7 Lessons Learned from Analyzing 33 Successful Lacrosse Goalies
By Coach Damon on February 17, 2016
Have you ever wondered what are the secrets of highly successful lacrosse goalies?
Are they just gifted individuals with amazing reaction speed, strong leadership skills and incredible athleticism? Did they just get a lucky break? Or are there habits and commonalities that they all share and from which young lacrosse goalies trying to emulate their success can copy.
A little while back I wrote about bad habits lacrosse goalies should stop. This post is the exact opposite: good habits that all lacrosse goalies should adopt.
I recently spent some time studying 33 lacrosse goalies in the game today. Both in the MLL and at the NCAA level. By reading and watching interviews with these goalies and their coaches, watching their game play, and reading about their lives on Wikipedia I was able to identify some trends that all successful lacrosse goalies share.
Here are the 7 common trends, habits and commonalities that I found that I think all dominate lacrosse goalies possess.
At the end of each item I pose a question to see if, as a young goalie, you are embracing these traits.
The top lacrosse goalies understand that they don’t know it all.
They understand that lacrosse goalie coaches with a different perspective and more knowledge can still teach them the finer points of playing goalie, even if they’ve already won multiple MVP awards.
When a goalie coach gives them a piece of advice or criticism they understand that they don’t know it all and they accept that feedback wholeheartedly.
With each practice session or each goalie warmup the top goalies are working on elements of their game that need improvement.
You’d be surprised that even later in your lacrosse goalie career you can learn something about the position that is somewhat of a revelation to your game.
In this way all top lacrosse goalies are constantly learning and growing as they hone their craft.
Are you fully listening and trusting your coaches? Are you learning and growing with each practice?
The position of lacrosse goalie is a tough one, no doubt.
You’ll often feel alone or down and in need of some serious encouragement.
Every successful lacrosse goalie has had a team of supporters in their corner, to lift them, support them, encourage them and to celebrate with them.
This support system often comes in the form of a goalie coach, however if you have no goalie coach, this support could come from teammates, family, or friends in your life.
When you read the posts in lacrosse goalie forums you’ll understand its goalie’s human nature to have self-doubt, to get in a rut or to need an extra push, and that is why its so important to be considerate of who you surround yourself with.
Share your goals (something you’re trying to do or achieve, NOT goals as in scores we’re trying to prevent) with this close knit support group and they will be there for encouragement when you’re struggling and celebratory pats on the back and when you achieve your goals.
Are you around family, teammates, and coaches who push you to succeed?
When you read the stories of how top lacrosse goalies came to be in the position they’re in, many share stories of moving up in levels they were not quite ready for. Playing with the varsity squad when they were just a freshman for example.
I had this exact same experience as I was learning to play goalie.
While I was still a relatively new goalie, I played in a summer league that had several NCAA DI players. I got lit up every game I played needless to say.
But here’s what separates the All-American lacrosse goalies from those who never have success.
Instead of letting failure derail you from your goals, let it fuel you!
Write down the elements of your game that you’re struggling with and devote yourself to making improvements. The more specific you are in your notes the better prepared you’ll be to tackle that element when you’re back on the practice field.
Overcoming the failure can be your driving force as you tackle your lacrosse goalie drills or workout in the gym to strengthen your body.
Both in victory and in defeat, there is a lesson to learned in every single game you play!
Are you learning from and embracing failure? Or are you playing it safe and never making the monumental improvements that push normal goalies into the realm of all-stars?
When you listen to today’s successful lacrosse goalies speak about their career, its very evident that all of them had very clear goals.
Whether it be:
- Play goalie for a top NCAA DI school
- Win an NCAA championship
- Play goalie for an MLL team
- Win an MLL championship
Every single All-American goalie has 1) clearly defined goals and 2) a clear plan on how to achieve them.
If you want to be a top NCAA goalie, are you outworking every one else? Are you studying harder then anyone else? Are you tackling your goalie drills and goalie sessions with the attitude of a champion?
When a beginning lacrosse goalie looks at those 4 goals above you might feel that’s a little ambitious for where your game is at right now.
And that’s ok. Those goals might be a few years away for where you’re at.
You don’t have to have the same goals but I do encourage you to have a list of goals. Write them down.
Perhaps your goal is to be the starting varsity goalie or to win a high school championship with your team.
Now write down what it will take to get there. How many times a week will you practice? Are you putting in extra work? What elements of your game need improvement to accomplish your goal?
Now execute that plan. That’s what All-American lacrosse goalies do.
Are you up for it?
When I played at Cal our motto was “Team First”.
Here is what Team First meant to us and its these principals that are embraced by every single successful lacrosse goalie I’ve watched and read about.
Team First means Commitment. Always doing what is best for team. Period. Both on the field and off the field, always do what is best for the team.
Team First means Acknowledgement. Always giving props to every player’s role. To the goalie’s saves, to the defender’s strip takeaways, to the face-off middie’s ground ball win. Don’t save the acknowledgement simply for the goal scorers.
Team First means Accountability. Everyone carries their own weight. Everyone works their tails off and those who do not get called out. That’s accountability.
Team First means Self-Awareness. Every player on the team is not a goal scorer and every defender is not a specialist in stripping opponents of the ball. Each player on the team has a role and every player should accept that role. That doesn’t mean a player can’t work hard to change their role with time. However each player accepts the role he or she is currently in.
Team First means Situational Awareness. If your team is up by a goal with little time and you, as the goalie, just make a save, is it a smart play to try a risky outlet pass to start a fast break? Situational awareness is about understanding the game, understanding what defense you’re in and having every team member execute accordingly.
Team First means Trust. Every member of the team trusts each other. Players trust the coaches and vice versa. When its time to slide on defense you trust that your teammates will pickup the second slide. When you’re deep in a hard practice you trust that everyone else is giving their full effort just like you are.
Team First means Ownership. If a goalie is giving up a bunch of easy goals, you own it. You don’t make excuses about your defense or the playing conditions or whatever. You don’t go on internet forums and ask “My defense sucks, what can I do?”. You own your mistakes and dedicate yourself to fixing them.
All of the best lacrosse goalies that I studied understand and embrace the concepts of Team First.
Anytime you hear a post-game interview with a lacrosse goalie they tell you every time how important the team win is. Not the individual MVP award.
There is no better feeling as a goalie then celebrating a championship or a huge win with your teammates.
This is what Team First means. Do you think Team First?
Many goalies (and even non-goalies) have limiting beliefs about what is possible in their game or in their career.
Limiting beliefs are ideas that just by believing them limit your lacrosse potential.
All-American lacrosse goalies think differently. As in they have no limiting beliefs.
They have no negative thoughts holding them back from success.
Instead of thinking “I’ll never be the varsity goalie because so and so is too good”, championship goaltenders think “my dreams are mine for the taking”.
Instead of thinking “I’m not from a lacrosse hotbed school, how could I play for a NCAA DI team?”, the future All-Star goalie thinks “Whatever I can conceive, I can achieve. It’s up to me to take the steps to make things happen.”
See the difference?
All-American lacrosse goalies have eliminated limiting beliefs from their world, have you?
Finally, all the top lacrosse goalies understand that becoming a champion and an All-American is hard work.
But they show up everyday and put in the hard work. In the gym, in the classroom, or on the lacrosse field.
Regardless if the team is winning or losing, elite goalies show up and put in the hard work to improve their game and to get better as a team.
You’re never going to become an elite lacrosse goalie without hours and hours of repetition. Hours and hours of exercise. Hours and hours of taking shots. Hours and hours of lacrosse goalie drills.
Are you showing up everyday? Are you outworking your opponents?
When you analyze today’s successful lacrosse goalies – their lives, their approach, their family, and their playing style there are several trends that emerge with every All-American lacrosse goalie.
Here are the 7 common traits that I think all successful lacrosse goalies share:
- They are constantly learning and growing
- They don’t go it alone
- They have failed
- They take action to accomplish their goals
- They embrace Team First
- They think differently
- They show up
If you want to improve, incorporate these 7 elements into your goalie game and into your life.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Anyone reading? Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks!