Dealing with the Physical and Painful Realities of the Goalie Position | Lax Goalie Rat

Dealing with the Physical and Painful Realities of the Goalie Position

Awhile back I asked my audience what challenges they were running up against when it comes to the mental game.

I got an interesting one from a Goalie Mom/Dad or perhaps a coach:

How do we help our goalies cope with the physical, painful realities of this position?

This is a really interesting question. Part of the answer does have to do with the mental game but part doesn’t.

Let’s explore how we can help youth goalies deal with the painful realities of the goalie position. Painful realities like this:


Get Padded Up

There’s no easy way to say this – getting hit in the shins with a lacrosse ball $#%& sucks.

Let’s not make this position more painful than it needs to be.

So how do we help our goalies cope with the physical, painful realities of this position?

You start by encouraging them to pad up.

Football pants to protect the thighs and the knees (you can remove the hip and tailbone pads from the pants). Shin guards to protect the shins.

Many youth goalies watch their favorite goalie on TV and don’t see any leg padding so they think they don’t need any either.

But what you don’t see are these goalies in practice. I’ve spoken with all the PLL goalies and while most don’t wear padding in game (some do), lots do wear the padding during practice. And they definitely wore the padding as a youth and still advocate that youth wear padding today.

There’s a lot of great padding that doesn’t restrict your movement all that much and will help goalies cope with the pain by preventing it in the first place. When you stop associated shots with pain, your confidence will go up.

Get padded up when you’re first starting out in goal.

When you lose the fear of the shot and wanna strip off the padding, by all means, go ahead.

Or when its game day and you want to strip off the padding. By all means, go ahead.

But when you’re practicing and seeing tons of shots, get padded up.

And remember, even if you are padded up, we’re still using great save technique every single time.

Bruises are Saves

Back when I was coaching youth goalies live, I made sure to do one thing every practice session.

Go absolutely nuts on saves.

A save in lacrosse is a difficult thing to accomplish. 55-60% is amazing. Sarah Reznick led the D1 NCAA women at 56%. Brett Dobson led the men at 60%.

So anytime a goalie makes a save, we need to celebrate. We need to go nuts!

Doesn’t matter if its a stick side high piece of popcorn or a save like this –

Go nuts. Celebrate that save!

Having your sideline go nuts for every save is an addicting sensation for a goalie.

When that happens, us goalies get into a mindset that says – I want a bruise because it means a save.

Coach Chris Buck in his book “Thinking Inside the Crease” calls this the “Bring It” mindset. Let’s go…bring it!!

It absolutely possible to change a goalie’s mindset from being intimidated and fearful to one of confidence and pure commitment to each shot.

In my podcast with goalie legend Greg Cattrano he talked about his mindset of being aggressive to the point where was trying to “hurt the ball”.

Helping goalies achieve this mindset starts with going nuts on every save. That is a goalie’s reward.

And we need to make that reward so awesome that it overwhelms any feeling of fear that we may have.

History of Lacrosse

Lacrosse has its roots with Native American tribes.

For those tribes, this beautiful game served many purposes. Some games were played to settle inter-tribal disputes. Some for recreation. Some for religious reasons and entertaining the creator.

Another purpose of the game was to toughen young warriors for combat.

While we always respect our opponents and the game, there is a violent nature to the sport. When there is a loose ball, it’s imposing your will and physicality on the opposition to win possession.

Whether its an attackman’s arms or a goalie’s thigh,  after a game the body bears the bruises of battle. There’s a level of physicality that comes with the sport of lacrosse.

I think understanding this about the sport helps a goalie cope with the painful realities of the position.

You’re a young warrior forging toughness game by game, or shot by shot.

Playing other physical sports like football, hockey, or wrestling is no different. It builds your physical and mental toughness.

You can’t deal with a little pain to receive the tremendous benefits that lacrosse will give you? That’s fine, play another sport.

Or stick with lacrosse and become a young warrior.

Push Beyond Your Fear

I was listening to this Tim Ferriss podcast with 4-Star General Stanley McChrystal.

Ferriss asked the retired general: What are three tests or practices from the military that civilians could use to help develop mental toughness?”

His response:

  1. Push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of
  2. Put yourself in groups who share difficulties and discomfort
  3. Overcome some fear

Great points that every lacrosse goalie can use to deal with the physical nature of this sport.

To improve as an athlete you must push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of. That means you must push yourself beyond the pain.

When doing conditioning or strength training the mind is usually the first thing to quit. This is too painful, too tough – says the mind.

We all have deep wells of strength that we may never even know exist, as they are closely guarded by a brain that would rather be lazy and maintain the status quo than take you to the next level.

But don’t be fooled by your own lazy mind – you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger than you think. So push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of during practice and you’ll see improvements in your mental toughness.

The 2nd point of General McChyrstal is covered by simply being on a lacrosse team. By being a team member we’re going through shared difficulties and discomfort. That’s a great thing.

The final point he recommends civilians try is overcome some fear. What a better situation than to overcome the fear you’re facing now?

All lacrosse goalies will face fear in their careers. By overcoming it they will be a better person.


If you sign up to be the team’s lacrosse goalie, you’re also signing up to get hit with the ball.

I won’t sugar coat it – it will hurt. It will be painful.

So how can a youth goalie cope with that reality?

Here’s my advice:

  • Get padded up
  • Embrace bruises as saves
  • Understand the violent nature of this game forges toughness
  • Push Beyond your Fear

Until next time!
Coach Damon

What advice would you offer a young goalie for dealing with the painful realities of this position? Let me down below in the comments. 

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4 thoughts on “Dealing with the Physical and Painful Realities of the Goalie Position

  1. No shame in padding! We have to change the narrative that pads are for wimps. My son does tremendously well in goal because he has appropriate padding to play the role. Being unafraid is half the battle. Sure, he has bruises on knees, etc but he avoids a ton of them by wearing proper protection.

    Shin guards, built in thigh pads in your cup underwear, etc. None of which restricts his ability to run, bend, move, cut, etc in goal.

  2. I was at practice the other day and one of the girls took a power shot that hit a nerve in my shoulder area. My arm went limp and I had to take my helmet off and step out of goal. I started hearing people say that they could see my welt from all the way over there, and the girl who hit me was mortified. The coaches came over to see if I was okay. About a minute later, when my arm felt okay again, I started to gear back up, and the coaches were surprised. “You’re already hopping back in?” “YEP.” This is why I cherish my bruises and the pain that comes from protecting the cage. It gives you a chance to 1. Remind your teammates that being a goalie isn’t easy, and that you’re working hard too. 2. Show everyone what kind of a player you are. There’s no shame in stepping out and checking on yourself to prevent injury, but the respect that others show when they see you put that helmet back on, is one of my favorite parts of the sport.

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