NO MATTER HOW GREAT OF A GOALIE YOU ARE NOW, ALL GOALIES START FROM ZERO. IN THIS POST WE COVER TIPS FOR FIRST TIME LACROSSE GOALIES.
Every lacrosse goalie has to start from zero.
Many goalies start out at attack or middie and then make the conversion later in their career as I did.
I spent an entire collegiate career playing in goal and I've now coached goalies for about 15 years.
With all that experience here are 9 tips for lacrosse goalies just getting started.
Get the Right Goalie Gear
Any goalie stepping into the cage for the first time should be outfitted in proper lacrosse goalie gear.
Feeling protected will give you more confidence and help eliminate the inherit fear that comes with someone firing a 90mph rubber bullet in your direction.
It's funny how many times I've seen attackman, middies, or first time goalies step into goal using bad equipment, like a chest protector from the 80's that doesn't even fit them.
Below is a quick breakdown of the equipment a new lax goalie will need.
For a full in depth description on gear checkout: The Lacrosse Goalie Gear Guide.
Throat Guard - Goalies use the same helmets as others just attach a throat guard.
Lacrosse Goalie Gloves - You'll need to upgrade to goalie gloves. The gloves you use to play attack won't provide the protection you'll need when facing shots. In addition to stronger padding to protect your hands the goalies gloves are going to have a reinforced thumb to prevent injury.
Athletic Supporter - I'd also recommend an upgrade to this piece of equipment as getting hit where the sun doesn't shine is extremely painful. Warrior's Nutt Hutt will give you the protection you need.
Chest Protector - Many great options when it comes to chest protectors. Newer models have reinforced heart protection that I recommend to all goalies.
Goalie Stick - Saving the last for the most obvious. You'll need a goalie stick. You can either buy a complete stick or purchase a head, shaft, and a goalie stringing kit and string the goalie head yourself. Since you're just starting out, the first option will be easier but learning how to string a goalie head is worth the investment in time.
Shin Guards - An optional piece of equipment but one that will help you feel protected and help you avoid the horrible pain that is taking a ball to the shins.
Lacrosse Goalie Pants - Another optional piece of equipment but feeling protected will help your confidence. Goalie pants cover up your hips and thighs that are extremely vulnerable to receiving bruises.
Learn the Proper Lacrosse Goalie Stance
When lacrosse goalies ready themselves to make a save, there's a basic stance that every goalie should get into that will best prepare you to make saves.
This stance puts you in athletic position and is used by all goalies albeit with some subtle differences in style.
Here are the 7 elements of a great lacrosse goalies stance:
Feet a little wider than shoulder width apart
Arms out and away from body
Proper grip on the stick
Straight, flat back with slight bend at the hips
Hands well positioned
You can learn more about the perfect lacrosse goalie stance in that post.
Part of getting in the right stance is also understanding the lacrosse goalie arc.
I teach 3 different types of arcs but for the beginner I recommend using a normal arc.
Understand the Basics of Making a Save
Sometimes goalie coaches (including myself) over-complicate the position of goalie.
When a 90mph shot is traveling our way we cannot have hundreds of rules floating around in our head.
So let's simplify things - Lacrosse goalie is this: See the ball and save it.
While maybe that's a little too simple. It's what I reiterate to goalie students over and over.
Here's a little more detail on the basic technique you want to learn.
To make the save we'll take our top hand (right hand for righties) and drive it towards the ball.
We'll take our lead foot (left foot if shot is to your left, right foot if shot is to your right) and step to get our body in front of the shot.
Our trail foot and bottom hand then move.
So after you've got the right goalie gear and you have a good lacrosse goalie stance, the next step is to take some time to learn the theory behind making saves.
Read this post for an in depth description of a simple way for lacrosse goalies to make saves.
Drills, Drills, Drills
Playing goalie in lacrosse is about training your muscles to make saves.
We want to development the correct muscle memory that automatically fires once we see a shot coming in our direction.
In addition, we also want to develop our reaction time.
The combination of quick reactions and perfect body movement is the key to becoming an All-American goalie.
Here are 33 drills for lax goalies:
This is more than enough drills for a 1st time goalie, or any lacrosse goalie for that matter.
Pick 3-5 drills from the list above and work them into your practice sessions.
Shots, Shots, Shots
If you're going to learn to swim, at some point you've got to get into the pool. Same for goalies.
Goalies must face shots. That's what we do. There's no substitute for live shots.
As you're taking shots you can put everything you've learned into practice.
For beginner goalies you can follow this warmup plan to ensure you're getting a great mix of shots.
If you don't have a goalie coach, you can setup an iPhone to record your warmup. After practice watch the video and see which areas of your game need work.
The final tip for new goalies is get as many shots as you can.
Practice makes perfect. Getting time and experience in the cage will help you perfect your save technique and help you gain the confidence needed to become a great lax goalie.
Goalies Need Stick Skills
One thing that goalies who make the switch from middie or attack have in their favor is stick skills.
I generally recommend that goalies not get in net until they can catch and throw properly.
If you look at today's top goalies in the MLL most of them have the best stick skills on the field. T
his allows them to make great saves and also clear the ball effectively after the save.
So goalies who come from the position of attack have an advantage with their stick skills.
If a first time goalie didn't know how to throw and catch, I'd recommend they checkout my post on getting stronger stick skills for goalies.
Don't Get Discouraged
Lacrosse goalie is definitely not an easy position.
At first most new goalies will flinch when someone rips a shot at them. And while its the exact opposite of what we want, it's completely natural.
It takes time to develop the confidence not to flinch and the quick reactions and perfect save technique required to stop shots.
If you're a coach, parent, or teammate of a goalie reading this make sure you absolutely "go wild" on every save. Even if the goalie doesn't move and the shot hits them square in the helmet.
That encouragement will help them.
For the goalies, don't get discouraged if you're giving up a lot goals at first. That will happen.
Instead focus on having fun. Making a great save is one of the better feelings in the world so rejoice a little bit every time you make a save.
Hopefully your teammates are supporting you and going crazy each time you make a save.
Be sure to do the same when they make great plays and you'll definitely get the love back.
Remember to have fun and you'll be surprised how your goalie game will improve.
Focus on the Basics
The position of goalie can be quite complex.
But one of the things I recommend to new goalies is to focus on the basics.
This is even great advice for experienced goalies who find themselves in a rut.
In other articles, I've written about topics like: -
But for a new goalie, don't worry about these things.
For now your job is to focus on the basics.
In the next season, you can start to learn other concepts once you're more comfortable in the crease and understand the basics.
Be Loud and Communicate to the Defense
Part of being a great lacrosse goalie is being an excellent communicator.
With your unique position on the field, you see things that other defenders cannot, as the goalie is the only player on the field constantly facing the ball.
Most 1st time goalie are too quiet which is understandable since they are timid and don't understand.
But when in goal you should be communicating loudly to defensive teammates. Here the lacrosse goalie terms you should use.
Commit those terms to memory and use them when in practice or game situations.
Being loud and knowledgable about the game will help earn your team's respect and turn you into the leader of the defense that the goalie should be.
Lacrosse goalies are a strange breed and I'm honored that anyone would consider joining our club.
Even years after I stopped playing lacrosse when I would mention that I was a lax goalie in conversation with another lacrosse player, there was instant respect.
My basic tips for 1st time goalies are:
Get the right gear
Get the right stance
Study the basics of save technique
Learn stick skills
Don't get discouraged
Focus on the Basics
Be Loud and Communicate
Good luck to all beginner goalies!