9 Tips for First Time Lacrosse Goalies
By Coach Damon on January 7, 2016
No matter how great of a goalie you are now, all lacrosse goalies start from zero. We all have to start somewhere.
Today we’ll cover a question I got via email regarding tips for first time lacrosse goalies. Always feel free to email me any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey Coach Damon –
I recently switched from attackman to goalie this year. My school needed another goalie so I decided, why not? To my surprise the first practice I had as a goalie I did pretty well but am now looking to continue to rest of the season as a goalie. Any tips for first time lacrosse goalies?
Thanks for the question RJ.
Your story of starting out in another position and then switching to goalie sounds very familiar to mine.
I started out playing middie before making the switch to netminder when our team needed a backup goalie.
Now after playing an entire collegiate career in goal and coaching goalies for about a decade, let me share my tips for first time lacrosse goalies.
1. Get the Right Goalie Gear
Any goalie stepping into the cage for the first time should be outfitted in proper lacrosse goalie gear.
Feeling protected will give you more confidence and help eliminate the innate fear that comes with someone firing a 90 mph rubber bullet in your direction.
It’s funny how many times I’ve seen attackman, middies, or first-time goalies step into the crease using bad equipment, like a chest protector from the 80’s that doesn’t even fit them.
Below is a quick breakdown of the equipment a new lax goalie will need. For a full in-depth description on gear check out: The Lacrosse Goalie Gear Guide.
- Throat Guard – Since you play attack you can use the same helmet, just attach a throat guard.
- Lacrosse Goalie Gloves – You’ll need to upgrade to goalie gloves. The gloves you use to play attack won’t provide the protection you’ll need when facing shots. In addition to stronger padding to protect your hands, the goalie gloves have a reinforced thumb to prevent injury.
- Athletic Supporter – I’d also recommend an upgrade to this piece of equipment as getting hit where the sun doesn’t shine is extremely painful. Warrior’s Nutt Hutt will give you the protection you need.
- Chest Protector – Many great options when it comes to chest protectors. Newer models have reinforced heart protection.
- Goalie Stick – Saving the last for the most obvious. You’ll need a goalie stick. You can either buy a complete stick or purchase a head, shaft, and a goalie stringing kit and string the goalie head yourself. Since you’re just starting out, the first option will be easier but learning how to string a goalie head is worth the investment in time.
- Shin Guards – An optional piece of equipment but one that will help you feel protected and help you avoid the horrible pain that is taking a ball to the shins.
- Lacrosse Goalie Pants – Another optional piece of equipment but feeling protected will help your confidence. Goalie pants cover up your hips and thighs that are extremely vulnerable to receiving bruises.
2. Learn the Proper Lacrosse Goalie Stance
When lacrosse goalies ready themselves to make a save, there’s a basic stance that every goalie should get into that will best prepare you to make saves.
This stance puts you in an athletic position and is used by all goalies albeit with some subtle differences in style.
Take some time to learn about perfect lacrosse goalie stance before doing anything else.
Part of getting in the right stance is also understanding the lacrosse goalie arc. I teach 3 different types of arcs but for the beginner, I recommend using a normal arc.
3. Understand the Basics of Making a Save
Sometimes goalie coaches (including myself) over-complicate the position of goalie. When a 90mph shot is traveling our way we cannot have 2000 rules floating around in our head.
So let’s simplify things – Lacrosse goalies is this: See the ball and save it.
While maybe that’s a little too simple. It’s what I reiterate to goalie students over and over.
Here’s a little more detail on the basic save technique you want to learn.
To make the save we’ll take our top hand (right hand for righties) and drive it towards the ball.
We’ll take our lead foot (left foot if shot is to your left, right foot if shot is to your right) and step to get our body in front of the shot.
Our trail foot and bottom hand then move.
So after you’ve got the right goalie gear and you have a good lacrosse goalie stance, the next step is to take some time to learn the theory behind making saves.
Read this post for an in-depth description of a simple way for lacrosse goalies to make saves.
4. Drills, Drills, Drills
Playing goalie in lacrosse is about training your muscles to make saves.
We want to develop the correct muscle memory that automatically fires once we see a shot coming in our direction.
In addition, we also want to develop our reaction time. The combination of quick reactions and perfect body movement is the key to becoming an All-American goalie.
If you have to think about the save movement, it will slow down your reaction time.
Here are 33 drills for lax goalies:
This is more than enough drills for a 1st-time goalie, or any lacrosse goalie for that matter.
Many goalies and coaches are always looking for new drills when execution is what matters most. Like a weight trainer who searches and searches for the perfect workflow plan when really just getting in the gym and lifting weight is the most important thing at that level.
Pick 3-5 drills from the list above and work them into your practice sessions.
5. Shots, Shots, Shots
Goalies must face shots. That’s what we do.
There’s no substitute for live shots. As you’re taking shots you can put everything you’ve learned into practice.
For beginner goalies, you can follow this warmup plan to ensure you’re getting a great mix of shots.
If you don’t have a goalie coach, you can set up an iPhone to record your warmup. After practice, watch the video and see which areas of your game need work. Are you making a direct move to the ball? How is your save technique?
The final tip for new goalies – get as many shots as you can. Practice makes perfect.
I recommend playing as much goalie as you can. The more shots you see the better you will become.
Getting time and experience in the cage will help you perfect the save technique and help you gain the confidence needed to become a great lax goalie.
One thing you have in your favor by knowing the position of attack is that you should already have solid stick skills.
I generally recommend that goalies not get in net until they can catch and throw properly.
If you look at today’s top goalies in the MLL most of them have the best stick skills on the field. This allows them to make great saves and also clear the ball effectively after the save.
That’s why every single top goalie in today’s game still spend a lot of time playing wall ball.
Because you come from the position of attack you have an advantage with your stick skills.
If a beginner goalie didn’t know how to throw and catch, I’d recommend they check out my post on getting stronger stick skills for goalies.
Lacrosse goalie is definitely not an easy position.
That’s great to hear that you had some success in your first practice but I would say that’s not the norm.
At first, most new goalies will flinch when someone rips a shot at them. That’s natural.
It takes time to develop the confidence not to flinch and the quick reactions and perfect save technique required to stop shots. So don’t get discouraged if you’re giving up a lot of goals at first. That will happen.
Instead, focus on having fun. Making a great save is one of the better feelings in the world so rejoice a little bit every time you make a save.
Hopefully, your teammates are supporting you and going crazy each time you make a save. Be sure to do the same when they make great plays and you’ll definitely get the love back.
Remember to have fun and you’ll be surprised how your goalie game will improve.
The position of goalie can be quite complex.
But one of the things I recommend to new goalies is to focus on the basics.
This is even great advice for experienced goalies who find themselves in a rut. Focus on the basics that I described above.
On this site you’ll find topics like –
But for a new goalie, don’t worry about these things. For now, your job is to focus on the basics.
In the next season, you can start to learn other concepts once you’re more comfortable in the crease and understand the basics.
Part of being a great lacrosse goalie is being an excellent communicator.
With your unique position on the field, you see things that other defenders as the goalie is the only player on the field constantly facing the ball.
Most 1st-time goalies are too quiet which is understandable since they are timid and don’t understand.
But when in the goal you should be communicating loudly to defensive teammates.
Here the lacrosse goalie terms you should use.
Commit those terms to memory and use them when in practice or game situations.
Being loud and knowledgeable about the game will help earn your team’s respect and turn you into the leader of the defense that the goalie should be.
Lacrosse goalies are a strange breed and I’m honored that you’re considering joining this elite club.
Even years after I stopped playing lacrosse when I would mention that I was a lax goalie in conversation with another lacrosse player, there was instant respect.
My basic tips for rookie goalies are 1) Get the right gear 2) Get the right stance 3) Study the basics of save technique 4) Drills 5) Shots
Good luck and please keep me updated on your progress!
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any other questions? Something not clear? Let me know in the comments.