Tips for Shorter Lacrosse Goalies
By Coach Damon on January 16, 2017
Lacrosse goalies come in all shapes and sizes.
If you take a look at the current MLL goalies you’ll see a range of heights from 5’8″ all the way up to 6’4″ which indicates goalies can be successful at any height in the highest levels of our sport.
But whether you’re 5’8″ or 6’4″ one thing remains the same. We all have to cover the 6′ by 6′ equally.
Today I want to discuss specific tips for lacrosse goalies who are on the shorter end of the height spectrum.
This could be a youth goalie who has yet to hit his growth spurt or it could be a goalie like me who played in college at 5’8″. Either way being a shorter goalie comes with a set of advantages that I want to ensure you’re aware of.
Study & Replicate the Great Short Lacrosse Goalies
There are a lot amazing lacrosse goalies who are shorter in stature that have dominated the NCAA and the MLL.
If you’re a smaller goalie I recommend you watch how these goalies play and implement the same elements into your game.
Here are the goalies that immediately come to mind for me:
I reached out to Adam Ghitelman for his feedback and tips for shorter goalies and his list of goalies to study was:
In my opinion all goalies should study the greats to improve their own game. By studying goalies who are smaller in stature you’ll see things that you can quickly incorporate into your own game to make you a successful goalie.
When you study the small goalies some trends start to emerge…
Play a Higher Arc
The simple fact is smaller lacrosse goalies do not occupy as much of the goal as larger goalies.
If you have no idea what a lacrosse goalie arc is – start by reading this post: Basics of Lacrosse Goalie Arcs.
Some goalies advocate playing a flat arc – heels on or close to the goal line – to have as much time as possible to see the shot.
If you’re a smaller goalie, I don’t think that approach works. You have to play a higher arc so that you occupy more of the goal with your smaller frame.
Here is an example of me teaching a flat arc (right) vs. a normal, perhaps even high, arc (left). I’m 5’8″ (5’9″ if you count the quaff) so I qualify as a smaller goalie.
See how much more of the goal the shooter sees in the example on the right?
Sure the higher arc gives you less time to react, but shorter goalies are quicker. So I advise shorter goalies play a normal or high arc and rely on your quickness to make saves.
What’s that you say? You’re not quick? Then start putting in work to increase your quickness.
Another point – notice the step to reach either post is going to be a lot shorter in the example on the left vs. the example on the right. This is what we mean when you hear – higher arcs cut down the angle of the shot.
If I take that same image and add in yellow lines representing the path of a shot from 10-12 yards, it becomes pretty clear that a higher arc requires less movement to reach the shot.
So while playing a flat arc does come with some advantages, for shorter lacrosse goalies I recommend you play a normal arc or a high arc and take advantage of your inherit quickness.
Excel Outside the Crease
When you study the Adam Ghitelman’s and the Brett Queener’s one thing that you see in their game is that they make plays outside of the crease.
Winning possession via a ground ball or by chasing out a shot is the equivalent of a save.
Shorter goalies tend to be more athletic and can make some plays outside the crease that a slower footed large goalie cannot make.
Take advantage of that.
When I played in college I prided myself on winning possession for our team at least once a game by chasing out a shot via a sprint.
But before you venture outside the crease, make sure of two things:
- You’re in shape. All that running and sprinting will effect your save ability if you’re not fit. Note – If you’re not in shape, get in shape. Pick any lacrosse goalie workout and follow it. ‘Nuff said.
- You’ve got stick skills. My feeling is that the goalie needs to have the best stick skills on the team (especially with your dominant hand). Stick skills will not only help with your dodging and ball handling ability but strong stick skills directly relates to better save abilities. You’ll feel confident catching shots and controlling rebounds. So if you’re not the best stick handler on the team – hit the wall and participate in your team’s line drills every once in awhile.
The quickness of a small goalie gives us the unique opportunity to venture outside the crease and make plays for our team so I encourage smaller goalies to take advantage.
I remember a specific game in college where the momentum of the entire game shifted when I took the ball coast to coast and scored after making a save. Nothing fires up lacrosse teams more than a goalie scoring a goal.
Because my stick skills were strong I also felt comfortable sprinting up the field after a save if no outlet pass was available and no attackman was around the crease. Shorter goalies can lead the clear all by themselves.
Look at the quickness and stick skills Adam Ghitelman brings to his team. Surely this play changed the game:
Top Hand Can Move Down the Shaft
In a perfect lacrosse goalie stance I stress that the top hand should be against the throat, where the plastic meets the shaft.
For shorter goalies its ok to slide your top hand down the shaft about an inch.
That’s position #3 in this diagram:
This is going to give you a little more reach to stop shots destined for the corners.
If you’re a short goalie, this technique isn’t mandatory. If you play better with the top hand on the plastic, by all means, keep playing that way.
But if you find during practice that you’re having trouble reaching corner shots, try this adjustment.
You’ll see this technique even at the MLL level with Brian Phipps. Notice how you can see some shaft in between his top hand and his Warrior Nemi 2 goalie head.
For the small goalie looking for a tip to reach the extreme corners of the cage, try changing the top hand placement by lowering it an inch.
Use a Short Shaft
There is some debate regarding the optimal length for a lacrosse goalie’s shaft.
Ultimately, it’s a personal preference however I’ve found that each smaller goalie I’ve seen play uses a shorter shaft.
Even super tall goalies like Dillon Ward at 6’5″ prefer just an attack length shaft.
In the main photo of this post, you’ll see my stick. I actually just attach a regular attack-size shaft (Warrior Kryptolyte on my gamer) to my goalie head. Note: I’ve since upgraded to the Eclipse 2 head.
I feel the shorter shaft made my movement to the ball quicker, something I relied on as a short goalie.
I was also a lot more mobile and quick outside of the crease with a short shaft.
So if you’re a shorter goalie I recommend keeping your stick length on the lower end of the legal requirements.
Avoid False Movements
Many lacrosse goalies have the bad habit of ‘shrinking’ prior to a shot.
This habit is a problem for ALL goalies but is especially problematic for smaller goalies as any movement towards our core opens up even more of the top of the net. Something we cannot afford to do.
Stay “big” – meaning square to the shooter and get rid of any false movements prior to the shot. Shorter goalies should stand big and aggressive (similar to a linebacker in football).
See the similarities there?
Lacrosse goalie is all about efficiency and false movements are the exact opposite of efficiency. So they must be trained out of our system.
Patience and practice are the keys to avoiding dipping or false movements.
Some good drills for practicing patience and focusing on seeing the release of the shot include: Nerf ball shots and catching cards from my post on lacrosse goalie drills.
Baiting Shooters as a Short Goalie
As a short lacrosse goalie we should be better at saving low shots than your taller counterparts.
Why? Because our body is lower to the ground and we need less movement to get low.
So as a shorter goalie I felt that if I setup with my stick covering the top part of the net, shooters were likely to rip it low, where I could make the save.
Compare the top hand placement in my stance in this old photo of me (what up Cascade C2) vs. Brian Phipps in his stance. My top hand is more at eye/nose level covering more of the top part of the net.
Goalies can have success using many different styles, but as a shorter goalie this worked for me because I knew I was quick enough to attack lower shots.
Lacrosse goalies can be successful regardless of their height. We see successful short goalies just as much as tall goalies in the NCAA and MLL ranks.
For shorter goalies looking for some additional tips to strengthen their game, follow the points listed in this article:
- Study the great shorter goalies like Adam Ghitelman and Brett Queener and mirror their play
- Play a higher arc
- Excel outside the crease
- Move top hand down a little
- Use a short shaft
- Eliminate false movement
- Proper hand setup
As a shorter goalie myself I definitely put these elements into practice to up my own game.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any tips I missed regarding play for short lacrosse goalies? Leave me a comment down below. Thanks!
Big shot out to Adam Ghitelman for help contributing to this post. Check out his Instagram or his non-profit GiveGoFund.