The Lacrosse Goalie Arc: Your Key to Good Positioning
By Coach Damon on August 21, 2019
One of the key elements of being a great lacrosse goalie is your positioning.
That is – where you are in the goal when the shooter is about ready to rip one at you.
Along with your stance and your save movement, your positioning is one of the 3 key technical elements of lacrosse goalie play.
You could have an amazing stance and lighting quick moves to the shot but if you’re not centered in the goal from the shooter’s perspective, the likelihood of making a save is decreased.
In order to learn great positioning, lacrosse goalies must learn something called the lacrosse goalie arc.
Like many elements of lacrosse goalie play there are different styles of arcs that goalies prefer.
In this post I’ll discuss those different goalie arcs along with the pro’s and con’s of each.
What is a lacrosse goalie arc?
For those goalies, coaches, or parents that brand new, the lacrosse goalie arc is a semi-circle about 1-3 feet in front of the goal line with different points that represent where the goalie should be setup depending upon where the shooter is located.
Being in the right spot on the arc and the ability to move quickly on the arc are such important elements in making a save that the arc is one of the first elements I teach young goalies.
Simply put – we’re putting ourselves in a great position to make a save.
There are 2 primary arcs that I teach:
- the normal arc also called a 5-point arc
- the flat arc also called the 3-point arc
There isn’t a right and wrong arc in my opinion but each does come with its set of advantages and disadvantages.
Why even use an arc to begin with some beginners typically wonder?
The reason is when the shot is coming at us we want to be set. Taking little baby steps to move around the arc isn’t efficient and often leads to the goalie being on the move when a shot comes.
Instead we define our arc and only move to those points on the arc.
Traditional Arc – 5 Point Arc
The traditional arc is a semicircle about 2-3 feet in front of the goal line.
The 5-points on this arc are:
- Top Center
- Right 45
- Left 45
- Right Pipe
- Left Pipe
As the ball passes through the different quadrants on the field the goalie will move from one spot to another on the arc. Always staying square to the shooter.
The traditional arc is typically what goalies start with. Most youth goalies have a shorter frame and thus being out closer to the shooter allows them to cut down the angle on shots headed for the corner.
Meaning do you don’t have to move as much to make a save.
I recommend goalies start the position with the 5 point arc. But as I interview professional MLL and PLL goalies for the podcast you’ll also find that about roughly half of the goalies still use this arc in their play.
A typical bad habit with this arc is to moving too quickly. Meaning as a ball carrier starting top center sweeps down the alley we move on the arc too soon and expose too much of the far side of the goal.
To remedy that issue – remember to “trail the shooter by a step”. Meaning wait just an extra step when they pass into the next quadrant of the field, and then move on the arc. You’ll be in better position this way.
The other advantage of the normal arc is that we occupy more goal. That is we appear bigger to the shooter.
Here’s a picture directly from my book to demonstrate that:
Notice that I take up more of the cage in the higher arc.
Also notice on a shot destined for the corner how much less I need to step to get there.
The 5-point arc is not without its disadvantages.
Because we are closer to the shooter that gives us less time to react.
The points on the arc are further apart which move movement and more change of getting “lost on the arc”. That means you think you’re splitting the cage from the shooter’s perspective but really you’re accidentally exposing one part of the goal.
The Flat Arc – 3 Point Arc
A flat arc is one where you setup your stance extremely close to the goal line.
In some cases your heels are even touching the goal line. But for most goalies in a flat arc your feet will about a foot above the goal line.
Your feet position look like this:
The flat arc is becoming more and more popular today as opposing team’s develop faster shots and nastier fakes.
Because you are further away from the shooter, the flat arc gives goalies more time to react to the ball.
For a lot of female goalies the flat arc makes a ton of sense because the shots simply get by the goalie before they can react. It’s not that there particularly fast (although some ladies can rip it) but they’re always taken so close to the goalie.
The flat arc is great for larger goalies (taller than 5’10”) because you can still reach all corners of the goal with your large reach.
Shorter goalies playing a flat arc might never be able to reach a shot headed for the top corner.
There is less movement in a flat arc and thus it is harder to get out of position. As a ballcarrier sweeps from top center down the alley moving on the flat arc is very simple.
So goalies using a flat arc will typically find themselves in the proper position to increase the odds of making a save.
But there are also disadvantages of the flat arc.
Being deeper in the goal gives the shooter more open net to look at. You appear much smaller in the cage because you are.
You don’t cut down the angle on shots so the movement required is larger.
If you’re a goalie just starting to learn the position, I’d start with the traditional (5 point) arc. It’s easy to learn and allows smaller goalies to take up more cage and cut down angle on shots.
I do think if you’re a larger goalie with a long reach, the flat arc makes a ton of sense. This gives the most time to react to the shot and since you have a larger body type you’ll take up a sufficient amount of the cage and also be able to reach shots to the corners.
For a lot of female goalies I’ve worked with they’ve found a lot more success switching to flat arc to give them more time to see the shots.
As all goalies get more experience I recommend that they at least experiment with a flat arc (or vice versa if you’ve always used the flat arc).
You may find that as you move back in the goal you’re able to make more saves with more time to react to the shot.
The Hybrid Arc?
Who says you need to pick a single style and stick with that arc for every single situation? Many goalies adapt what I call “hybrid arc”.
Regardless of what style of arc you choose as your primary go-to, there are certain game situations where you must adapt making the hybrid arc very effective.
When the ball is inside, close to the crease, it’s not good to be high on the arc. The attackman will simply take a step to either side and you’re out of position. In this situation I recommend goalies sink back and adapt a flat arc.
There are other situations where an attackman catches the ball on the crease and based on the situation they no choice but to shoot immediately. In that case it makes sense step out and meet that shot vs. hanging back and giving them the full goal to shoot for.
Here’s a mini clip of goalie legend Brian Schwartzman demonstrating what I wrote above. Notice as the attackman catches the ball on the crease he takes a step out off of his flat arc and makes the save towards the top of the crease:
On the other hand – if a player is winding up for an outside shot and you’re 100% sure he’s going to shot – taking a step out at the shooter to move higher on the arc makes tons of sense.
There are certain 8 meter restart situations in the female game where you know the girl must shoot. In that case it makes sense to come out on the arc and cut down the angle.
We can also vary our arc play depending on how we’re feeling for that day or that practice.
PLL Archers goalie Drew Adams in our podcast interview talked about how he varies his arc depending on how he’s feeling in a particular game.
If he’s seeing the ball really well, he’ll play the flat arc and rely on reflexes to get the shots. Whereas if he’s not picking up the ball that well on a particular day he’ll play further out to limit the goal a shooter sees and perhaps make a few more body saves than normal.
Learning a new arc is going to feel uncomfortable at first and you’ll make plenty of positioning mistakes until you have it mastered. Therefore its important that you work on your arc play in practice for a few weeks until you start using it in an actual game.
During practice put tape down on the turf (or grass) to define the spots on your arc. Eventually you’ll want to be able to walk the arc without looking down however when you’re learning its ok to look down and check your positioning. With time, the correct positioning will start to feel natural.
Now once you understand positioning, it’s time read moving on the arc.
The lacrosse goalie arc is something I teach goalies so that they can be in the right position to make a save.
When a 90mph shot is coming at you we need to do everything possible to gain a little advantage. And setting up on the right position on the arc so we can reach the shot is exactly that.
I teach a normal (5 point arc) and a flat (3 point arc) arc. But there is no definitive rule that you must use one or the other.
Play what works best for you.
That said, if you’re a smaller goalie who specializes who making saves with quickness a normal arc will reduce the amount of distance you need to cover. Your foot speed will more than make up for it.
Even after deciding which arc is best for your style of play, it’s important to know and practice all arc types since there are situations on the field when one arc is extremely beneficial to another.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Got any tips for lacrosse goalie arc play? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.