I got excited just writing out that last sentence. Game days should trigger that same reaction in you if you love the sport of lacrosse.
It’s what we’re working for!
But what should an elite lacrosse goalie do in the week leading up the game and on game day to properly prepare for the game?
This post discusses various things top goaltenders do to best prepare themselves to dominate on game day.
Take Care of Your Body
As goalies, our bodies and minds must be fully alert and ready to step up the challenge of stopping shots.
That starts with a good night of sleep, not just the night before a game, but at least 2 nights before.
If you can’t figure out a way to carve out enough sleep a couple nights ahead of your game, then something is wrong with your schedule. Get your 8 hours, it will make you more alert, and give you the best chance to play a solid game.
Being an athlete is being an engine. What do you have to give engines? Fuel.
This engine isn’t simply a classic reliable Honda civic either, you’ve got to imagine you’re working with a Ferrari you need high-grade fuel. If you don’t know what this means see as follows: Chicken, veggies, and healthy carbs. Don’t be eating loaves of bread and chicken cutlets, be eating whole grain rice (Or beans) and grilled chicken with a healthy dose of spinach, or your green vegetable of choice.
Snickers bars and soda are NOT the fuel that needed to run our engines.
By eating and sleeping right your body will perform better when its put to the task.
Video Review and Scouting
Preparation for a lacrosse game doesn’t begin the day of a game or even the day before. It begins in the practices leading up to the game where you’re on specific things you’ve scouted/seen on video.
Quite a large aspect of playing goalie has to do with not just physical work, but mental work. Going into a game, preparation in terms of recognizing what a team tries to do at any given juncture is very important.
Every team has tendencies based off of past successes, these tendencies manifest themselves in the form of what types of plays they run, how they move the ball, and the guys they want to be shooting it.
The best, or at least most efficient, way to prep for these tendencies is to watch film.
At the college level there is obviously a much larger database of film available to study. But film and high school lacrosse are absolutely growing together as well.
Sure there are some places where watching film isn’t commonplace, but any time you can get your hands on film of your next opponents I would HIGHLY advise all goalies to watch it, then watch it again, and then watch it again.
In the days of the smart phone everyone is walking around with a video camera in their pocket. So if you have no film for review its just a matter of having a parent or coach going to scout an upcoming opponent and setting up your iPhone to record on a tripod like this one.
Assuming that you have access to film, there are a few important things that every goalie should be looking at in advance of a game.
Starting with general lacrosse offense. What formation are they running? A simple 3-3, maybe a 1-3-2 (Note: these numbers are just the formation from the top of the box down to the end line).
What type of motion are they getting off-ball? Do they like to simply dodge in and out to create space or do they run a wheel involving everyone?
Motion can be something as simple as simply cutting off-ball, or a play designed to engage multiple players simultaneously to expose a man off-ball at the end of it all. Either way recognizing this on film will help for when you see it on game day.
Do they look to invert midfielders to expose a short stick from behind GLE? This doesn’t change your prep unless you want to always shift a pole onto this inverting midfielder, or want to slide early to him. If that’s the case then make it clear to your team that you will be doing this in advance of your game.
After you address some of these questions you are going to want to see where they try to take most of their shots.
For instance, does your opponent run most of their offense through their midfield? Well, if they do then there is quite a large likely hood that you will be seeing a lot of shots from up top and a lot of shots from middies sweeping down the lanes.
On the flip side of it, if their offense is primarily run through their attack you have to worry about the opposite. The opposite being dodging attackmen from behind, trying to turn the corner on your defensemen hard. So you’ll want to focus on defending inside rolls from their attack.
Finally take note of their man-up offense and also how they ride. The more you understand what’s coming by reviewing video the more prepared you’ll be to dominate during the game.
Develop a Great Pre-Game Day Routine
Part of proper preparation for a game is establishing a good game day routine and stick to it.
Every elite goalie has their own pre-game routine so there’s no one correct answer here. Just find what works for you to get your body and mind into the proper state to play at an elite level.
Some goalies re-tape their sticks, some goalies practice mental visualization of saves, some goalies eat the same meal or dress the same way before every game.
Regardless of which activities to select to be apart of your pre-game routine, they should leave you positive, focused, and ready to compete.
You also want to ensure you’re getting a good warmup prior to the game. This should include body exercises like jumping rope in addition to getting shots.
Many goalies struggle in the opening minutes of the game because they’re too used to the warmup. So be sure to add variety so you’re really training your instincts and reaction time, not just moving to where you know the shot will be. This is the physical prep for the game.
The best goalies and athletes in the world know that mental preparation for the game is just as important, if not more so, than the physical preparation they go through.
After talking with some elite goalies, here are a few mental exercises you can use to help strengthen your mental resolve prior to the game:
Meditate: Take 5-10 minutes to clear your mind of everything, including lacrosse. Use an app like Calm or Headspace. Or perhaps listen to a favorite band with your headphones on and your eyes closed.
Visualize Success: Get dressed a little early and once you have all your equipment on, close your eyes and play a mini-game in your mind, seeing yourself making all kinds of different saves. Picture how you will deal with situations both good and bad. It is ok to visualize mistakes because it is inevitable that mistakes will happen. Visualize the mistake then visualize yourself correcting and moving forward. Play through as many scenarios in your head as you can while always focusing on what is in your control.
Positive Affirmations: Focusing on what is in your control, I tell goalies to positively affirm actions that they can control. Some examples of keywords or phrases would be “I relentlessly focus on the ball”, “stay square to the shot”, “I’m constantly communicating with my defense”. These are also called Focus Anchors. They help a goalie stay focused on the task at hand and can help other athletes do the same.
A proper pre-game routine will help you remain consistent throughout the lacrosse season.
Every dominant lacrosse goalie has a different way to prepare for games. However every great goalie’s routine does involve at least these 3 elements – taking care of your body, scouting/video review, and a great pre-game routine.
Remember that preparation for a game doesn’t start the day of the game, it starts that week. Sometimes sooner depending on the importance of the game.
Using the items I mention in this article hopefully you can settle into a preparation routine that works for you.
Once you find a routine that works for you. Do not change it, even for a big game. Stick your routine and watch your save totals benefit.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Goalies! What is your routine to prepare for a lacrosse game? Let me know in the comments.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
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.