Two weeks ago I was watching my (pitiful) 49ers take on the Bears in Chicago and my word, did it look cold. It was snowing during the entire game.
While lacrosse is technically a spring sport many goalies, especially our northeastern brothers, are all too familiar that temperatures can stay well below freezing with snow until April or May.
Growing up playing lacrosse in California I never had to deal with snow on our home turf, however we would occasionally encounter a snow game if we traveled to face BYU (BY-who?) or Colorado/Colorado St. early in the season.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up from my playing and coaching days that will help goalies adjust to playing snow games.
A goalie shouldn’t require a snow game to exhibit extreme focus but it is absolutely required in a snow game.
Whether there is snow on the ground or simply a bank of snow on the sidelines, the fact is the ball is harder to see in a snow game and that’s going to make the goalie’s job more difficult.
This phenomenon is also present in venue’s like the University of Michigan’s Oosterbaan Field House which is an indoor stadium with white walls and roof.
When the ball is harder to see, our focus needs to be taken to another level. Never let your eyes leave the ball, even when it’s on your own offensive half.
Maintain that extreme focus when your team is playing defense.
Use a Colored Ball
During snow games both teams have the right to request a colored ball. If both sides agree, an orange or yellow ball can be used in place of a white one.
This makes the ball easier to see against the background of white snow.
And as a lacrosse goalie, seeing the ball is pretty much required. So request that the white balls get swapped out for colored lacrosse balls.
Whatever ball you end up going with make sure that your team practices with that same color ball throughout the week so that the goalie can get accustomed to seeing that color against the snow backdrop.
Use Eye Black
If the sun is out during a snow game you’re going to get a ton of reflection.
Eye black can help ease the reflection and improve a goalie’s site and concentration. As a side benefit, it makes you look like a warrior when done the right way.
If you’ve never used eye black before I’d recommend using it for a few practices. It definitely gives your eyes a different feel and I wouldn’t want any goalie to experience it for the 1st time right before a game.
Get accustomed to the eye black in practice first, then use it in the games.
If you don’t like eye black you can also use the brim of your lacrosse helmet to try to block out the glare.
When your own offense has the ball there isn’t much activity for a lacrosse goalie.
On a cold snow day, it’s really easy for a goalie to get cold. And cold muscles don’t respond as quickly as warm ones.
Also long sleeve shirts are a must. Depending on what’s comfortable for you, you could also try a hooded sweatshirt underneath the jersey and chest protector.
Special thanks to reader Bob Nelson who pointed out a few more cold weather tips from his days playing games in Central NY:
The hand warmers they sell for skiing or snowboarding will help keep your hands warm underneath your gloves. Keep your feet warm in your cleats. And you could even put a pair on your shoulders to help provide some warmth up there.
Finally you’ll want to invest in several great pairs of warm breathable winter socks. These speciality socks will help keep your feet warm and dry. Get 2 pairs and change them up during half time.
This isn’t a fashion show. Anything that you can put on that will keep you warm and not restrict your movement is fair game.
During the half time period if you don’t have a warm place to go, like an indoor locker room, be careful about being too idle. We want our bodies to stay warm and sitting still in freezing cold temperatures will hinder performance.
The idea is we want to stay warm throughout the game as that will increase our performance.
When you’re running around on the lacrosse field during a hot sunny day it’s not too hard to remember to drink water. You’re body practically begs for it.
However on a cold snow day water is the last thing on a goalie’s mind.
But it’s still equally as important.
So whether its 80 degrees and sunny or 15 degrees and snowing be sure to hydrate.
Goalies are permitted to stash a water bottle in the back of the goal to grab drinks from while the ball is on the other end of the field.
Bring out the Vaseline
A jar of Vaseline is an old trick from veteran players to block out the wind.
If you can’t cover up every part of your body with sleeves, rub vaseline on the exposed body parts including your face.
It sounds a little ridiculous, it’s slimy, and it takes some time to scrub off after the game but it sure does work – cutting down wind chill factor and keeping you warm.
Post Game Stick Maintenance
After playing a game in the snow the moisture can cause damage to your pocket if you just throw it in the closet.
Goalies, like everyone else, need to take a few minutes to perform some stick maintenance after a snow or after a rain game.
Here are the steps that I always followed after a rain game:
Clean off any excess mud or dirt right away – Use a hose to clean off dirt and mud from the head and pocket. It’s even ok to use soap to ensure all the mud is off. Since the mesh is already wet before we start the drying process we want to ensure there’s no mud or dirt remaining on the stick.
Fill pocket with newspapers or an absorbent towel – Crumple up a bunch of single sheets of newspaper and stuff them into the pocket of your stick. The paper will help absorb the water. In place of newspapers you could also use a small towel.
Pound the pocket with your glove or hand to reform the pocket.
Store the stick overnight with a heavy lacrosse ball and the newspapers in the pocket.
After the stick dries, the mesh will stiffen so be sure to pound the pocket again and throw with it to re-break it in.
If you don’t put in work to maintain your stick your outlet passes will suffer and you’ll give up a ton of rebounds.
Lacrosse in the Snow: Video
Here is Coach Bill Pilat discussing his tips and drills for lacrosse goalies playing games in the snow.
Lacrosse Goalie Drills for the Snow
If you’re wondering what are some drills or exercises you can do indoors to improve your goalie game while there are a few feet of snow outside, here are some possibilities.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.