling and it all comes down to one goal. One goal to rule them all!
One team will end with a jubilant dog pile of celebration while the other bows their collective heads in defeat.
Does it get anymore intense than that? And for us goalies, this might be the ultimate high pressure situation. One mistake and your team loses.
For those goalies and goalie coaches wondering how to have elite performances in a sudden-death OT situation, this post is for you.
You’ll notice that my recommended approach to overtime is no different than my recommended approach to an important game. Because what we’re really talking about here is high performance in big time situations.
And that big time situation could be the championship game or it could be overtime of a normal game, or it could even be the motherload…overtime of the championship game!
Live in the Moment
For me, staying in the moment is the single greatest method for performing at a peak level in high pressure situations such as an overtime game.
When goalies allow their focus of concentration to jump ahead to the future (what happens if they score on me? what happens if I let in a goal?), or drift back to the past (I can’t believe I missed that last shot to allow OT), the result is always an increase in their nervousness.
If you want to stay cool and calm in the clutch, then you have to train yourself to keep your focus in the NOW — especially in overtime.
When I played collegiate lacrosse games I was always nervous before the games as I thought about my opponent, the crowd, the importance of the game. Sometimes those nerves lasted until my first save. But once the adrenaline got flowing I learned to live in the moment and that eliminated feelings of nervousness or anxiety and allowed me to play goalie with a calm poise.
The other thing is when you’re living in the moment, the game situation doesn’t really matter.
If you’re up by 5 goals or down by 5 goals, your approach shouldn’t change. Your focus is on leading the defense with a maniacal concentration on the ball and stopping the shot.
If it’s the 3rd quarter, 4th quarter, or overtime your approach doesn’t change. You’re not thinking about the game outcome, you’re thinking about the next play.
If you want to play loose and relaxed during a high pressure situation like OT, you must learn to keep your concentration in the now.
Overtime is just another part of a lacrosse game and if you treat it any differently you’ll find yourself getting nervous and not playing your best.
When you’re in the crease, focus on one play at a time even in the all mighty OT. Live in the NOW!
Have Fun in Overtime Games
Performing your best under pressure means that you have to be having fun.
Fun is the secret ingredient to staying calm and doing your best when the heat of competition is turned up high.
If you make a game or a moment in the game, like overtime, too important you end up putting unneeded pressure on yourself to perform.
As a goalie, when you get too serious, you’ll start getting nervous and your best game will do a major disappearing act.
When fun goes, so too will all of your save skills. If you really want to perform well, then you have to get into the game, enjoy the tournament, embrace the challenge from a tough opponent, have fun with your friends before, during and after the game!
Right before the start of overtime is a good moment to run through your strategy for handling nerves should those nerves surface.
Often times you’ll find when you’re playing in the moment the nerves won’t even surface. But if they do, you need to be prepared so you can sprint out to the crease feeling confident you’ll dominate the OT session and get your team that win.
Practice High Pressure Situations
Overtime is definitely a high pressure situation on the goalie. And while overtime games might be somewhat rare – I only played in 4, and started in 2 in my 4 year collegiate career – we can create high leverage situations in practice.
If you’re properly coaching your lacrosse team you should try to create these moments in practice.
As a goalie once you become used to the high pressure situation it becomes much easier to handle. You can live in the moment and have fun because you’ve been there before.
As a coach definitely try to work “overtime” or “next goal wins” into your practices and scrimmages. This will get your entire team, especially the goalie, used to dominating in overtime games.
And the more experience you get playing in lacrosse games, the more likely you are to experience an OT situation. With that experience under your belt, playing in the next OT game or high pressure situation won’t be as terrifying because you’ve been their before.
You’ve already walked that walk.
In my competitive career our teams only played in two overtime games when I started in goal. We won them both so I can confidently say I’m undefeated in overtime.
OT games can be very high pressure situations for goalies but by following these tips I think goalies can easily keep their cool.
Stay in the moment
Execute Strategy for handling nerves
Get a lot of exposure to high pressure situations
Overtime games can be your chance to shine making that huge save and then participating in your own team’s celebratory dog pile.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Anyone have any other tips for playing great in overtime games? I’d love to hear them, leave me a comment down below.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.