How to handle when your D lets you down? | Lax Goalie Rat

How to handle when your D lets you down?

Got a question from a young goalie regarding the mental game that I wanted to answer here on the blog:

How do you handle when your D lets you down?

It’s a good question because while you never want to let down a teammate, at a certain point it will happen.

Here’s a few thoughts that come to my mind for me when I think about how to react when the defense let’s down the goalie.

Pick Them Up

The beauty of the goalie position is that we have so much control over the game.

An All-American attackman or middie can get double teamed all game long and be removed from impacting the game (besides creating number disadvantages obviously). But that is not the case for us goalies.

That’s why many goalies get involved in this position in the first place.

They love having the ability to have such a major impact on the game.

An attackman can get windmilled and stripped in the offensive end. A defensive middie can get toasted on a dodge. A long pole can miss a slide.

And yet if you as the goalie can come up with a big save – guess what?

You’ve bailed out the entire team.

What do you do when the D let’s you down? Pick them up.

Make a big save.

Chase out a shot with a dive and get up with empathic fist pump.

Win a ground ball around the crease and clear it to the midfield.

There will be days when you as a goalie simply do not have it. Every goalie has one (if not multiple) of those days.

On those days you’ll be looking to the defense to pick you up.

So on the days when the defense isn’t playing that well, try to return the favor. Pick them up!

Be a Team Leader

Now this next piece of advice sort of depends on what age the goalie is who’s asking this.

Let’s say you’re a high school goalie. This is the perfect opportunity to be a leader.

If you think your defense is letting you down, holding a grudge against them isn’t good for anyone.

Beyond your personal feelings, the future of the entire team is at stake—and it falls on you as a leader to take charge of the situation and turn things around.

Well after the game or after a practice – important to wait until after emotions have died down – call the defense together.

Fellas – I think we can all agree we’re getting worked, right? This isn’t a good feeling. Where do we need to get better as a defense?

Notice we’re not blaming anyone. Nothing gets accomplished when you point the finger at others.

Let’s first get everyone to agree we need to get better. The first step in trying to solve a problem is owning the situation for what it is. Then let’s figure out exactly what we need to improve on.

What is it? 1×1 defending, goalie saves from >12 yards, conditioning, executing slides, clearing, being more physical, team communication.

Where does your team D need to get better? Come to an agreement and then work your tails off improving that element of your defense.

Work it until it becomes a strength then move onto the next weakness.

Maybe it’s multiple things you need to improve on. That’s fine. Tackle ’em one at a time.

By voicing your concerns with the defense you’re also creating a culture where losing is not accepted. That’s a good thing.

Nothing is worse than a struggling lacrosse team full of apathetic players.

Find the Small Victories

Sometimes on a lacrosse team if all you’re hearing is the negative things, it’s tough to want to play with your heart and soul.

As any psychologist would tell you, people repeat behaviors that are appreciated.

So, giving credit on an ongoing basis is crucial for creating an excellence-oriented mindset.

Even if the defense lets you down, there’s likely a small victory that we can find.

Appreciate your team’s hard work and celebrate the wins, big and small. You’ll build a culture where the defense wants to play for you.

Plus, when you are generous with positive feedback, your team will be far more likely to accept and act on your negative feedback.

Many goalies and coaches I interview for the podcast talk about the concept of “2 minute games”. That is, let’s pick a small chunk of time and win that stretch.

Even if you’re on a lacrosse team with inexperienced players that gets whooped every game, by creating small 2 minute games we can still earn victories.

Build Personal Relationships

Many times being a leader of your team starts with building those relationships off the field.

When teammates are all engaged and connected, they don’t want to let one another down.

You as the goalie don’t want to let the team down so you work extra hard. And vice versa, the D doesn’t want to let you down so they put in the work too.

It’s a good feeling when you know you’ve got each other’s backs and you would never (purposefully) let one another down.


In the sport of lacrosse, it’s inevitable you are going to be let down by a team member or even the entire defense at one point.

So how do we deal with that?

Because the reaction is pretty important. If teammates are letting one another down, and nobody cares, that’s poor team culture.

Here’s my thoughts when your D let’s you down:

  1. Pick them up
  2. Be a team leader
  3. Find small victories and encourage the positive
  4. Build those personal relationships

Try putting these actions into effect the next time you feel let down.

Until next time,
Coach Damon

How do you handle when your team lets you down? Anything you’d add to this post? 

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