Lacrosse Goalies: When Should You Change Positions?
Playing goalie was one of the best decisions I made in my life.
Learning to excel in this position taught me valuable skills and forged amazing friendships that I treasure to this day.
But at the same time, I realize that being a lacrosse goalie is not for everyone. In fact, most kids grow up dreaming to score the game-winning goal, not prevent it.
It’s often said that lacrosse goalies are a little crazy. You have to be to put yourself in the situations we do.
So what if your team assigned you the goalie position and you’re not a little crazy? What if you’re not enjoying defending the goal and being in the spotlight?
The purpose of this post is to help you make a decision as to whether goalie is something you should stick with or whether making a switch to another position is the right move for you.
The decision to change positions is very personal and without knowing all the details of your situation I cannot provide any advice. That said, here are some things to consider when making the decision whether or not to continue as a goalie.
The Fear of the Ball Never Goes Away
Lots of beginning goalies initially fear the ball.
Lots of goalies coming off a long layoff might also fear the ball.
It’s a pretty common issue as getting in front of a rubber bullet while wearing very little padding is just not a natural thing.
But that fear can be overcome. I wrote a full post on overcoming your fear of the ball that might help some goalies.
As you see more shots and get more experience your fear of the ball will go away.
Those who embrace the goalie position make a mental shift where instead of fearing the shot, they attack it. The “bring it” mindset as Coach Chris Buck calls it.
They learn to embrace the bruises as each one is just another save for the team. Each bruise is a pride tattoo.
But what if your fear of the ball never goes away?
What if you’ve tried every mental trick and seen a full season worth of shots and you’re still dreadfully scared of the ball?
Goalie isn’t for everyone.
And the fact is, if you’ve gotten fully padded up and gone through a couple of seasons worth of shots and yet still fear the ball to point where it affects your ability to make saves, goalie probably isn’t the right position for you.
Not everyone is crazy enough to have zero fear of the ball but if your fear is overwhelming this position might not be for you.
You’ve Played a Full Season in Goal – Perhaps Two
Learning to excel in goal takes time. You cannot expect to be great after a season.
But before you decide that goalie is not for you, I think you need to give it a fair effort.
I would hate for a goalie to read a point on this article and decide that goalie isn’t for them after only playing for a month.
Because fear of the ball and other points discussed here take time to overcome. Gaining the confidence needed to dominate takes times. Learning the proper save technique and putting that on autopilot takes time.
I don’t know what exactly a “fair effort” entails. For me, it’s giving the position of goalie your 100% commitment for at least a full season perhaps even two.
After you’ve given it a fair effort and you’re still not enjoying it, you could consider a change of positions.
Not Having Any Fun
Lacrosse is a beautiful game and it’s meant to be fun.
In fact as a goalie if you’re not having fun you’re probably not going to play that well.
Because when we’re having fun, we’re relaxed, we’re loose and focused solely on the task at hand – save the next shot that comes our way.
You can always forward your coach this post on how to make practice fun for a goalie.
Is every moment on the lacrosse field going to be fun? Of course not.
When you’re running team sprints or you take consecutive shots to the exact same place on your thigh. Those are not fun moments. I know.
But practicing with your friends, making saves, competing in games. Those are all great moments and they should vastly outnumber the non-fun moments.
As a goalie if you cannot enjoy those moments, then perhaps this isn’t the right position for you. Same goes if you find the bad moments severely outnumbering the good moments in goal.
3rd String Goalie
Now I’m not suggesting that you quit being a goalie simply because you’re low on the depth chart.
There are plenty of success stories where NCAA and even MLL goalies were not starting at some point early in their career and then overcame that adversity to win the starting position.
But if you’re the 3rd string goalie on your youth (or even high school) team and the goalies above you are the same age, you have a decision to make if your goals include seeing meaningful playing time.
Switch to another position where you have a chance at more playing time. Or continue to develop your goalie skills and make a determination to surpass the other keepers on the depth chart.
This situation is unique to each individual and depends on many factors like long-term goals, team dynamics, other goalies on the team, general love for the goalie position, etc.
However I have come across a few situations where I thought it made more sense for a goalie to switch positions.
You Can’t Handle the Pressure
Goalie is not like other positions in lacrosse. You are under an intense spotlight.
From some, like me, they love and cherish the spotlight. But for others, they might not like having all the pressure that comes with being a goalie.
If before, during, and after games, the goalie is struggling mentally despite going through mental exercises in depth, a switch of positions might be better.
Attack, middies, and defense don’t have the pressure that comes with being a lacrosse goalie.
So if your goalie is struggling under the spotlight, perhaps a change of positions would serve them well and allow them to enjoy the beautiful sport of lacrosse a little more.
Heart Isn’t Into Playing Goalie
Some goalies really embrace the position, but for others, their heart just isn’t into it.
Instead of dreaming of making the saves, they’re dreaming of switching to attack or defense.
If the goalie doesn’t want to be in between the pipes, you really don’t want them there.
The goalie must not only be physically capable but must also be motivated and emotionally tough. If their heart is not 100% into being a great goalie they will never find motivation and emotional toughness.
Continuing to force a kid to be a goalie when their heart isn’t into it simply hurts the team and they’re better off considering a switch of positions.
I loved playing goalie. As I said in the intro, making the switch from middie to goalie was one of the best things that ever happened to me and that’s not hyperbole.
But I realize that the lacrosse goalie position isn’t for everyone.
It’s a special position and not every player is cut out to be a goalie.
Lacrosse goalie is a tough position and I would never want someone to switch positions simply because its tough. But that being said, I realize there are certain situations where it does make sense to make a switch.
So consider the points in this post and ask yourself if goalie is the right position for you.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Anything else you think someone should consider before switching positions? Leave me a comment down below.
2 thoughts on “Lacrosse Goalies: When Should You Change Positions?”
My son plays goalie for his HS team. He’s been first backup goalie for varsity, and splitting the duties on the JV squad with the #3 goalie. Its been a decent amount of sideline time, but this year he may be starting varsity. He asks to play field during his non-goalie halves on JV, but the coach wants him to be ready to go “just in case”. He’s a decent defensive middie with plenty of speed & conditioning.
In the off season play (fall ball, winter league), he’s split his time 50/50 middie and goal. He really enjoy the time playing mid, and it gives him more perspective as a goalie. He also feels more like “one of the guys”, rather than just “that crazy dude taking all the shots”. I think its invaluable experience, and think more goalies should get that opportunity.
I started my career as a middie and most top goalies have experience in the field. It definitely helps you be a better goalie. Thanks for that comment Rip.