Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie? | Lax Goalie Rat

Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?

BoxGoalieVsFieldGoalie

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?

Differences in the Positions: Box Lacrosse Goalie vs. Field Lacrosse Goalie

Box Lacrosse GoalieBox 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.

Box Lacrosse GoalBox Lacrosse Goalie

Can I play box lacrosse goalie with my normal field lacrosse gear?

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.

Box Lacrosse Goalie

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.

Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?

For the goalies that I coach and every goalie that I talk to, I always discourage them from playing box lacrosse goalie.

Why?

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.

Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie

The Pros of 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.

Should You Play Box Lacrosse 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.

Conclusion

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. 

LacrosseMonkey has what you need to play. Click Here!

9 thoughts on “Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?

  1. I’m going to respectfully disagree.

    I have a 17 year old son who has played box (6 years) and field (10 years) lacrosse goalie. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have warned him/me about developing bad habits from box.

    I’ll skip all the parts about how playing different sports is valuable because of the way they all inform one another. That ground is well covered, and the benefits of a multi-sport background are indisputable.

    Playing box goalie is one of the most mentally taxing positions I’ve ever encountered, for the reasons you describe. The game is faster, played closer in, and features 3x as many shots as a field game. The 30 sec shot clock ensures constant action; there’s no regrouping while your offense spins the ball around the perimeter for 5 min on the other end of the field…

    Box goalies see a ton of shots, from a crazy array of angles. Brutal stick fakes and lightning fast quick sticks are the rule, not the exception. The box keeper spends a fair amount of time pulling the ball out of the back of the net. Because of all this, box goalies have to be mentally tougher than just about anyone, field goalies included. And developing that toughness, as well as emphasizing the short term memory required not to linger on mistakes, is enormously valuable.

    Here’s where I come out on box goalie for field goalies: absolutely give it a try. Yes, it’s different. Will it help you on t he field? Maybe, maybe not.

    But if you like lacrosse, you may love box lacrosse. My son did. And he’s a better goalie for it.

  2. Thanks for the comment Dave! Fair enough!

    There’s certainly different schools of thought on whether you should play box goalie. My personal experience is playing in goal in box burnt me out and also created bad habits that I had to break to succeed in the field game. So I prefer to have goalies play in the field when they play box lacrosse. But interesting to hear your son had a different experience.

  3. I am the parent of a 13 year old. 4 years on the field as a goalie. After a couple of box tournaments, it seems to me he gets far less out of the indoor game than his short stick team mates. The tourney’s are an hour and half away. In the future, I think I will have to put an expectation on the team organizer. There must be two goalies, and he plays a half as a short stick. Otherwise, it would be much better to keep up the multi-sport thing and practice his basketball.

  4. Damon, I agree that the translation of skills from one version of the game to the other is practically non-existent. I don’t think playing box goalie is going to make you a better field goalie and vice versa. They are totally different positions with very little in common from a technical perspective. However, I do think it is possible to play both and not suffer any ill effects (bad habits) when transitioning between seasons. If a young player wants to play both and enjoys each version of the game then they should go for it. I don’t really get the comment on burn-out playing box goalie. Yes, it’s mentally taxing to play goalie but if someone can’t handle that then it’s the wrong position for them. I love the fact that I get to play a full game and see tons of action. All of this being said with the caveat that you have to have the right gear to play box. It is absolutely stupid to get in a box cage without proper box goalie gear which, as you say, can be very expensive. My setup is probably closer to the $2000 end. You can find used gear at much better prices and oftentimes leagues will have a set of house pads.

  5. Hi Coach,
    My son is 14 and is in his 3rd year playing box as goalie. He has played 4 years as a filed goalie, started at age 9 bounced to baseball for 2 years and then transitioned back to Lacrosse and never looked back. He has heard ‘goalie coaches’ tell him that “he should play attack on box because playing goalie will ruin him for field”. His mental comment that he shared with me is “maybe you had a problem with switching but I don’t”. You’re absolutely correct on the cost of good goalie gear, I added up the cost of my sons box equipment last night and it was just over $2,600.00. While the mechanics of the save are very different being able to read a shooter and watch the ball to block the shot are very similar. I can’t help but think that the more you stare down the ball the better your are going to be and this is what you stated above. Based on my sons experience I don’t see the negatives you point out, but I did like your article.
    -John

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join The

Lax Goalie Rat Online Camp

Full Goalie Education

The only lacrosse goalie training that covers ALL of the areas necessary to be dominant: technical, physical, and mental.

Over 80 Videos Yours For Life

Revisit the drills and mental inspiration every season! Plus new videos added to the camp are yours for free.

Supportive Community

Access to private forums to interact with other goalies, coaches, and Coach Damon on a personal basis.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE