Simplify the Task: A Better Way To Think About Lacrosse Saves
By Coach Damon on November 2, 2015
Quick math problem for you. How much time do you have to react to save a 85mph shot from 15 feet away?
Doesn’t sound like a lot of time? Well, guess what, it isn’t.
This post is about simplifying the task of saving the lacrosse ball to be as easy as possible. So in 0.2 seconds you can make the right move.
Many goalie coaches teach their goalies different methods for making lacrosse saves shot to each of the 7 quadrants (stick-side high, hip, low, off-stick high, hip, low, and 5 hole).
When you must make a split-second decision there cannot be 7 different things floating around in your head. There must be 1. Save the ball.
I teach my goalies that there we cannot think of 7 different types of shots – because there is only 1 shot. That’s the shot coming at you!
If you have 7 different options floating around in your head, that’s too much information for the brain to process before it puts the body into motion.
Remember that we only have 0.2 seconds so we need to have the simplest response mechanism possible to consistently make saves.
Here’s a simplified way to think about saves.
The 1st element of the simplest save motion is – the top hand (right hand for righties, left hand for lefties) goes straight to the ball.
Why? Because a straight line is the shortest distance between 2 paths and when we only have 0.2 seconds to make a save we need the shortest distance.
Part of a great ready stance for goalies is ensuring our top hand in the center of the cage. From their we take the top hand and move it directly to the path of the shot.
To practice moving your hand in a straight line directly to ball, do the Goalie Lead Hand Drill or the Colored Balls Drill as described in the linked posts.
These should the 1st drills a beginning lacrosse goalie masters.
It’s amazing how without a stick goalies will get the hang of moving their top hand directly to the ball. But once a stick is in their hands, all of sudden we start doing big rotating movements on off-stick shots and moving our top hand in a semi-circle. The stick is evil my friends.
It’s extremely important for lacrosse goalie coaches to correct this bad habit. We want our top hand to move in a straight line directly to the ball.
Now the goalie doesn’t think about 7 different shots – we simply think Top Hand Straight to the Ball.
For shots that come to our off-stick hip and below we’ll need to rotate our wrist (clockwise for righties, counter-clockwise for lefties) to make the catch. However, even though we’re rotating our wrist the rule of – top hand straight to the ball – still applies. Make sure your top hand is still going straight to the ball even with the wrist rotating.
That will cover us for every type of shot and it’s a much simpler way to think about lacrosse saves.
The ideal part of our body to get to the ball is the hand. The hand controls the head of our stick.
As we throw our top hand at the ball, we’re going to use our body to give it support.
We’ll find that if we support our hand with our body we can get our hand to where it needs to be faster. We’ll also put our body in position to help with a save in the event we miss the ball with our hand/stick.
So we’ll combine our lead hand with a lead step.
The simplest way to the describe the lead step is whatever side the ball is shot on, that side becomes the lead foot.
Drawing a line perpendicular to the ground down the center of body. If the shot is the left of the line, we step with our left foot. If the shot is to the right of the line, we step with our right foot. This is our lead step.
The shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line, so we should be stepping such that we meet the ball at a 90 degree angle. This usually means our step will be at a 45 degree angle however it depends on which type of goalie arc we’re using.
Our lead step should be slightly wider than where the shot is going so that we get our body behind the ball. In the event we miss the ball with our hand, our body will be there to make the save.
Putting those two movements together is the basis of our simple method of thinking about saves. Lead Hand / Lead Step.
I repeat this phase constantly as I work with my goalies to drill it into their mind.
When you watch video of yourself making saves, if you pause the tape at the moment you make contact with the ball, the only things that have moved are your lead hand and lead foot.
Nothing else has moved until you make contact with the ball and then our trail step and bottom hand move to reset our position.
As lacrosse goalies we always want to start and finish every save in a balanced position.
As soon as we make a save, we should be in position to make another save in the event of a rebound.
If it’s a clean save, being in a balanced position we allow us to accelerate the clearing process and get the ball back to our offense.
That’s where our Trail Step and Bottom Hand movement comes into play.
The trail step will be done with our foot which is did not make the lead step. This trail step simply puts us back into a balanced position.
After you execute the trail step your feet should look just like they did before the shot – toes at the shooter, feet shoulder width apart, balanced.
Similarly after our Lead Hand movement we’ll move our bottom hand to get into a balanced position. For low shots, this means the bottom hand fires up as we finish rotating the stick. For high shots, this means our bottom hand moves under the top hand so we finish in a balanced position.
After our Lead Hand / Lead Step movement we want to move our other foot and other hand so that we finish the save in a nice balanced position.
Playing lacrosse goalie is a very demanding position.
In addition to being the leader of the defense and knowing all the right defensive terms to communicate, we must save shots traveling sometimes in excess of 90mph.
So to be an effective save machine, we need to simplify the task that is the lacrosse save.
Thinking about a save as Lead Hand / Lead Step is the best way of turning the complex process of making a save into a simple easily repeatable process.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any questions? Let me know in the comments.