My Pre-Game Goalie Routine
With some youth leagues starting their first round of games and other programs in mid-season the timing seems right to discuss the pre-game routine I used as a goalie.
In today’s post I’m going to cover my personal pre-game routine that I went through in order to prepare to start in a college lacrosse game.
As I’ve said many times on this site, each lacrosse goalie is different. That goes for a goalie’s pre-game routine as well.
Each goalie will have little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them special.
Here is my pre-game ritual as a goalie.
Two Nights Before the Game
My pre-game routine actually started two nights before a game.
As a lacrosse team, like many other typical college students, we liked to do our fair share of partying.
But our team rule was no booze starting two nights before a game. So I wouldn’t go out Wednesday night or Thursday night in prep for a Friday game. I didn’t want to spend the day before a game hungover.
If you’re a youth goalie reading this doesn’t apply, but keep this in mind when you reach those awesome college years.
Night Before the Game
Visualization. I’m a big believer in the power of visualization. When I coach goalies through the ‘Walk the Line’ drill I’m always telling them to visualize yourself making saves. That’s what I did the night before a game. Visualized tons of different game-like situations and me making saves in all of those situations.
Good dinner. I never had a specific meal that I ate but just focused on trying to eat healthy, real food. No McDonalds, no fast food. Just a solid meal that will give me the energy I need to dominate in tomorrow’s game.
Check my gear bag. Especially important for away games but I had this intense fear that I’d forget my chest protector or some important piece of gear and only realize it when we’re suiting up on the field. So the night before I always reviewed my gear bag to ensure all the sticks, pads, jerseys, socks, cleats, etc. were good to go.
Review scouting report. We’d usually spend the week going through the scouting report of the other team but the night before the game I liked to give it a review one more time. Like cramming right before the test. As a goalie, ideally you always want to know who are the team scorers and who are the feeders. This helps your communication to the team. And if you have the info, how the scorers like to finish – which hand, which style of shot, and from where on the field.
Good night sleep. I always made sure to get at least 8 hours sleep day before a game. I wanted to be well rested.
Day of Game
Good breakfast / Lunch (depending on game time). Again I don’t have any specific pre-game meal that I always went with. But I always wanted to get in a solid breakfast and lunch, assuming it was an afternoon or 5pm game.
Drink water. Throughout the day I want to make sure I’m drinking fluids. Hydration starts several hours before so its important that a goalie drinks water throughout the day of a game, especially if its during the hot summer months.
Business as usual. Other than that, game day is business as usual. If it was a Friday game this typically meant going to class.
Hours Before the Game
Arrive 2-3 hours before the game
In college, our lacrosse fraternity was less than a 1/4 mile away from the field which meant I only had a 3 minute walk to arrive. I liked to arrive at the field earlier than when our coach said we had to be there so has to avoid any stress and also start to mentally prepare.
Throw around with a shortie
I always liked starting to throw with the shortie to get my hand eye coordination going and my stick skills sharp. During this casual throw around I’m concentrating on seeing the ball right out of my teammate’s stick and right into my stick.
I liked to listen to music pre-game. A solid playlist puts you in a good state and starts to get the adrenaline flowing. Keep in mind this is the early 2000’s so I had the Blink-182, Goldfinger, and Offspring classics loaded onto a mini MP3 player.
I always used eye black for the game. I liked the way it looked and also its glare reducing abilities. So prior to the game I’d throw on some eye black using a mirror on the sidelines or in the team locker room (if we had one – remember its club ball).
I never wanted anything backed up in my system before games. This usually meant just a #1 from the pre-game nerves plus the day’s hydration but once in awhile a pre-game deuce was in the cards. And I am not one to fight nature.
Chat with Team
I liked to keep things loose before the game. I wasn’t one of those goalies that goes all silent prior to the game trying to maintain focus. I felt by keeping things loose and fun I could better manage the pre-game nerves.
So before games just like before every practice I’d chat with the team. We were focused so weren’t screwing around but still we wanted to keep it loose so we’d definitely throw in a few jokes.
Many goalies jump right into the cage for their pre-game warmup which I never liked doing. I started with a jump rope or magic square session followed by goalie lead hand drill.
Only after that did I start to take my warmup shots following this warmup plan.
Then our team typically did 4 on 3 fast break drills. I’d typically take a few reps and then let the backup goalie take over. If I wasn’t seeing the ball particularly well I’d take more reps to help get my focus on point before the game started.
Right Before the Game Starts
I always wanted to defend the goal that was NOT facing the sun. My theory was (and still is) the hardest save of the game to make is your very first save and I never wanted the added challenge of having the sun in my eyes for those 1st quarter shots.
By the time the 2nd quarter rolled around, I had some saves under my belt and my adrenaline was flowing so the sun in the eyes wasn’t as problematic.
So if I instructed our team captains (by senior year I was a team captain) to select to defend the side without sun if we won the coin toss.
After the goalies come together to shake hands (glove off was my ritual) I sprinted to the goal.
Once arriving at the goal I checked every post once with my shaft and then hit myself on the face mask 3 times with the shaft as hard as I could. If there was any cobwebs in my head, they’re gone after this ritual.
After that I join with my defenseman for a hug and then its…
Every lacrosse goalie is going to have a pre-game ritual that works for him or her.
I’m not suggesting you follow my pre-game routine exactly but I post it here in the event that you may learn a thing or two from how I handled pre-game during my collegiate lacrosse career.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Do you guys have any specific pre-game rituals? Let me know about it in the comments.