Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie? | Lax Goalie Rat

Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?


Box lacrosse is the indoor version of the field game played 6 on 6 with 4′ by 4′ goals in an ice hockey rink covered with turf.

For attackmen, middies, and defensive players there’s no question that playing box lacrosse will help your overall game by improving stick skills, shooting, passing, defense, and conditioning.

But the position of goalie is completely different in box lacrosse, more similar to an ice hockey goalie than a field lacrosse goalie.

So as goalies will we benefit from getting the extra reps in box lacrosse or will it develop bad habits that carry over to the field game?

And if do you decide to play box lacrosse should we strap on the tradition box lacrosse goalie equipment or simply play with our normal field lacrosse goalie gear.

In this post I’ll take a look at the question – should I play box lacrosse goalie?

Differences in the Positions: Box Lacrosse Goalie vs. Field Lacrosse Goalie

Box Lacrosse GoalieBox Lacrosse Goalie

Playing goalie in box and in the field game are very different.

By simply comparing the pictures of a field lacrosse goalie (left) to a box lacrosse goalie (right) we get a good sense of the difference between these 2 animals.

As I’ve discussed in various articles, making saves in field lacrosse is about driving your top hand to the ball and catching it with your stick.

Box lacrosse goalie is more about cutting down the angle and then blocking the ball with your body. Instead of moving the stick for a high shot, a box goalie will move their shoulder and purposely block the ball with their body similar in style to an ice hockey goalie.

In box lacrosse the goalie doesn’t make saves in a reactionary way, that is aggressively moving their body to the ball. Instead they rely on being in the right position and blocking the ball.

While the field lacrosse sets up with the stick held around eye level, the box lacrosse goalie sets up with the stick touching the ground, blocking his 5-hole.

I’ve discussed the lacrosse goalie gear needed to play field lacrosse goalie. But as you can see in the images, box lacrosse goalie gear more closely resembles an ice hockey goalie. This is quite an investment as a normal gear setup can run well over $1000.

Box Lacrosse GoalBox Lacrosse Goalie

Can I play box lacrosse goalie with my normal field lacrosse gear?

Short answer: I wouldn’t recommend it.

Although box players do try to shoot for corners occasionally, the general strategy of their shot is to rip it as hard as they can. To shoot through the goalie rather than trying to hit a free part of the net.

The smaller field and quick transitions between offense and defense also mean that the number of shots per game a goalie will take in box is much higher. These shots will also come from closer distance than a field lacrosse goalie will be accustomed to.

You’re going to take a beating if you play box lacrosse goalie using field lacrosse gear.

There’s a reason box lacrosse goalies look like large bodied aliens. Taking all those shots is punishing.

Box Lacrosse Goalie

So to save a goalie’s spirit, I would never recommend that they strap on field lacrosse goalie gear and jump into a box lacrosse game.

Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?

In my college days our team played in a Bay Area box lacrosse league in the Fall. Since I was the goalie on the field team, naturally I was the goalie on the box team.

However our coach wanted me to take the opportunity to improve my field game. So I wore normal field lacrosse gear and stood in a field lacrosse goalie stance.

Needless to say, it was not a great experience. When you stand in a field stance, most shots are low. And thus I would always cheat or guess low.

The lack of pads also left me covered in welts after every game.

Because of that experience, I always used to discourage them from playing box lacrosse goalie and instead play in the field during those box games.


Due to the punishing nature of taking so many shots with inadequate padding plus I started to develop a lot of bad habits in always thinking the shot is coming in low.

And finally, box lacrosse goalie gear is extremely costly. If you’re serious about playing box goalie you can spend well in excess of $1000 getting all the necessary protection. And this protection is absolutely mandatory as getting pelted with box lacrosse shots is a sure-fire way for goalies to get burnt out.

But this is an area where I’ve changed my mind. As long as the goalie is adequately padded up I do think there are great benefits to playing box goalie that translate over to your field goalie game.

Below I’ll discuss those benefits you’ll get.

Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie

The Pros of Playing Box Lacrosse Goalie

So what exactly are the skills honed in box goalie that transfer over to your field game?

Positioning and Arc Play

The first is positioning and learning to play an arc.

In box lacrosse the goalie typically makes the save by being in the right place at the right time. Thus the idea of a save becomes less about reacting to the ball and more about being in the right place to cut down the shooter’s angle and look at the goal.

Box lacrosse is quick. Due to this quickness, there is an extreme amount of repetition and angle changes as teams quickly pass across the field. Thus, the box goalie must learn to quickly change positions on his arc to be in the right position on his goalie arc to make a save.

I do think learning to excel at this arc play can transition to the field game.

Play Big

The second pro is learning to play big. Box goalie technique teaches you to take up as much space as possible, play big, play hard, and attack the ball, all things that transfer over well to field.

And the final benefit of playing box goalie is the sheer number of shots you’ll see in box games helps you read shooters.

There is no question that as a box goalie you’ll see a lot of shots. The 30-second shot clock and short field mean you’ll be bombarded with shots. You’ll see many different styles of shots too – screen shots, shots from inside, shots off a skip pass, etc.. Seeing these shots may help you read the same style of shots in the field game even if the save styles are completely different.

In episode 3 of the Lax Goalie Rat podcast, I chat with Dillon Ward who made it to the highest level of lacrosse in both the indoor AND the outdoor game. As you can imagine he’s a big proponent that box lacrosse goalie teaches you a lot of about the field game.

If you interested in hearing his story I encourage you to listen to that episode.

Get Used to Shots and Shooter’s Release Points

Getting a rubber projectile fired at you is not a natural thing. It takes time to not only remove tension in your body when the shot comes but to read it, track it, and explode into its path.

With all the padding box goalies wear plus all the reps you’ll see, you’ll start to get used to this. The pads (should) eliminate the fear of getting a juicy bruise and allow the goalie to focus on making the save.

You’ll also learn to pickup shooter’s release points. Shooters will rip at different (and often very creative) angles in the box game and seeing all these types of shots will help you learn to pickup a shot out of the field player’s stick too.

Inside Shots

Due to the nature box lacrosse, ALL shots are inside shots.

So if you as a goalie struggle with this type of shot, seeing tons of reps as a box goalie will help you out.

Listen to Tim Cassi from Focus Lacrosse discuss why you should play box goalie:


Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?

Early on in my coaching career I said no. And recommended that kids play box lacrosse but in the field, not as the goalie.

That was mostly based on my own experience playing box goalie and the bad habits I developed because of it.

While I still think there are tremendous benefits of playing in the rink and trying put one past the other goalie, I now think you should play box goalie.

Of course the main caveat being you gotta wear ALL the proper pads.

Learning to see shots out of the shooters stick, learning shooter’s release points and reading body language,  learning to read a play and be in the right position, learning to keep your body tension free and react are all things you’ll improve upon by playing box goalie.


There’s a certainly a strong debate within the lacrosse community about whether playing box goalie is beneficial to your normal goalie game.

Based on my experience, I used to have a strong opinion that box lacrosse goalie is detrimental to the development of a field goalie.

But I was playing the wrong way. If a goalie puts on all the proper pads, I do now think it will benefit your field goalie game!

Reading shots, playing angles, see inside shots, reading different releases – all skills that can be honed in the box goalie world.

There are also advantages to playing in the field during a box game but lets be honest, if you’re the goalie, you’re the goalie!

Until next time! Coach Damon

Anyone play box goalie and field goalie? Let me know your experience in the comments down below. 

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18 thoughts on “Should You Play Box Lacrosse Goalie?

  1. I’m going to respectfully disagree.

    I have a 17 year old son who has played box (6 years) and field (10 years) lacrosse goalie. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have warned him/me about developing bad habits from box.

    I’ll skip all the parts about how playing different sports is valuable because of the way they all inform one another. That ground is well covered, and the benefits of a multi-sport background are indisputable.

    Playing box goalie is one of the most mentally taxing positions I’ve ever encountered, for the reasons you describe. The game is faster, played closer in, and features 3x as many shots as a field game. The 30 sec shot clock ensures constant action; there’s no regrouping while your offense spins the ball around the perimeter for 5 min on the other end of the field…

    Box goalies see a ton of shots, from a crazy array of angles. Brutal stick fakes and lightning fast quick sticks are the rule, not the exception. The box keeper spends a fair amount of time pulling the ball out of the back of the net. Because of all this, box goalies have to be mentally tougher than just about anyone, field goalies included. And developing that toughness, as well as emphasizing the short term memory required not to linger on mistakes, is enormously valuable.

    Here’s where I come out on box goalie for field goalies: absolutely give it a try. Yes, it’s different. Will it help you on t he field? Maybe, maybe not.

    But if you like lacrosse, you may love box lacrosse. My son did. And he’s a better goalie for it.

  2. Thanks for the comment Dave! Fair enough!

    There’s certainly different schools of thought on whether you should play box goalie. My personal experience is playing in goal in box burnt me out and also created bad habits that I had to break to succeed in the field game. So I prefer to have goalies play in the field when they play box lacrosse. But interesting to hear your son had a different experience.

  3. I am the parent of a 13 year old. 4 years on the field as a goalie. After a couple of box tournaments, it seems to me he gets far less out of the indoor game than his short stick team mates. The tourney’s are an hour and half away. In the future, I think I will have to put an expectation on the team organizer. There must be two goalies, and he plays a half as a short stick. Otherwise, it would be much better to keep up the multi-sport thing and practice his basketball.

    1. Hi Jonathan – Thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you. I got a lot more out of playing short stick in the field than playing box goalie. Good luck! – Damon

  4. Damon, I agree that the translation of skills from one version of the game to the other is practically non-existent. I don’t think playing box goalie is going to make you a better field goalie and vice versa. They are totally different positions with very little in common from a technical perspective. However, I do think it is possible to play both and not suffer any ill effects (bad habits) when transitioning between seasons. If a young player wants to play both and enjoys each version of the game then they should go for it. I don’t really get the comment on burn-out playing box goalie. Yes, it’s mentally taxing to play goalie but if someone can’t handle that then it’s the wrong position for them. I love the fact that I get to play a full game and see tons of action. All of this being said with the caveat that you have to have the right gear to play box. It is absolutely stupid to get in a box cage without proper box goalie gear which, as you say, can be very expensive. My setup is probably closer to the $2000 end. You can find used gear at much better prices and oftentimes leagues will have a set of house pads.

  5. Hi Coach,
    My son is 14 and is in his 3rd year playing box as goalie. He has played 4 years as a filed goalie, started at age 9 bounced to baseball for 2 years and then transitioned back to Lacrosse and never looked back. He has heard ‘goalie coaches’ tell him that “he should play attack on box because playing goalie will ruin him for field”. His mental comment that he shared with me is “maybe you had a problem with switching but I don’t”. You’re absolutely correct on the cost of good goalie gear, I added up the cost of my sons box equipment last night and it was just over $2,600.00. While the mechanics of the save are very different being able to read a shooter and watch the ball to block the shot are very similar. I can’t help but think that the more you stare down the ball the better your are going to be and this is what you stated above. Based on my sons experience I don’t see the negatives you point out, but I did like your article.

  6. Good afternoon Coach Damon!! I have an interesting take on the Box debate. First of all my son (Griffin) has been a field goalie since he was 5 years old, which is perplexing since I played Attack my entire Lax career. LOL! He’s also been an elite Box goalie since 5th grade. He is now 16 and heading to Huntington Beach in a few days for Box Nationals. I asked him the question, “in your opinion does Box help or hinder your Field game?” He smiled and said. “It’s about ego dad. You want to be the leader, the one who saves the game at the whistle. It’s exhilarating to stare down a player on a fast break and shut them down with a split second save—no better feeling in the world.” He also stated that Box has made him a student of the game—learned to read shooters better and feels that when he sees these same players in the spring and summer, he knows their favorite shots, their idiosyncrasies, and how to rattle them. He also says he feels calm in goal (Field), knowing that he has already seen every shot imaginable. Cool confidence—ice in his veins.

    1. Very interesting! Thanks for adding that Eric. I interviewed Dillon Ward for my pod and he obviously couldn’t stop talking about how playing both field and box goalie makes him better in each. I do like that learning to be a leader aspect your son brings up. The experience piece and feeling confident in goal I don’t think anyone can argue the benefits of that. But question for him, since the save movements are different, after playing box for a while and stepping onto field for first time does he notice bad habits?

  7. Hi, Coach,

    Great article! I was wondering if you could give me some advice on two things: a. Should I quit my fall sport so I can do goalie workouts instead? I’ve found soccer to not be too helpful for lacrosse goalie plus I would have way more time to do schoolwork, practice lacrosse, electric guitar, etc. b. do I absolutely HAVE to play box lacrosse middie or can I stick with ice hockey because I realize how many amazing benefits come from box and honestly I just need a blunt answer on what would be best for me as a lacrosse goalie.

    Best wishes,
    Ethan Kim

    1. Hey Ethan, each situation is different but I probably wouldn’t give up soccer. I’m a huge fan of playing other sports, even if you don’t realize it a lot does translate over to the goalie. Strength and conditioning if nothing else. You don’t absolutely have to play box middle. I think box middle provides a little more benefit over ice hockey but quite frankly i think ice hockey is good too. Sorry can’t be more blunt but each scenario is totally different.

      1. Thanks for the reply coach! I stuck with soccer this past season and am going to play both box and ice hockey this year. Thank you for the advice, you are the best in the biz!

  8. Hi Coach, when my son’s club team started a box team this year I wasn’t sure about how he’d fare. We read tons about the equipment, watched hours of YouTube box lacrosse videos and he’s finally had the chance to get on all the gear and take some shots, and guess what? He loved it…said the first practice with all the gear was his favorite lacrosse practice ever. Your points about making sure your player feels protected is 100% true. Once my son got all the gear on and got in the net he said he felt invincible. Thanks for all the great resources.

      1. Yes, now both field and box. The podcasts are great BTW – Mr. Wanderful and Aaron Fenton were both great interviews. Keep up the great work.

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