Lacrosse Goalie Tips for Eliminating Rebounds | Lax Goalie Rat

Lacrosse Goalie Tips for Eliminating Rebounds


Lacrosse goalie’s have one of the most difficult tasks in sports. Not only do we have to prevent a high velocity shot from entering the goal but we also have to control the rebound and lead the clear so we can get our team back on offense.

Every rebound you give up is another opportunity for the opposing team to score.

Therefore lax goalies must work hard to ensure they’re eliminating rebounds on every save.

In this post I want cover tips that I teach young goalies to help them control rebounds.

Soft Hands Eliminate Rebounds

Not giving up rebounds starts with having “soft hands”.

If a hard shot hits the pocket of your stick and your hands and arms are firm like bricks there’s a good chance that shot is going to pop out for a rebound.

Before I played lacrosse, I played infield in baseball and you’d always hear the concept of soft hands here too so that a grounder wouldn’t hit your glove and pop out.

When you’re learning how to field a grounder as an infielder they talk about staying loose, not tensing up your body and then timing the grounder with your footwork. Same thing applies to saves as a lacrosse goalie if we want to prevent rebounds.

Having “soft hands” in lacrosse starts with a light grip on the stick.

When the ball hits the mesh of your stick, your loose grip will give a little and help reduce rebounds.

Your bottom hand grip can be a little tighter to ensure the stick doesn’t rotate when hit with a shot. However the top hand should be very relaxed.

If your top hand is too tight when the ball contacts the mesh the force could pop it out and create a rebound.

To train your goalie to have soft hands there are a few goalie drills that you can do.

Tennis Balls

The lighter tennis balls are harder to keep in the stick’s mesh during a save. So practice not giving up rebounds in practice with tennis balls.

You’ll really need to ensure your grip is relaxed to not give up a rebound with a tennis ball.

An interesting idea, especially if you’re practicing solo, is to use a tennis ball machine like those found at Tennis Racquet Central to fire shots at you.

Shots With a Shallow Stick 

Later in this post we’ll discuss how your stick’s mesh and pocket depth impact rebounds. The quick summary is a shallow goalie pocket will give up more rebounds.

Read this to determine the ideal goalie pocket depth for your stick.

So to practice not giving up saves, we’ll intentionally use a goalie stick with a shallow pocket during warmups to focus on having soft hands.

Only with soft hands will you be able to eliminate rebounds when using the shallow pocket goalie stick.

But most importantly the hands have to be comfortable. The hands have to be relaxed.

Hot Potato

This goalie drill I learned from the MLL’s Brian Phipps. It’s called “Hot Potato” and is meant to develop soft hands in lacrosse goalies and thereby reduce rebounds.

This is a drill I’ll work into the beginning of practice to get the goalies going.

You simply throw the ball back and forth – catching and releasing as soon as possible – and ensuring that you’re 1.) watching the ball at all times and 2.) receiving the ball with soft hands.

You should not be snatching or stabbing at the ball but rather receive it like an egg, the same way attackman/middies are taught to catch a pass.

Here is a GIF of Mr. Phipps demonstrating the drill with 2 people:

Some variations of the Hot Potato drill:

  • Perform it against a wall when you’re alone
  • Play in a group of 3-4 so you really have to track the ball (try some no look throws)
  • Play “P-I-G” or “H-O-R-S-E” where each player gets a letter if the ball is thrown to them and they drop it or snatch at it.

In each case the goalie is focused on watching the ball into his/her hand and receiving the ball with soft hands.

Work those 3 drills into your practice routine and hopefully you’ll find that you give up fewer and fewer rebounds.

Don’t be a Statue

A goalie’s entire save motion should be fluid.

At no point should we be frozen like a statue. In fact when goalies get frozen at some point in the save motion, rebounds are often the result.

I see this happens frequently on off-stick saves. The goalie will make the save but then stay frozen like a statue at the end of the save movement.

Never be a statue. Always be fluid and finish every save.

That will help you reduce rebounds.

Give the Top Hand a Slight Cradle

When the ball makes contact with our stick we can give the stick an ever so slight cradle.

This will help ensure that the goalie controls the rebound.

This slight cradle is best displayed visually so here is “Doc” Dougherty  explaining the concept:

The Right Stick

A goalie’s stick will have a lot to do with their ability to control rebounds.

Back when I played in college there were fewer options for goalie mesh. When you strung up a goalie stick, you had to spend hours and hours breaking in the mesh.

A goalie stick with mesh that is not properly broken in will be like a tennis racket giving up rebound after rebound.

These days there is goalie mesh like East Coast Dyes Semi-Soft Wax Mesh or Jimalax 12 Diamond Goalie mesh that is much easier to break in thereby reducing rebounds.

However anytime you get a new stick strung up be sure to spend adequate time breaking it in before that stick sees action in the games.

Another element of the stick that effects rebounds is your pocket depth.

A shallow pocket will give up more rebounds. Thus the reason we specifically train with a shallow pocket stick to develop soft hands.

Before you run of and make your pocket as deep as possible know that its much easier to throw outlets with a shallow pocket.

  • Deep Pocket: Less rebounds, harder to clear.
  • Shallow Pocket: More rebounds, easier to clear.

Therefore I typically recommend a balance with about 2 to 2.5 balls of depth in the pocket.

Trap and Scoop Rebounds

No matter how soft your hands and how great your stick is, there will still be an occasional shot that pops out around the crease.

In this situation its crucial for the goalie to clamp the ball with the back of their stick.

If you clamp outside of the crease, offensive players are legally allowed to attempt to pry the ball loose by dragging their stick under yours.

If this happens defensive players should be salivating as they can body check these pesky attackman and make them wish they never tried that move.

If the goalie has a foot in the crease, no contact may be made with the keeper. Thus always keep a foot in the crease if possible.

I teach my goalies to drag the ball back into the crease if they’re clamped just outside.

With a foot in the crease nobody can contact them so you can use your body to “box out” attackman and ensure your team gets possession of that ball.

Invert the Mesh Before the Shot

One final tip for helping to eliminate rebounds.

Before the shot – invert your mesh. That is push the back of the mesh through the front of the stick.

This won’t drastically reduce rebounds like the other concepts in this post however it’s my belief that it helps.

When the ball hits the inverted mesh there will be more give and a higher probability that the ball stays caught in your mesh like a fishing net.


Learning to control rebounds is an important element of any goalie’s game.

Keep these tips in mind when you’re out on the field and hopefully the number of rebounds you’re giving up will diminish drastically:

  • Develop soft hands
  • Don’t be a statue
  • Give a slight cradle
  • Get the right stick
  • Clamp and scoop
  • Invert your mesh pre-shot

Remember every rebound you give up is another chance for the opposing team to score.

Until next time! Coach Damon

Any goalies or coaches have any additional tips on eliminating rebounds? Leave me a comment down below. 

Cover photo credit – JCCincy

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1 thought on “Lacrosse Goalie Tips for Eliminating Rebounds

  1. Hi Coach Damon, do you have tips for goalie cradling after making a save and also in general? The ball rolls around a lot and often falls out. What is that twirling motion goalies do right before making a clear?

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