Most attackman are taught to shoot off-stick hip on the goalie. Why? Because off-stick hip saves are one of the hardest for a lacrosse goalie to make.
Bounce shots are also a difficult shot to save however with some bouncers that end up on our stick side, there’s very little stick movement required.
For an off-stick hip save the goalie needs to move his stick a far distance in a short amount of time to make the save.
In addition some shots end up in “no man’s land” where the goalie doesn’t know which direction to rotate the stick. The fraction of a second lost thinking about it usually results in a goal.
For those goalies struggling with their off-stick hip saves, here are tips I reinforce.
Top Hand Straight to the Ball
When we think about how to make a save, the first thing that I teach goalies is – Top hand goes straight to the ball.
For saves to most locations of the goal, keepers have no problem moving their top hand in a perfectly straight line to the path of the shot.
And yet, when we start in with off-stick hip shots, the stick rotation makes many goalies move their top hand in circle or arc to reach the ball.
As I’ve written on this blog before there are many styles of playing goalie and I’ve seen coaches teach this method of moving your top hand in an arc to reach off-stick hip shots.
Perhaps its because I’m an engineer but I will never believe the arc method is quicker than moving your top hand in a straight line. The shortest path between two points is a straight line, not an arc.
We want to make saves moving our top hand following the path of the red line, not the brown line.
Moving your top hand straight to the ball on off-stick hip shots is difficult to achieve because you also have to rotate the stick.
You’ll need to practice this movement through drills and then perfect it by taking off-stick hip shots.
One thing I learned from Trevor Tierney on getting the top hand to the off-stick hip shot is to envision chopping wood. We chop with both our hands to get our top hand to the ball and provide power with our bottom hand.
Although moving your top hand in a straight line on off-stick hip shots is a difficult movement to master, once you do, you’ll make off-stick hip saves look way easier.
Here’s the million dollar question for off-stick hip saves.
Do you rotate the stick clockwise and bring the head underneath to reach the off-stick hip? Or do you rotate the stick counter-clockwise and bring the head over the top?
When the ball is slightly above the hip but still below the chest, sometimes its not clear which is the most effective movement.
This is one of those areas of lacrosse goalie coaching that I’ve changed my mind on.
I now think going over the top is a much more efficient movement. It is very hard to go underneath and NOT turn your hips which a big no-no and I’ll discuss more later.
Going over the top makes the goalie attack the ball more. I’ve even seen goalies go over the top for off stick low shots and have success.
Ultimately whether you go over the top or underneath is the goalie’s preference, but the key is do not hesitate.
If you spend even a fraction of a second thinking about it, it’s too late. Just react to whatever feels natural and make the save.
Now here’s another important point: notice I used the word “react” in the sentence above. You cannot predetermine which way you’re going to go before the shot. You must react.
If you’ve predetermined you’re going over the top and the shot ends up being well below your hip, your going to have a difficult time making that save.
On the other hand, if you’ve decided you’re going underneath and the shot ends up by your shoulder, that’s going to be a goal.
Instead the lacrosse goalie should react to the shot as it comes. You have to be equally effective in going over the top vs. going underneath as you’ll need both of these movements in your save arsenal.
With practice and experience your instincts will get better at reading shots and making the decision that requires less movement, whether its an over the top rotation or an underneath one.
Body Behind the Ball on Off-Stick Hip Saves
Getting our body behind the ball is a crucial element of making off-stick hip saves.
Even if goalies are struggling or delayed in getting their top hand to the ball, if you’re getting your body behind the ball we still make the saves on this difficult shot.
Getting our body behind the ball is our backup plan to help us make the save in the event our stick doesn’t arrive in time.
But guess what? Getting our body behind the ball is also a crucial element of making any kind of save, not just on off-stick hip shots.
I often receive emails from goalies asking for advice on a particular type of shot, whether it be off-stick hip, bounce shots, high shots, etc.
Sure there are a few specific things I can point out on each type of shot. However, the strongest advice I give like ensure you’re getting your body behind the ball is not specific to that type of shot, its for every shot.
We want to stay square to the shooter at all points in the save process. This makes us as “big” as possible in goal, taking up maximum surface area with our bodies. And it also helps protect the keeper by not exposing the side of the body which has no padding.
Staying square to the shooter is solid advice for every type of shot, not just off-stick hip, but I tend to see this problem surface more frequently during this type of save.
Stay square to the shooter throughout the entire off-stick hip save.
Bottom Hand Relaxed
Some lacrosse goalies like to setup in their stance with their bottom arm fully extended and the elbow locked.
Like this –
If your bottom arm is fully extended it’s going to delay your ability to get to those off-stick hip shots.
Try loosening up that bottom arm in your stance and see what it does for you.
Here’s a great video from the Goaliesmith guys explaining this exact point:
Lacrosse Goalie Drills to Improve Off-Stick Hip Saves
Here are the drills I’ll put my goalie students through when we’re specifically working on improving their ability to stop the off-stick hip shot.
Any quickness or agility drill that helps a goalie’s reaction time in the cage in the cage will improve his overall save ability, including on off-stick hip shots. So those drills are great too, however here are a few that focus on the skills needed for this specific shot.
Off-Hands Stick Drill – In this drill we work on stick rotation to reach the off-stick hip location. All other movement is taken out and we can focus on a quick stick rotation with our top hand going straight to the ball.
Goalie Lead Hand Drill – In this drill the goalie focuses on moving his top hand directly to the ball. When the ball is thrown to the off-stick hip spot we can focus on not only moving the hand in a straight line but also rotating our wrist which is required in the rotation of the stick.
Mystery Shot Drill – This drill, when balls are shot to the off-stick hip area, not only teaches the correct movement but also quick reactions. This will help the goalie to instinctively select between going over the top or underneath in their stick rotations.
Video – Finally, if a goalie is struggling with a specific area of their game I’ll always take video of the warmup or of a specific drill to review with that keeper. Perhaps they are moving their top hand in an arc but cannot feel it during practice. Sometimes seeing the mistake on video is the key to getting this corrected.
The above drills combined with your normal set should increase the goalie’s ability to make that off-stick hip save with more regularity.
Videos on Off-Stick Hips
Let’s see what’s out there on the internet for goalies regarding off-stick hip saves. These videos help if you are move of a visual person.
Here is MLL goalie Drew Adams talking giving some tips on how to stop off-stick hip shots –
Here is one of my favorite goalies – Scott Rodgers of the Ohio Machine explaining his technique of off-stick saves. He favors the arc approach which I do not. But that goes to show there’s more than one way to make this type of save.
Finally one more video discussing lacrosse goalie mechanics for the off-stick hip save –
Off-stick hip saves are one of the most difficult for lacrosse goalies.
In addition to getting your body behind the ball the goalie must decide whether the stick rotation goes over the top or comes underneath. But thinking about this results in goals. We train our bodies to react.
By following the tips in this article and practicing and drilling the off-stick hip shots the goalie can see a noticeable difference in his/her ability to stop this shot.
Top hand straight to the ball
Body behind the ball
Over the top or underneath stick rotation determined by reaction, not predetermined
Don’t turn your hips
Bottom arm relaxed
Practice, practice, practice
Good luck with those off-stick hip shots!
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any other questions about off-stick hip shots? Let me know in the comments.
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.