I get quite a few messages from young lacrosse goalies on social media reaching out for tips. I try to respond to them all but I’ll admit some do slip through the cracks – so resend if I missed one of yours.
Every once in a while I get a message that has a more desperate tone. Such was the case this week when I got this DM from a young goalie:
Dear Coach Damon, My name is ***. I am 13 years (old) and in 8th grade in ****. I started playing lacrosse in 6th grade when I was 11. I have always been a goalie, and it was a position I loved. During my first year I was great because of my size. Now growing up, this isn’t getting me anywhere. I’ve been to several camps, I’m a multi-sport athlete, I do performance training and work out regularly. I am still not good enough. Ever since I started playing, my dream was to play for JMU. I am falling out of love for the game. I just don’t compare to the other goalies I play. I get talked down to by family and peers saying I’m not good enough or that I need to be doing more. What do I do?
In this post I want to share some tips I have for goalies in this situation. Because unfortunately I don’t think this young goalie is alone in this line of thinking:
Goalie is a Hard Position
Nobody said being a lacrosse goalie was easy.
Talk to any goalie who has a number of years of experience and they will share a story of a time they felt exactly like you.
You are not alone. What you’re going through isn’t uncommon for us goalies.
In fact, extreme doubt in your game is a right of passage. All goalies will go through it and once you learn to overcome it you’ll be so much stronger on the other side.
The truth is once you get on the other side you’ll likely have a surge of doubt resurface at some point in your career (perhaps while at JMU), so every goalie should take time to practice how to conquer this mindset challenge.
So how do we overcome it?
Reconnect with the “Why”
One very strong lesson of a lacrosse goalie’s mental game is “know your why”.
Why do you do what you do? Why do you play lacrosse? Why are you a goalie?
Why do you wake up early before school to train on a cold day? Why do take 80mph crank shot to the thigh?
What is your why?
There are no wrong answers.
Well actually there is one wrong answer. The only bad one I’ve come across – “Because I’m good at it”. If you’re going to be good at something, but you hate it – that doesn’t work.
Other than that, there are no wrong answers.
I remember once I was working with a high school sophomore in a private session (note: I actually recorded the whole thing and its inside the Lax Goalie Rat Academy).
At the beginning I quizzed him about his why. What was we doing out here? What’s your goal?
I wanna get faster feet he said. Me: Ok, why?
I wanna make more saves he said. Me: Ok, why?
I wanna earn the starting role he said. Me: Ok, why?
I wanna be a role model for my younger brother. And as he said this one I could sense him getting a little emotional.
There it is – that’s his why. Your why should be so powerful it almost makes you cry when you think about it.
You started playing lacrosse for a reason. What it is?
When goalies have a strong connection with their “why” the strength of their drive is unbeatable.
The toughness they display is a result of their motivation to achieve something which means a great deal to them.
In other words, when your motivation is at this high level, we generally find a way to “get it done”.
A strong sense of motivation is the fundamental factor in behaving in a tough way.
Spend some time thinking about your “why”. Write it down and reflect on it.
Take a Break
During the course of a lacrosse goalie career you might start to feel a little less motivated than normal.
Sometimes there is a lot of pressure – both from yourself and from others – to keep going.
But sometimes the best thing you can do is put down the goalie stick and do something else.
When 2022 D2 goalie of the year Blake Ulmer hit a slump, you know he did? He didn’t see more shots. He didn’t do more drills. He went on a surfing trip.
When he got back his head was clear and his game was back.
Sometimes a break is exactly what you need and will help you rediscover the beauty of the sport of lacrosse.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others is a losing battle.
Don’t believe me? Let me give you just a few reasons how comparing yourself to others goalies harms your game, your mental health, and your life.
Lowers Quality of Life – Think about it, why do you compare yourself to others? It’s because we are unhappy with what we have. If we were happy with these things, it wouldn’t matter what other people had. If we constantly worry about others, our negative mindset will lead to decreased happiness and joy. This will ultimately lead to lack of progress and put you in this negative on-going cycle of unhappiness.
Lose Focus – When you start comparing yourself to others, you start losing focus on yourself. Your focus should be on your personal wants/needs, goals, successes, etc. Life is a journey – focus on what you want and where you want to go. Don’t compare yourself to others and put the focus on them.
Never good enough – If you always want what others have, you will never have enough. Unless you’re the best goalie in your class (unlikely if you’re reading this because that is 1 person out of thousands. You will always want more and you will never be happy. Focus on what you already have and find ways to be happy with that. Maybe you’re not the #1 ranked goalie in your class but you’re still lucky enough to be on a great club team with great teammates and have the ability to make great saves.
Be aware and stop yourself when you find yourself thinking negatively and worrying about others.
Find a Support Group
I’ll be honest, it’s a total bummer that even your own family talks down to you. They should really be the ones supporting your dreams.
But it sounds like they don’t understand the sport or the position, or both.
It’s crucial that you find a support group.
Goalie is a lonely position with many naysayers and many critics who will try to bring you down.
You’ve got to find a group that builds us up.
For many that is the family, but it could also be a group of friends, teammates, or even a group of goalies that you chat with every so often to share the trials and tribulations you’re all going through.
You’ll quickly learn you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. You’ll also learn that when you share ideas to issues other goalies are having you’ll become that much better.
In terms of finding that group, I have a free Facebook group full of goalies, and goalie Moms/Dads, coaches that may help: Lacrosse Goalie Facebook Group.
Keep Working Hard
I forget who first said this quote but as an athlete you’ve got to fall in love with the process.
That means the drills, the shots, the wall ball sessions, the sprints, the lifts – we love everything about this sport.
It’s very easy to look up and not see any results and think it’s all not worth it.
But you’ve got to trust the process. You’ve got to trust that the hard work you’re putting in now are little seeds that will bloom into results in the coming years.
Never tell yourself you’re not good enough. Trust the process.
The other thing I’ll say is that with goalie in particular, once a goalie finds their confidence their play grows exponentially.
PLL Cannons goalie Colin Kirst was a backup for most of his college experience. He got a shot and made All-American and got drafted into the pros.
Fuel Yourself from the Doubters
If you study the careers of successful sports athletes, there is often a common thread that links the greats.
Someone along the journey doubted them.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity team. An experience he used to motivate himself to train harder.
Although to be fair, if you’ve seen the Last Dance documentary, Jordan once got motivation from the fact someone didn’t say hello to him at a resurant.
However in sports, there are so many examples of athletes using their doubters as fuel to light the fire in their belly.
I’d encourage you to do the same.
The pain and drive that comes with being spited is some of the strongest inspiration known to man.
What Does the Goalie Community Say?
I posted this young goalie’s dilemma on my Instagram and asked the community what they would say to this goalie.
Here’s some responses from the goalie community:
I love the sport of lacrosse. It’s my passion and this game has given me so much.
So I always try to encourage young athletes to keep going when they start to drift away or the love of the sport starts to die.
However, I do realize this sport isn’t for everyone and if your mental health is taking a beating by being a goalie for some the right move is to change teams, change positions, or change sports altogether.
But if you share the love of lacrosse like I do here are a few things to do to help that love remain strong:
Reconnect with your “why”
Take a break
Find a support group
Don’t compare yourself to others
Keep working hard
Fuel yourself from the doubters
Hope these tips help you rediscover the love for lacrosse and the goalie position.
Until next time, Coach Damon
What would you say to this young goalie? Leave me a comment down below.
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.
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