The Real Difference For Female Goalies | Lax Goalie Rat

The Real Difference For Female Goalies

FemaleLacrosseDifferences

Female goalies and their coaches ask me all the time – “What is different for the female goalies?”

A long time ago I wrote about the differences between male and female goalies where my premise was that even though the game is very different, the technique for making saves is pretty much the same when comparing male and female goalies.

Even though some goalies might have some slight differences, a good stance and a good save technique is the same for both men and women.

The types of shots female goalies will see differs because of their rules and equipment so our practices and drills should be customized a little for lady goalies to account for that.

But when parents and coaches of female goalies asked “where is all my female content”, I pointed them to that post.

It’s true that the vast majority of my experience coaching is with male goalies. But I wholeheartedly agree with what I previously wrote and thus I always claimed the two positions were identical.

Then I did a podcast with Lyndsey Munoz from LMLaxTraining.com and I learned something.

I was wrong.

There is so much more to the female game. So many different challenges that female goalies face that I never fully understood.

Fear of the Gear

Male goalies wear slightly different gear than the field players but, at the end of the day, both are wearing protective gear.

They’ve both got helmets, gloves, athletic protectors, and other protective equipment.

Such is not the case in the female game where the field players look very different than the goalie.

Eye protection is required. And while some female field players are starting to use head protection (like the Cascade LX), by and large, the majority do not.

NavyFemaleGoalie

So just the act of strapping on all the additional goalie gear, that many view as non-feminine, discourages a lot of young women from even considering trying the position.

At an age when many want to fit in with their teammates, the goalie position, by its nature, but also simply by the equipment used, makes the goalie stand out.

Something to keep in mind as you work with your female lacrosse goalies.

You’re not only working with them on their stance and save technique but you’re helping them get accustomed to this role of goalie and perhaps the feeling of being different.

Male Culture vs. Female Culture

There is a level of toughness that’s required to make it in the goalie position. We’re not fully padded head-to-toe like ice hockey or field hockey goalies.

Play lax goalie long enough and you’ll eventually take a crank shot to your exposed thigh, to the shin, to the shoulder muscle. Perhaps all 3 within the same practice.

Talking from experience – those do NOT feel good. Not my leg, but here’s a great example of what I’m talking about (#goalietats):

Guess who wants to hear you complaining? Nobody. Lacrosse culture is such that goalies wear little padding and need to toughen out and fight through the bruises.

But toughness and strength are masculine qualities.

Society teaches young boys to be tough and rewards them when they are. That’s what we learn growing up. That trait is valued in men.

Not the case with our young girls.

So how do female goalies balance requiring this stereotypically masculine trait with their inherent femininity?

Femininity by definition is not large, not imposing, not competitive. Feminine women are not ruthless, not aggressive, not victorious. It’s not stereotypically feminine to have a killer instinct, to want to win with all your heart and soul to win

And there lies one of the biggest differences and challenges between the games.

The values that make an athlete and a lacrosse goalie successful are encouraged in men but not so much in women.

FemaleLacrosseGoalie

Something to keep in mind the next time you need to select a goalie for your team and also as you’re coaching your female goalies.

They’re fighting a set of battles that their male counterparts simply do not face.

I’m hardly an expert on this topic and obviously don’t have all the answers but if you’re interested in learning more I suggest you check out this content from Lyndsey Munoz:

Conclusion

When it comes to making saves between male and female goalies, I think the differences in technique are minimal.

A good lacrosse goalie stance is a good lacrosse goalie stance – male or female.

Driving your top to the ball is driving your top hand to the ball – male or female.

But what I’ve recently come to learn is that there is quite a difference between male and female goalies in other areas.

Specifically dealing with the gear and having to adopt values that society typically rewards males and punishes females for having.

As I work with female lacrosse goalies in the future and put out content on this site for them, it’s something I will definitely keep front and center in my mind.

Until next time! Coach Damon

Any female lacrosse goalies or female goalie coaches want to share their opinion? Would love to hear it. Please leave me a comment down below. 

30 thoughts on “The Real Difference For Female Goalies

  1. The head design differences are a huge difference. Women’s lacrosse doesn’t come close to the velocities these companies have designed into the men’s heads. I may be wrong but it seems save ratios for women are higher from the games I have watched.

    1. While they don’t come close in velocity, in the female game shots are taken much closer to the goal – usually within 8 yards. So save percentages between male and females are comparable. This year Jillian Petito from Mt. Saint Marys led all D1 female goalies at 56% while the male leader was Nick Washuta from Vermont at 60%. Still how goalies save those shots – even tho they’re different in velocity – is still the same.

      1. As a mom and coach of a female goalie I have to add, my female goalie feels the fast but far out shots are easier to save in some ways than the constant close up shots but overall it’s very comparable.

  2. Coach of a girls’ lax team and dad of girls’ lax goalie here. I think the “gear” has something to do with coaching goalies, but it’s also something for a girl to not hear the cheers and roars for goals, grounders, catches– and for her to hear the groans and chatter from the fans like “aww man, make that save.” My daughter started goalie in 3rd grade, as a part of a rotation with 2 other girls. No one wanted to leave the field and not shoot goals, but they all wanted to contribute to the team. I think that’s been a super-important piece– finding, coaching, and rewarding the kid who is a little bit selfless, and who faces the challenges you and Lyndsey identified above.
    The bruises and stuff– interestingly, I think teammates do find ways to prop up girl goalies– lots of girls have said. “you’re so brave” or “you’re so awesome!” because they KNOW that the ball hurts; they don’t want to stand in the way of it! (And coaches can find ways to spread this word through their team!)

    1. Thanks for adding that Drew. I think your first comment applies just as much to male goalies too. They get affected by parents, fans, coaches comments – you shoulda made that save – and get down on themselves mentally. Or you think girls get impacted stronger?

    2. I am the dad of 2 junior female goalies. Why they chose the position is still a mystery but some of it might have to do with all the lax we watch on tv. The goalies are usually featured on tv and are made to seem very important to the team.

      I’d like to add that in my experience the biggest cheers/reactions from the crowds at games is not from offensive goals but rather when a goalie stuffs an open shot. At least at this younger level.

  3. Thanks, Matt for bringing Coach Munoz to the blog. One challenge I have had in 13 years of coaching female goalies, is to get some of them to be vocal. Being “loud and in charge” may typically be seen as part of “male culture” and that may be the barrier for some girls. However, teammates should be able to convince each other what they need from each other to be successful, even if it is a little embarrassing.

    1. Hi Beau – It’s Damon 🙂 I guess you’re confusing me with Matt Damon haha. You’re welcome. Coach Munoz was great to talk to you! Good point about the communication! But it’s also tough for new male goalies to be louad and in charge when they get started but those attributes are certainly more masculine.

  4. I coach middle school female goalies and there are very marked differences. Initially it is very difficult at that age to even get a girl who is interested in stepping in the cage. We generally float offers for a free season as an incentive just to try it out. And it is very rare to get more than one a season which makes consistency difficult from year to year.

    Aside from mechanics the main issues I deal with are self esteem, not beating themselves up over every goal and getting “young ladies” to vocally communicate to the defense. As stated in your article girls sometimes get ridiculed for being “too” muscular because they “look like a guy” . They tend to say “I’m sorry” about every 30 seconds or so feeling everything thing that goes bad is somehow their fault.

    Before we even start mechanics of the position I try and give them realistic expectations and to understand they won’t save everything and that once a goal is scored other than mentally reviewing what, if anything could have been done better on their end it does no good to mentally dwell on it. That only ensures they will probably miss the next one too.

    Last but by no means least, is trying to get the girls to be more vocal. They won’t shut up in line but once they get out on the field it’s like church sometimes. Getting the goalies to “yell” and deliver instructions to the defense is difficult compounded by some of the defenders thinking it’s rude.

    In the end, I think the girls at the middle school age take far less time learning the physical mechanics of the position but take far more time working on the mental aspects of the game. However, In the end I find it far more satisfying as a coach when a female come into her own and become dominant at the position than their male counterparts because of many of the social and mental aspects they have to fight through to get there.

  5. Love the topic. Having coached boys and girls I see the similarities and differences all the time. I had a straight out talk with my own kids that you play the position you want. Don’t think since dads a coach you have to play goalie. My daughter decided to play goalie because she feels it’s the safest position on the field. She loves wearing a helmet and thinks the rest of the girls are crazy not wearing one. Kinda funny how that all rolls. I do agree the solid fundamental need to be the same. It’s the psychology that needs to be different.

  6. Long time youth coach, former player and mom of a 14 yo goalie. She’s played GK for 5 years for many local and club teams.
    Following up on the great thread re: equipment – I’ve seen youth and MS goalies get left out of the socializing many times bc they’re under the helmet. They may warm up separately on some teams. At tournament down time when the other girls pop up to have a catch or hang out under tent, sometimes the goalie gets separated out. I’d encourage coaches to keep an eye out to help support the social interaction (which helps on field communication) – it’s such a different aspect of the teen girls’ experience and helps everyone on and off the field!!

  7. As a female goalie, I’ve earned a lot of bruises. My teammates were impressed once in a while, but would usually just say I bruise easily. Is that different for the guys? Are male teammates impressed or do they also say the goalie bruises easily?

    1. For me, it was somewhere in between. I wouldn’t say they’re impressed but they would also never make fun for taking a bruise. Most understand the guts its take to step into goal but they’re still apathetic to the bruises we get as a result of our work.

  8. Damon – This has been a great topic and great job on having Lyndsey on the podcast (Full disclose, she is a coach on our club team and is our daughters goalie coach).

    Interesting to hear that teams have trouble finding woman goalies. On our HS team this last year we had 3, club teams in the area (Southern California) always have at least 2. Go to Sandstorm or PaxLax tournaments and walk over to the girls games and be ready to be amazed by the level of play by MS and HS girl goalies.

    Thanks again for what you do for game!

  9. Female college goalie here and only position I’ve ever played. I joined a club league my sophomore year of college mainly just for the social aspect of meeting new people in college. I played softball and golf prior. Hated softball and golf isn’t much of a team sport. My first year there, the goalie from the previous year just went MIA. I volunteered because I’m “big and slow.” I’m a sturdy 6′ and have never been a fast runner but I played 1st base in high school so my hand eye coordination is on point. I’ve never really sat back and realized the characteristics it takes to be a goalie. I’m the loudest person on the field every game calling out the ball position and whatever else needs to be verbalized to defense. I think everything you’ve said is accurate for women goalies. It’s definitely a masculine position and I knew girls who signed up just for the skirt haha which I think it’s interesting that goalies can’t be speaking captains for the team. Or at least they weren’t when I played. I was voted one of the captains for my last 2 years in college, but I couldn’t be a “Speaking” captain. Good goalies are going to be leaders and everyone on the team respects them.

    Also to note on another article about equipment. I know many girls who told me they were forced to be in the cage in their younger years and they bawled because they were scared. There needs to be more of a push for better equipment for goalies. Why can’t we wear baseball catchers shin guards? I always have and I’ve never been called out for it but I’ve read about some refs doing that. It definitely helped me feel “invisible” in goal. I’ve had some really hard shots hit the shin portion and I felt the plastic bend inwards and graze my shin. I would’ve been out if I had nothing there or a dinky shin guard.

    1. I think baseball shin guards are legal since they don’t expand the limb but most goalies find them uncomfortable. I say go with whatever works for you and if you’re scared of the ball definitely err on the side of more padding. Thanks for adding that comment Sarah – very well said!

  10. For bruising, I eventually completely got rid of the leg paddings one day and jumped in goal. I didn’t care about getting hit, all I cared about was the probability of saving that low shot. Mobility over immobility for me. They were soooo uncomfortable.
    I’ll definitely look at Munoz’s website too! She seems really insightful and I totally relate to her previous struggles.

  11. I have so much to say on this topic, Damon and hope Lyndsey weighs in too.

    My daughter wrapped season 5, (she’s 12 now), as a goalie. I’ve been her only coach and Damon, your site has been my bible for helping her as well as some great tips from a guy I coached youth boys with who played D1 goalie, when my daughter put the hat on for the first time. I also coach the boy’s goalies using the exact same principles, (one BIG exception, which I’ll get to), and it has worked out pretty well. There are some differences because of the rules, but fundamentals are similar. Application is a bit different.

    By far, the most important thing is the mental game for both. Giving up a soft goal, not ragging your defensemen (or women) when they leave you out to dry and being mentally tough when things are not going right and just clearing your head for the next shot, helps the save percentage better than nearly anything else.

    I’ve set the expectation of those I’ve coached, there are two things I need from them every game – stop 50%, give the team one big save that switches momentum in the game. That’s it. The second one is so subjective and intangible, because you never know when that big save happens and in some cases, its a shooter error anyway, it builds confidence that they need to focus on the next shot, not the last one, but the very next shot. The 50/50 target is largely unreachable but not as unreachable as 60% or 75% or 100%. But what is does is, again, focus them on the very next shot. One gets by, make the next one. Save 4 in a row, relax, you’re up on the target, be loose. Be mentally ready to save the next shot – not the last shot.

    The girls don’t shoot as hard but generally, because of shooting space rules and safety, the shots are closer to the cage than the boys. You dont get shots from 12 to 15 yds, they are all inside 8 yds (well, metres), and often less than 5 metres from the goal. Very, very difficult shots to stop. Also, you have these free shots where basically all defenders are positioned away from the shooter, giving them an unobstructed view of the goal from 8 meters out. The goalie is on an island with no real help. Like a penalty shot in hockey in many ways. These two keys do impact goalie tactics and approach dramatically.

    The other thing, specific to the ladies game, is that most of the goalies my daughter faces off against, and I’ll choose my words carefully here, appear less athletic and generally larger than the other girls. As well, they clearly do not get good coaching on skills and on how to run a clear. I feel bad for these girls as they are statues, saving if the ball hits them and on a clear, stand there with 10 teammates shouting at them for the ball. Its crazy.

    These girls deserve better and if you have a daughter who is a goalie, help the other goalies. Spread the word!

    1. Thanks adding that Ross. That was like a full blog post in itself right filled with great points. I like how you set expectations clearly – really helps girls and guys with the mental game. Thanks for the compliments on my site!

  12. My daughter is 13 and is a goalie. She grew up playing keeper in soccer and it was a natural transition when she started playing lacrosse. She’s “different”, and I have noticed at tournaments that the goalies usually are “the weird girl” on the team. I hope this shifts. I find my daughter to be less fearful, tougher, stronger, and more badass than most girls her age. I hope all female athletes can embrace that and know that being a badass doesn’t make them less feminine. I think that, by nature, most girls handle the pressure of being in goal differently than boys — most girls haven’t been raised with that type of pressure and expectation placed upon them. I also think the emotional warfare that goes on with teenage girls makes goalie more challenging for females. At a tournament, one of my daughter’s teammates came to goal and drew a line with the butt of her stick showing my daughter where the ball couldn’t cross. I was so pissed — this was coming from a girl who hadn’t won a draw all day…she obviously wasn’t familiar with what it means to play as a team. Girls can be really mean. I’ve not seen such behavior from male athletes. I think keeping stats would really help to debrief games effectively. The final score doesn’t show the effectiveness of the goalie as an individual, yet there’s a misconception by some players and parents that it does. (This is true with males and females, but it speaks to the “being a good teammate”, which I think is tougher with young girls.) In the 18-4 loss where the above incident occurred, my daughter’s team took 4 shots on goal — that makes the other keeper’s save percentage 0%. Two of those four goals started with a blocked shot and good clear. Two were on turnovers. The losing team won no draws and was on defense basically the entire game. So, I think all players might need to be exposed to the analytics of the game a little more so they can be more objective and maybe better teammates.

    1. Thanks for this very insightful comment Liz. I do hope coaches help to make female goalies not feel like “the weird girl” on the team. I think that’s what my article was talking about – the gear makes them feel different or weird. But coaches should help the teams respect the goalie and never do something like what happened at that tournament. Thanks again for adding that.

  13. My daughter just turned 10, and will be starting her third year as goalie. She still plays basketball, soccer and tennis, so flexibility and mobility was not something she was willing to give up. Most of the padding is too bulky, too hard, and made for the boys. My daughter is not masculine, but she is a competitive beast. She uses the G-Form shin and ankle guards, and also their crash shorts. The more she can move, the better she plays. I had the straps on her chest protector shortened, so that its not falling down-before, they were still too long when tightened. Those little changes made a big difference.
    As far as our team as a whole, our coach has made all the girls at some point play goalie in a game. When my daughter is on the field, she has never lost a draw and she is one of our top scorers. She chooses to play goalie. Every player now has an understanding of what it takes, and none of them want the job. Its made them all better players, and a stronger team.

    1. Hi Lilo – Thanks for that comment. Hadn’t heard of the G-Form gear before but it actually looks perfect for lax goalies. Cool point about making all the females players at least try goalie. Certainly gives everyone on the team a newfound respect for what the keepers have to go through.

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