The 7 Elements Of The Perfect Lacrosse Goalie Stance
By Coach Damon on January 4, 2016
Getting into a perfect lacrosse goalie stance before every shot is half the battle when it comes to making consistent saves as a lax goalie.
One of the first things a new goalie should learn is how to get setup in the proper stance that will maximize his or her ability to make saves.
When you analyze video or still images you’ll often notice that when a goalie is setup in a bad stance at the time of the shot’s release, the ball goes in.
Want to bet this shot goes in?
The overall governing rule for a perfect lacrosse stance is to get into an athletic position.
If there’s ever a question about your stance, just ask yourself am I in an athletic position?
A proper goalie stance is also one that we can routinely get into and is the same every time.
The stance should be comfortable and also put the goalie into the best possible position to attack the oncoming shot.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, there are many styles of lacrosse goaltending. Each goalie may have some differences in his or her stance however these are the 7 elements of the perfect lacrosse goalie stance and every great goalie will have these.
I teach my goalies to setup with their feet a little wider than shoulder width.
This is the way I felt most comfortable in the cage. I could move in any direction out of this stance and I always felt like I was in a good athletic position.
The base stance of a lacrosse goalie is often compared to that of NFL linebacker. Lacrosse goalies obviously setup with their hands up and ready to save a shot.
You never see an NFL linebacker setup with feet only shoulder width apart standing up straight.
Some goalie coaches do recommend feet shoulder width apart, which is fine. But any narrower than shoulder width and you’re not in an athletic position.
When you analyze the play of today’s top MLL goalies, you’ll notice that nearly all of them setup in a stance with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart.
We should be on the balls of our feet so that we’re ready to move.
The second element of a perfect stance is to have your knees bent nice and low.
Having bent knees automatically puts us in an athletic position.
If you bend your knees nice and low, it’s very easy to popup for the higher shots and the bent knees means you’re already lower to the ground to simplify the process of saving low shots.
Another benefit of having your knees bent is that the weight automatically goes on the balls of your feet which is want we want.
We don’t want to have our weight on the toes nor on the heels.
Many goalie coaches teach their goalies to have their weight on their toes. The problem with that is the goalies are off-balance and falling forward as to the shooter winds up or makes a fake.
We want a stance that is completely still when the shooter is the winding up.
Here is Trevor Tierney setup in a perfect lacrosse goalie stance
Having a nice straight, flat back in your stance ensures you take up as much room as possible in the goal.
We’ll also ensure our shoulders are broad for the same reason. However nothing awkward, as we always want to be comfortable in our lacrosse goalie stance.
As we make saves we always want to be “BIG” in the cage. Having a straight back in your stance and during the save process will help ensure we’re staying BIG and thus increase our save percentage.
While keeping my back straight I like to have a slight bend forward at the hips. Always in a comfortable, athletic manner.
45 degrees of bend is too much. I’d recommend something like 20 degrees which puts us in a comfortable, athletic position. This is going to position our chest slightly in front of our hips.
Your back and chest should always be square to the shooter.
Side angle of a great lacrosse goalie stance.
Hand position is extremely important. Both in where your hands are on the stick and their positioning to your body.
I like to have my hands about chest-width apart or about 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
If your hands are too wide, the rotation of the stick becomes too long and will inhibit our ability to make those off-stick hip and off-stick low shots where the stick must fully rotate.
With your top-hand placement, you have a few options:
I prefer to setup with my top hand touching the plastic (#2 above) but I know plenty of goalies who like to grip the plastic to prevent stick rotation when the ball makes contact.
In certain circumstances, such as with a very small youth goalie (< 5 foot) it makes sense to have the top hand be under the plastic throat (#3 above) of the stick an inch in order to help the goalie reach all corners of the goal.
Regardless of where your top hand is, the bottom hand is about 12-18 inches below. With our hands that far apart we can make quick movements and rapid stick rotations when needed.
Place tape on your stick so that you know where your hands should be every time.
The final point regarding your hand position is that the top of your stick should not be above the crossbar when you set up in your stance. If it is, you’re protecting an area that’s not a goal and that’s a waste.
This means, taller goalies (about 6′ and above) either need more knee bend or lower hands so that the top of their stick is at the top of the goal.
Shorter goalies can have their hands as high their eyes if the stick doesn’t go past the top crossbar.
Or they can also set up very low like current MLL goalie Adam Ghitelman.
The next element of the perfect stance is arms out away from your body.
If your arms are too tight, moving the stick around is a difficult task. Also with your stick in tight, it might become caught on your face mask or gear during a save.
Our arms should be out and away from our body while still maintaining a bend at the elbow. Locked elbows are no good as any locked joint is not an athletic position.
One tip to find the right arm position. Fully extend your elbows, then bring them 1/2 way back. This usually results in a nice athletic positioning of the arms.
To practice having your arms out and away from your body, try the Defensive Stick Drill where we use a long stick to make saves. If your hands are not out away from your body in this drill, the long stick will hit the goal.
By having our hands out we can attack the ball quicker and reduce the amount of distance we need to cover to make a save.
Scott Rodgers’ goalie stance is seen above.
I don’t know all the details of a perfect lacrosse defensive stance for long-poles but I’m pretty sure that defender in the pic is NOT doing it 🙂
When we grab the lacrosse shaft with our hands we want to grip to be loose – ideally with only our thumb, first, and second fingers.
The grip should be loose while still maintaining control of your goalie stick.
The light grip with the thumb and forefinger allows the hands to rotate to cover all corners of the goal.
Your hands should be on the stick so that the wrists are to the back of the stick. Again, this will provide the best rotation of the stick to all areas of the cage.
You should be able to freely and easily rotate the stick 360 degrees with no limitations. If you can do that, you’ve got the right grip.
The goalie’s grip exposes the goalie’s thumb to damage from shots so be sure you’ve got a pair of lacrosse goalie gloves that have a reinforced thumb to protect yourself.
The final element of a perfect lacrosse goalie stance is to be completely relaxed.
We cannot have tension in our body because it limits our ability to react.
One of the main reason we give up rebounds is that we’re stiff. Also one of the main reasons we bite on fakes or have a false step is because our bodies are too tense and we go for that first movement.
We’re gripping the stick nice and light with our hands too. And all other limbs are relaxed and ready to go.
If you’re relaxed in your stance you can stay in it all day. Or at least long enough to endure a long 4-minute possession from the opposing team.
Once you’re able to set up in the perfect lacrosse goalie stance, one great exercise is the mirror training lacrosse drill.
That is, set up in front of a mirror and see how your stance looks.
Your lacrosse goalie coach can provide feedback on your stance but once you understand the basics you can practice it in front of the mirror to ensure consistency and perfection every time.
Another great drill is to walk the line where we practice our stance by visualizing and making imaginary saves. Before making a save in this drill, setup in your stance.
Work on the things you need to correct to make your stance perfect.
With the goalies I coach one thing I constantly harp on is the need to be able to get into the same exact stance over and over, without thinking about it.
The perfect stance should just be 2nd nature for every goalie. And this only comes through repetition.
If you’re uncomfortable in your stance you might need to build the leg and shoulder muscles to increase their endurance.
I often find it helps to study the pros so here are photos of MLL goalies setup in their stances.
Each goalie is going to have a little uniqueness to their goalie stance but notice how every goalie is in an athletic position to make a save.
Do you see the 7 elements of the perfect lacrosse goalie stance demonstrated throughout these photos?
A goalie’s stance is crucial to his or her ability to consistently make saves.
By ensuring that you’ve got these 7 elements covered you’ll be setting yourself up for success:
- Feet a little wider than shoulder width apart
- Knees bent
- Flat, straight back with a slight lean forward
- Hands chest-wide or about 12 in apart
- Arms out and away from the chest
By covering those 7 elements we’re guaranteed to be in an athletic position ready to make saves.
Like many other elements of lacrosse goalie play, there are many different stances that goalies will use. But all good stances have these 7 elements in common.
Until next time! Coach Damon
What are your tips for the perfect lacrosse goalie stance? Let me know in the comments.