Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?
By Coach Damon on November 5, 2015
Box lacrosse is the indoor version of the field game played 6 on 6 with 4′ by 4′ goals in an ice hockey rink covered with turf.
For attackmen, middies, and defensive players there’s no question that playing box lacrosse will help your overall game by improving stick skills, shooting, passing, defense, and conditioning.
But the position of goalie is completely different in box lacrosse, more similar to an ice hockey goalie than a field lacrosse goalie.
So as goalies will we benefit from getting the extra reps in box lacrosse or will it develop bad habits that carry over to the field game?
And if do you decide to play box lacrosse should we strap on the tradition box lacrosse goalie equipment or simply play with our normal field lacrosse goalie gear.
In this post I’ll take a look at the question – should I play box lacrosse goalie?
Playing goalie in box and in the field game are totally different.
By simply comparing the pictures of a field lacrosse goalie (left) to a box lacrosse goalie (right) we get a good sense of the difference between these 2 animals.
As I’ve discussed in various articles, making saves in field lacrosse is about driving your top hand to the ball and catching it with your stick.
Box lacrosse goalie is more about cutting down the angle and then blocking the ball with your body. Instead of moving the stick for a high shot, a box goalie will move their shoulder and purposely block the ball with their body similar in style to an ice hockey goalie.
In box lacrosse the goalie doesn’t make saves in a reactionary way, that is aggressively moving their body to the ball. Instead they rely on being in the right position and blocking the ball.
While the field lacrosse sets up with the stick held around eye level, the box lacrosse goalie sets up with the stick touching the ground, blocking his 5-hole.
I’ve discussed the lacrosse goalie gear needed to play field lacrosse goalie. But as you can see in the images, box lacrosse goalie gear more closely resembles an ice hockey goalie. This is quite an investment as a normal gear setup can run well over $1000.
Short answer: I wouldn’t recommend it.
Although box players do try to shoot for corners occasionally, the general strategy of their shot is to rip it as hard as they can. To shoot through the goalie rather than trying to hit a free part of the net.
The smaller field and quick transitions between offense and defense also mean that the number of shots per game a goalie will take in box is much higher. These shots will also come from closer distance than a field lacrosse goalie will be accustomed to.
You’re going to take a beating if you play box lacrosse goalie using field lacrosse gear.
There’s a reason box lacrosse goalies look like large bodied aliens. Taking all those shots is punishing.
So to save a goalie’s spirit, I would never recommend that they strap on field lacrosse goalie gear and jump into a box lacrosse game.
For the goalies that I coach and every goalie that I talk to, I always discourage them from playing box lacrosse goalie.
Due to the punishing nature of box lacrosse goalie, it contributes to goalie burn out where kids simply lose interest in playing goalie.
The general strategy of making a save is completely different in the two sports. With field lacrosse emphasizing stick saves while the box lacrosse strategy is a body save. A field lacrosse goalie who plays a lot of box may start to develop some bad habits when he goes back to the field game.
I’ve seen goalies take the habit of body saves over into the field game where explosion and hand saves are the habits we want to develop.
The skills learned in one sport don’t really transition over to the other. With the exception of getting used to someone shooting at you and positioning on your arc, each position requires a different skill set. So the experience of playing box goalie will not help you that much in the field.
And finally, box lacrosse goalie gear is extremely costly. If you’re serious about playing box goalie you can spend well in excess of $1000 getting all the necessary protection. And this protection is absolutely mandatory as getting pelted with box lacrosse shots is a sure-fire way for goalies to get burnt out.
In this case, I don’t think that ‘the more lacrosse the better’. I think the negatives outweigh the few positives and you should avoid playing box lacrosse goalie.
While I just mentioned that I think its serves field goalies much better to play box lacrosse with a short stick instead of in the goal, there are some pros to playing box lacrosse goalie that I want to point out.
The first is positioning and learning to play an arc.
In box lacrosse the goalie typically makes the save by being in the right place at the right time. Thus the idea of a save becomes less about reacting to the ball and more about being in the right place to cut down the shooter’s angle and look at the goal.
Box lacrosse is quick. Due to this quickness, there is an extreme amount of repetition and angle changes as teams quickly pass across the field. Thus, the box goalie must learn to quickly change positions on his arc to be in the right position on his goalie arc to make a save.
I do think learning to excel at this arc play can transition to the field game.
The second pro is learning to play big. Box goalie technique teaches you to take up as much space as possible, play big, play hard, and attack the ball, all things that transfer over well to field.
And the final benefit of playing box goalie is the sheer number of shots you’ll see in box games helps you read shooters.
There is no question that as a box goalie you’ll see a lot of shots. The 30-second shot clock and short field mean you’ll be bombarded with shots. You’ll see many different styles of shots too – screen shots, shots from inside, shots off a skip pass, etc.. Seeing these shots may help you read the same style of shots in the field game even if the save styles are completely different.
In episode 3 of the Lax Goalie Rat podcast, I chat with Dillon Ward who made it to the highest level of lacrosse in both the indoor AND the outdoor game. As you can imagine he’s a big proponent that box lacrosse goalie teaches you a lot of about the field game.
If you interested in hearing his story I encourage you to listen to that episode.
Still, even considering these all benefits of playing box goalie I think the cons are superior and my opinion is that youth field lacrosse goalies should be careful about playing box goalie.
While I think that you shouldn’t play box lacrosse goalie, I do recommend that you play box lacrosse.
Grab a shortie and join your teammates in the goal of trying to put one past the goalie.
All goalies need to good with the short stick anyways so practicing your stick skills during box will improve your field lacrosse goalie game.
Being in the field in a box game with your teammates will help you develop your field awareness and your ball handling ability which transition very nicely into the field game when its time to lead the clear after a save.
In addition, you’ll get some extreme conditioning and agility work that you normally wouldn’t get just standing in goal.
There’s a certainly a strong debate within the lacrosse community about whether playing box goalie is beneficial to your normal goalie game.
Based on my experience as a player and a coach in both positions, my opinion is that box lacrosse goalie is detrimental to the development of a field goalie.
Sure there have been individuals such as Sal LaCascio and Dillon Ward who excelled in both field and box lacrosse goalie. But given the difference in the two sports, these individuals are rare. For every Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson who played professionally in two different sports, there are hundreds of thousands of athletes who simply excel in one sport.
Playing box lacrosse goalie is expensive and can also give field lacrosse goalies some bad habits due to the different skill sets required to make a save.
However, there are numerous advantages to playing out of the goal during a box lacrosse game.
So while I recommend that field lacrosse goalies avoid playing box lacrosse goalie, I do think they should play box lacrosse.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Disagree? Let me know in the comments.