Tips for Shorter Lacrosse Goalies | Lax Goalie Rat

Tips for Shorter Lacrosse Goalies

TipsForShortGoalies

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.

HighVsLowArc

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

How do you goalies setup with your top hand? 1 – Gripping the plastic 2 – Touching the plastic 3 – Below the plastic

A post shared by Coach Damon (@laxgoalierat) on

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.

Lacrosse Goalie Brian Phipps

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.

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.

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.

LacrosseGoalieStickLength

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).

Lacrosse Goalie and NFL Linebacker

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.

ShorterLacrosseGoaliesTips

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.

Conclusion

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!

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Big shot out to Adam Ghitelman for help contributing to this post. Check out his G3 lacrosse on IG – one of my social media accounts goalies should be following.

8 thoughts on “Tips for Shorter Lacrosse Goalies

  1. Coach,

    I read this blog with much curiosity as the majority of my Goalies are at the youth level and be default “short.” Over the years, I have made it a habit of studying various Goalies and trying to understand what habits, characteristics and traits they have in common that help them achieve between the pipes. And what I’ve come to realize is that playing the position ins’t an exact science, and that when you do something in an effort to make you “strong” in one area, you weaken yourself in another, so you have to find that happy “middle ground.”

    To help my Goalies, I advocate some basic principles which I offer you as “food for thought”. Some of this may be what you’re saying, but with differnt words.
    – Less movement is better. Too often, young players are getting hung up on where is the exact spot to be and they move too much to get there, when their biggest problem is not being set. So flatter arcs with less movement helps them be set better which helps minimize the stick tap on the pipe to gauge where they are
    – Making saves is not 2 dimensional, but 3. So visualize the field as a river with the opening to the cage being where that river flows. Where is our best opportunity to plug it up, farther away from the pipes or closer to them? I understand the logic that coming out “cuts down the angle” and makes the movement to the pipe shorter, but what it also does is make it harder for short goalies to stop shots over their head as the window between the top of their head and the cross bar gets much bigger.
    – In addition, being out like you are in the picture is great when the ball is in the middle of the field and the shooter isn’t moving, but what happens when the ball is down the alley and they skip a pass to the other side of the field? The amount of ground that the goalie has to make up to get between the pipes is difficult for the short goalie. If you’d like, I can share photo’s with you about what I mean.
    – Top hand high with your thumb just below your eye. A) It makes you look bigger and takes up that space by your head B) Your hands are much faster going down than coming up- so you’re stronger for high shots and faster to low

    I’m curious to know your thoughts.

    If I can think of more when I have time, I’ll be sure to share.

    Joe

    1. Thanks for that great comment Coach Joe. I think we’re on the same page there is no one correct way to play goalie, just different styles. And each style is going to have its pros and cons. A high arc has its pros and cons, a flat arc has its pros and cons. A con of the high arc is certainly the movement required to get from point A to point B on the arc. But that was my preferred method of playing and coaching due to the pros associated w/ the high arc. I would still love to see the photos you offered to share ([email protected]). Fully agree about EYE-THUMB-BALL with regarding top hand setup. Thanks for sharing. Would love to hear more.

  2. What do you think of the new STX Memory Mesh? Have tried it, if so how would you say it compares to the other high end meshes that just came out like Hero Mesh, and Throne Fiber?

    1. I’ve tried the Memory Mesh. I think it is a great semi-hard mesh. It really does stay consistent, and I feel confident in its durability. Its diamonds are smaller than meshes like Throne and ECD, so it’s harder to string and has a little less ball feel. On my nemi lyte I was able to get a 2 ball deep pocket with a mediocre channel (but I’m only a decent stringer). I’m sure a pretty skilled stringer wouldn’t have a problem with it though. I give it a 7/10.

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