Today I’m going to discuss tips and techniques for proper lacrosse goalie play when the ball is at X, a.k.a. behind the goal.
It’s a very dangerous spot on the field and most teams with a good attack will work their offense through X. So we definitely need to understand and practice how to defend this situation as a lax goalie.
Similar to other aspects of lacrosse goalie play, the right technique when the ball at X is all about position and angles.
Let’s get into it.
How to Play Feeds From Behind (X)
Let’s first discuss where we set up with our bodies when the ball is at X.
We start by dividing the goal in half with an imaginary stick perpendicular to the goal line.
Ball Directly Behind the Goal
When the ball is directly behind the goal, we’ll be straddling this imaginary stick so that we’re set up directly in front of the goal facing the feeder with the ball.
We should be set up at the point where the imaginary stick would end as seen in the image below. Never be standing directly on the goal line as this will leave us out of position when its time to make a save.
The one exception is for the goalies who play a very flat arc. They can be closer to the goal-line because when they pivot around to face a shot they’ll be in their flat arc.
For everyone else, our setup to play balls from back center X should look like this:
Ball Back Left of Goal
When the ball is back left, we set up on the opposite side of the goal. With our right foot touching where the top of this imaginary stick would be.
This is a little counterintuitive to many new goalies but it is the correct approach to proper backside positioning for lax goalies.
In this setup we’re always only one pivot away from being in the right position no matter what the feeder does – dodge, feed to his left, feed to his right.
The idea behind playing feeds from behind the goal in this way is that we’ll have maximum coverage of the goal when a feed is made to the crease area.
So when the ball is back left, we’re set up on the opposite side of the goal as seen in the image below.
Ball Back Right of Goal
Of course, when the ball is back right of the goal, we’ll do the exact opposite of what I described above.
When the ball is back right we’ll be set up on the left side of the goal with our left foot touching the top of the imaginary stick that we’re using to divide the goal into two.
Remember in all 3 situations to call out the position of the ball on the field so your entire defense is aware of where the ball is. This is especially important with the ball at X since most defenders will not be able to see the ball.
Pivot On the Feed / Pivot and Step on the Dodge
With the proper goalie positioning when the ball is at X, we’re always just one quick pivot away from being in perfect position to make a save.
When a feed does come, the goalie will need to make a quick pivot to get into the right position and cut off the angle for the attackman receiving the feed.
We always follow the ball with our pivot. That is, keep your chest facing the ball. NEVER turn your back to the ball.
For example, if the ball is back left, we’re setup on the opposite side of the goal (like the image above).
If the feeder passes front side, we’ll pivot on our right foot to get into position to make a save.
Notice the space disappear as the coach makes the pivot to put himself into perfect position to make a save.
If the ball is passed to the back side (right side in this example), we’ll pivot on our left foot putting us against the pipe and perfectly setup to make a save.
Handling Dodges from X
We’ve covered what to do in the event of a back-side and front-side feed from an attackman behind the goal. Now, what do lax goalies do when the attacker drives to the goal from X?
When it becomes clear the attacker is going to goal, he’s no longer a feeder, he’s now a dodger. This is typically when he’s about 2 yards below goal line extended and you can see he or she’s looking to score, not pass. There’s a clear difference.
Again the goalie can get into the right position with just a single step if we’re properly setup as described above.
Continuing with the example of the ball at back left, we’ll pivot with our left foot and position it against the pipe. Then we’ll step with our right foot put ourselves into a perfectly balanced goalie ready stance.
Smaller goalies may need to incorporate a larger step to get into the proper position against the pipe. That’s fine. Larger goalies should be able to cover the distance with a single pivot and step move.
One common mistake I see many goalies make is they lower their stick in route to getting into this position. This allows the dodger to simply dump the ball into the goal high and be on his way celebrating.
Remember to stay in your stance as we pivot to get into position. In fact, staying your stance is so important I’m going to make it a new section…
Stay In Your Stance When Playing Feeds From Behind
When the attack feeds the crease from X and we make our pivot, we should remain in our stance. The stick doesn’t drop, our knees don’t straighten, we stay in our perfect goalie stance ready for the shot.
You should have no problem staying in your goalie stance during the entire possession by the opposing team especially when the ball is in a dangerous position behind the goal.
An important part of great goalie play when the ball is at X is staying in your stance.
I want to share one of the pickoff techniques that I learned in my playing days.
I’ve seen many goalies setup with their sticks high in the air when the ball is at X. Trying to discourage or knock down a pass from the feeder behind the goal.
This is a fine technique but every once in awhile work in this pick-off technique to get a few extra turnovers.
The pick-off technique I liked to employ during games and practices was to leave my stick below the crossbar. It was thus shielded or camouflaged by the net and out of view of the feeder from X.
The top-hand holds the stick head loosely and the bottom hand is down at the end of the shaft. Since we’re still in our lacrosse stance we’re ready to make a save in the event of the quick feed except now we’re also ready to pick off a pass.
Since our goalie stick is hidden by the net, the attackmen think a passing lane exists in the crease and will often attempt to force it in there.
As goalies, we’re going to follow the ball and anticipate any pass. As the feeder commits to the pass, the goalie’s bottom hand drives the shaft through the top hand to intercept the ball.
If the pass is close enough you’ll either deflect it or catch it outright. If the pass is not within stick length the goalie needs to step to the pipe and prepare for a shot by the offense.
I liked to mix in this technique throughout the game. Not always showing it every time the offensive team moved the ball to X.
If the offense realizes you’re trying to bait them into the pick-off they’ll stop throwing that pass and turnovers won’t come as easy.
Another important point here is only attempt to make the pickoff if you have a realistic shot at getting it. We don’t want the pick-off attempt to leave us totally out of position resulting in an easy goal for the O.
Videos: Goalie play when the ball is at X
Here are videos from other lacrosse goalie coaches explaining the techniques of how to play with the ball behind the goal.
Here is MLL goalie Brian Phipps explaining how he plays in goal when the ball is at “X”.
X is a fairly dangerous spot for the offense to have the ball.
As a goalie we must face the ball which leaves the entire field at our back and out of vision.
However if we setup in the right position when the ball is at X, we’re always one pivot away from being ready to make a save.
Follow the tips and techniques in this article and you’ll soon be expert in defending attacks that originate from behind the goal.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any questions about goalie play when the ball is at X? Let me know in the comments.
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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.