Because once a goalie loses their confidence, their game goes right out the window.
In this post, I want to share some methods that lacrosse goalies can use to build their confidence.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell introduces the principle that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field.
He gives numerous examples of professionals putting in their 10,000 hours before rising to prominence in their chosen profession. Whether it was the Beatles and music, or Bill Gates and computer programming, each put in hours and hours of deliberate practice that allowed them to succeed.
Many have debated if 10,000 is the right threshold but one thing is clear – deliberate repetition produces confidence.
How many hours of practice have you put in working on your lacrosse goalie game?
Count them. I’ll wait……Is it 10,000?
When we think about the elite lacrosse goalies of the world, some believe what they do is magic.
Magic? Nope. Repetition and practice. Yes.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Do not accept failure. And with that, the skill of self-confidence grows like a weed inside of every goalie.
Above all else, the best thing a young goalie can do to build confidence is practice.
With Experience Confidence Is Earned
As you’re practicing and practicing your goalie game, there are also experiences that you will and must go through which will earn you a badge of confidence.
There is a scene from the movie Three Kings with George Clooney where his character Major Archie Gates is talking to a soldier Conrad Vig played by Spike Jonze as they prepare to go into battle.
Archie Gates: You’re scared, right?
Conrad Vig: Maybe.
Archie Gates: The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared sh**less of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before you do it.
Conrad Vig: That’s a dumb*** way to work. It should be the other way around.
Archie Gates: I know. That’s the way it works.
So as you start out on your lacrosse goalie journey you may be scared. The shots, the nerves of the big game, your first start, the feeling of letting down your teammates. All those emotions.
Many coaches expect their new lacrosse goalies to be confident but they can’t be until the skills and emotions of playing goalie are so familiar, it’s like second nature.
When we’re in a situation that we’ve been in a hundred (or a thousand) times, self-confidence is the result.
You have to go through the thing you’re scared of first. Then you become more confident with each repetition. You get the courage AFTER you do it. Not before.
That’s a dumb*** way to work. It should be the other way around. I know, but that’s the way it works.
Many goalies start to seek out mental training exercises only AFTER they’ve lost their confidence.
Yet you don’t wait to get hurt before you start doing physical training. You don’t wait to develop a technical problem before you work on your save technique. You do them beforehand to prevent the problems.
The same thing holds true for building confidence.
The moment you start teaching your goalie the basics of making a save you should also be emphasizing the mental game and building confidence.
So as soon as day one start working mental exercises to build a young goalie’s confidence.
Gradually Build a Goalie’s Confidence
If you’re a coach concerned with building your goalie’s confidence, understand that in the very beginning you’re building a house of cards.
And throwing them right into a full speed and difficult shooting drill is a quick way to ensure those cards come toppling down.
A simple way to improve confidence is to start with something easy.
NBA star Steph Curry is famous for his warmup routines but he always begins with a few easy shots. Watching the ball go through the net, building his rhythm, and gaining confidence in his shooting ability.
Same goes for us lacrosse goalies and its the reason our warmup is so important. We start with a few easy shots, watch the ball right into our stick, build our rhythm, and gain confidence in our save abilities.
Then we can step into full speed drills and shots with confidence.
Positive Self-Talk is the Road to Confidence
We all have a self-talk tape that plays in our head. What does yours say?
For many goalies, that track is laced with negative statements.
I’m not quick enough
I should have saved that last one
I’m letting my team down by not making saves
I can’t play at the varsity level
That loss was my fault
My teammates think I’m a bad goalie
I can’t see the shots coming at me clearly
There are enough people in the world who will tell you “you can’t do it” and “you’re no good”. Why would you want to tell YOURSELF that?
We know for a fact that our thoughts influence our actions.
So why would we want that negative self-talk track playing in our heads? Negatively influencing our actions. Negatively influencing our goalie play.
A lacrosse goalie needs positive self-affirmations. A positive track that plays in our heads.
When you hear self-affirmations perhaps your mind goes to Al Franken’s Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley –
But let me introduce another great self-affirmation that perhaps you’ve all heard –
I am the greatest! – Muhammed Ali
If you don’t say it, if you don’t believe it, it won’t happen.
Years later Muhammed Ali admitted to using that self-affirmation before even knowing if it was true. But him saying that self-affirmation to himself over and over definitely helped it become true.
So as a goalie, pick your self-affirmation – (“I’m a lightning quick ball stopper!”), say it and believe it. Fill your mind with positive and healthy thoughts.
What’s your mantra? Would love to hear your positive self-affirmation down below in the comments.
Body Language – Walk the Walk
If the section above is “talk the talk”, then this section is “walk the walk”. In addition to what we say verbally, we also need to pay attention to our non-verbal communication.
When I’m observing a practice or a game from a distance I can often tell very quickly which lacrosse goalies have confidence and which do not.
It’s communicated in their body language. It’s the way they walk. It’s the way they carry themselves. It’s the way they interact with their teammates. It’s the way they check their posts. It’s the way they handle giving up goals.
If your body language is down, your thoughts and feelings will be negative. If your body is up, your thoughts and feelings will be positive. Walking the walk involves moving with your head high, chin up, eyes forward, shoulders back, arms swinging, and a bounce in your step.
You look and move like a winner.
When you walk the walk, not only are you telling yourself that you’re confident, but you’re also communicating confidence to your teammates and your opponents.
Your teammates gain confidence from you and your opponents gain frustration as there is nothing more discouraging than scoring a few times on a goalie and yet still seeing him/her pumped up, positive, motivated, and CONFIDENT!
Confidence might be the most important thing a lacrosse goalie can learn. Because without it, it’s pretty hard to stop shots.
Through repetition and by going through different experiences lacrosse goalies can learn and earn confidence. Unfortunately, it does take that experience to become confident.
Confidence is a fragile thing that can be lost quickly in a bad stretch so building confidence and mental toughness is something that should be taught from day one so goalie’s build a solid base.
Finally, becoming confident has a lot to with the communication to yourself. Both verbal and non-verbal, watch what you’re saying and make sure it’s only positive.
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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12 thoughts on “How to Build Confidence in Lacrosse Goalies”
I like to use this as my mantra:
Because no matter where you put “Isn’t” it shows that there’s always room for improvement: isn’t good enough, good isn’t enough, good enough- isn’t.
I like it as motivation! Gonna start saying to myself while writing these blog posts! Thanks for sharing that AJ!
Great blog topic. I’m a goalie dad and my daughter is in her 3rd full season of playing goalie in middle school. Confidence is a huge benefit to her game. She has had an assistant coach throw some negative comments her way versus helpful feedback. Fortunate other coaches, including her goalie coach, practice what your blog preaches.
Thanks Chris! Confidence is critical to all goalies games! I too have been the victim of negative comments from an assistant coach who knew nothing about being a goalie. Good head coaches or goalie coaches will eliminate that from their team. No room for that.
Great topic and so frequently overlooked in sports. As a psychotherapist who has worked with college athletes and a mom to a middle school goalie (Girl) this is vital. I also hope as a parent it will carry over outside the cage!
Thanks Splewis! Purposefully working on building confidence is something that is often overlooked but it’s so important for a lax goalie that it needs to be part of the regiment!
“I am the wall!”
Love it Noah!
I find that many young goalies (higher level youth leagues through high school) put enough pressure on themselves to be great, perfect, a superstar that, in order to get them to a coachable place, I have to stress where they are actually not expected to be special.
By impressing on them that they only part of the team and that they need to just give us a chance to win, I am able to get them past initial confidence problems. Once there, I can start building a goalie. Praise every save and coach every missed save. Smiles, hugs, and high fives. The goalie without extra undue pressure is free to become a better goalie and enjoy the best position in the game and, let’s face it, even at the highest levels, one should be having fun playing lacrosse.
Thanks for adding that Coach! I like it a lot. I wrote about putting additional pressure on the goalie as one method to destroy their development in a previous post. As coaches our job is to alleviate pressure because you’re right they place enough on themselves already.
I need help building confidence after letting in a few goals, one time a kid on the other team talking, I heard a few of it, he said something about the goalie, I got pretty heated but in a good way, I didn’t let another goal in. I don’t want to gain confidence from the other team talking trash, but it’s hard to change habits.
Short memory. Very easy to say but really hard to put into practice. But to me, that’s the only way. Can’t let the past effect how you’re playing now. If you lose confidence after letting in a goal, you’re letting the past influence you. Again, it’s a really tough thing to change but the score is always 0-0 in the mind of the goalie.