Getting into a perfect lacrosse goalie stance before every shot is half the battle when it comes to making consistent saves as a lax goalie.
One of the first things a new goalie should learn is how to get setup in the proper stance that will maximize his or her ability to make saves.
When you analyze video or still images you’ll often notice that when a goalie is setup in a bad stance at the time of the shot’s release, the ball goes in.
How much you wanna bet this shot goes in?
The overall governing rule for a perfect lacrosse stance is to get into an athletic position.
If there’s ever a question about your stance, just ask yourself am I in an athletic position?
A proper goalie stance is also one that we can routinely get into and is the same every time.
The stance should be comfortable and also put the goalie into the best possible position to attack the oncoming shot.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, there are many styles of lacrosse goaltending. Each goalie may have some differences in his or her stance however these are the 7 elements of the perfect lacrosse goalie stance and every great goalie will have these.
I teach my goalies to setup with their feet a little wider than shoulder width.
This is the way I felt most comfortable in the cage. I could move in any direction out of this stance and I always felt like I was in a good athletic position.
The base stance of a lacrosse goalie is often compared to that of NFL linebacker. Lacrosse goalies obviously setup with their hands up and ready to save a shot.
You never see an NFL linebacker setup with feet only shoulder width apart standing up straight.
Some goalie coaches do recommend feet shoulder-width apart, which is fine. But any narrower then shoulder width and you’re not in an athletic position.
Other goalies use more of a wide base with their setup. This stance can be effective too, especially for the taller goalies but it does come with some pros and cons that I discuss in this post (wide base stance).
I prefer to setup with my top hand touching the plastic (#2 above) but I know plenty of goalies who like to grip the plastic to prevent stick rotation when the ball makes contact.
In certain circumstances, such as with a very small youth goalie (< 5 foot) it makes sense to have the top hand be under the plastic throat (#3 above) of the stick an inch in order to help the goalie reach all corners of the goal.
Regardless of where your top hand is, the bottom hand is about 12-18 inches below. With our hands that far apart we can make quick movements and rapid stick rotations when needed.
Place tape on your stick so that you know where your hands should be every time.
The final point regarding your hand position is that the top of your stick should not be above the crossbar when you set up in your stance. If it is, you’re protecting an area that’s not a goal and that’s a waste.
This means, taller goalies (about 6′ and above) either need more knee bend or lower hands so that the top of their stick is at the top of the goal.
Shorter goalies can have their hands as high their eyes if the stick doesn’t go past the top crossbar.
Or they can also set up very low like current MLL goalie Adam Ghitelman.
Arms Out and Away From Body
The next element of the perfect stance is arms out away from your body.
If your arms are too tight, moving the stick around is a difficult task. Also with your stick in tight, it might become caught on your face mask or gear during a save.
Our arms should be out and away from our body while still maintaining a bend at the elbow. Locked elbows are no good as any locked joint is not an athletic position.
One tip to find the right arm position. Fully extend your elbows, then bring them 1/2 way back. This usually results in a nice athletic positioning of the arms.
To practice having your arms out and away from your body, try the Defensive Stick Drill where we use a long stick to make saves. If your hands are not out away from your body in this drill, the long stick will hit the goal.
By having our hands out we can attack the ball quicker and reduce the amount of distance we need to cover to make a save.
Scott Rodgers’ goalie stance is seen above.
I don’t know all the details of a perfect lacrosse defensive stance for long-poles but I’m pretty sure that defender in the pic is NOT doing it 🙂
Proper Grip on the Stick
When we grab the lacrosse shaft with our hands we want to grip to be loose – ideally with only our thumb, first, and second fingers.
The grip should be loose while still maintaining control of your goalie stick.
The light grip with the thumb and forefinger allows the hands to rotate to cover all corners of the goal.
Your hands should be on the stick so that the wrists are to the back of the stick. Again, this will provide the best rotation of the stick to all areas of the cage.
You should be able to freely and easily rotate the stick 360 degrees with no limitations. If you can do that, you’ve got the right grip.
The goalie’s grip exposes the goalie’s thumb to damage from shots so be sure you’ve got a pair of lacrosse goalie gloves that have a reinforced thumb to protect yourself.
The final element of a perfect lacrosse goalie stance is to be completely relaxed.
We cannot have tension in our body because it limits our ability to react.
One of the main reason we give up rebounds is that we’re stiff. Also one of the main reasons we bite on fakes or have a false step is because our bodies are too tense and we go for that first movement.
We’re gripping the stick nice and light with our hands too. And all other limbs are relaxed and ready to go.
If you’re relaxed in your stance you can stay in it all day. Or at least long enough to endure a long 4-minute possession from the opposing team.
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14 thoughts on “The 7 Elements Of The Perfect Lacrosse Goalie Stance”
A lot of these goalie’s hand positions are either spread out or really close
Queener and Scott Rodgers do setup with their hands a little wider than I typically recommend. But goes to show there’s more than 1 way to play. Others seem to have hands setup about chest width apart in my opinion.
What would be the angle of foot positioning in the ready stance?
Feet pointed directly at the shooter
Hey coach, thanks for writing this article, it is very helpful. My question is regarding hand positioning. I’m in my first year of playing goalie and recently got moved up to play Varsity after our JV season ended. The guys on varsity shoot a lot harder, and sometimes in practice the head of my stick rotates or goes back when hit by a shot, and the ball goes in when I should have saved it. I thought a tighter grip would fix it, but I know you say here to have a loose grip. What should I do? Thanks!
Start with a loose top hand and tighten on impact. The head should not be rotating on contact. A tighter bottom hand will help reduce any rotation too. But you do want to have the top hand loose, a death grip on the stick will hurt you in low shots when you have to rotate. Will also give up a lot more rebounds with a tight grip. Hope that helps.
You may also want to improve your grip strength. Having stronger hands means a relative “loose grip” is tighter than that if your hands and wrists are weaker. You don’t want your grip to be strained or tense. Making sure you have good fresh tape on your stick can help with this too.
Yeah good point Brian. I find lacrosse players generally develop good grip strength through practice and stick handling. Did you do specific things to increase your grip strength?
Great write-up re: stance. One suggestion is to re-order the sections of the post so that it follows a physical progression of each part of the stance, starting with the feet up and up to the top of the stick. Feet, knees, chest/back, arms, hands, stick, and of course, relax. That allows for a visual mnemonic that coaches can provide to their players, and that players will more easily remember in the heat of battle. Other than that, spot on.
Thanks Jeff. Great suggestion.
What’s the best drill or
drills for goalies to work on TRACKING the ball ?
I never quite understood that term TRACKING the ball. Do you mean drills to improve seeing and reacting to shots?
I am constantly told to keep my thumb when I am holding my stick above my chin. I am a taller female goalie at 5’9, and am used to playing with my thumb lower. I have had goalie coaches tell me to keep my thumb like this so I can easily make the high saves for example on crease roles. What is your opinion on this, as I feel more comfortable playing with my thumb lower, but might be missing saves because of it, and I am having coaches and my parents telling me to have my “thumb up?” Thanks!
I would say at chin level or even just below chin level is what I recommend for goalies now. Any higher and you typically find goalies top hand will tend to drop, before going to the shot, when the shot is incoming.