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The position of a lacrosse goalie is one of repetition. And for any sport that requires a lot of repetition, it is effortless to cultivate bad habits.
Baseball pitchers who make the same motion also suffer from bad habits.
In working with youth goalies, the same bad habits come to the surface time and time again. Even more, experienced goalies can also produce some bad habits over time if they’re not careful with their play.
The most critical part is many lacrosse goalies don’t even realize they have these bad habits. That’s where the ability of a good lacrosse coach comes into action. They can correct spot and fix these bad habits.
But even being aware of lousy lacrosse goalie habits can be half the fight in getting them corrected.
Flinching or being scared of the ball is the single worst and most common bad habit a goalie can have. However, this action is not frequently voluntary.
On this topic, we are going to study about the bad lacrosse goalie habits and how you can fix it:
Common Bad Habits That Lacrosse Goalies Make
Not Being Ready for a Shot
Aside from saving shots, the lax goalie has many other responsibilities.
They’re the head of the defense, and they need to call out the right lacrosse defensive terms to ensure their team identifies what’s going on.
However, in some cases, these other duties get in the way of the goalie’s primary responsibility: stop the shot!
Goalies must stand ready for all shots or as soon as the ball enters their defensive side.
If you have the perfect ready stance, it shouldn’t be hard to stay in it for a full 5-minute possession from the other team.
If it is tiring, then that’s a clear sign that you need to hit the gym to build strength in your shoulder, glute, and leg muscles.
There’s no explanation for this one, yet we see it happen all the time, even at the pro levels. Goalies should always be ready for every shot!
Analyze your goalie (or yourself) during training or matches when the shots are being released. Are you in a perfect ready position for 100% of the shots you face?
If you’re still not ready to take the shot, break that habit immediately. Always be prepared, even in training drills.
Looking at Crease Marks to Check Your Position
This one is related to the first bad habit. Some goalies will make a mark in the dirt or tape on the turf within the crease to quickly determine their positions on the arc.
But guess what? You still have to look down to use it.
And as we just learned that looking away from the ball is a bad habit that needs to be corrected.
If the goalie is striving to find the right spot on their arc, you can do either of these two things:
1. Landmark Technique
Teach the goalie to select a large landscape feature around the field like a tree or a building. Then, choose one for the left-center (45 degrees) and right-center (45 degrees). For the top center, you can use the other goal.
As the game kicks off, these landmarks can be seen in the background without focus. This way, the goalies won’t take their eyes and drop their focus off the ball but still keep a good position in between the pipes.
2. Switch to a Flat Arc
One of the advantages of playing a flat arc is that it’s easier to get set up in the correct position.
If a goalie struggles with keeping a good position while moving through different arc points, try a flatter arc.
Most goals are made by removing the goalie out of a good position. So establishing the right place on the arc is just half the battle when trying to make saves.
Looking at the Pipe to Check Your Position
When warming up a keeper, you should analyze their tendencies and see what needs to be fixed without giving any instruction.
Upon making a save, several goalies will throw the ball back to the coach and then turn their head to look at the pipe to get set up in their ready stance. This implies that looking away from the ball is bad!
As a goalie, you never want to take your eyes away from the ball. You should be focusing on the ball at all times.
Getting the goalie to break this habit of looking away from the ball to check his position will significantly develop their concentration on the ball.
Enough is going on the lacrosse field. The goalie shouldn’t be distracting himself by taking his eyes off of the ball.
No Trail Step
The lead foot takes a step to whatever side the ball goes after it was shot. Many goalies have no difficulty with this step, but they tend to forget to follow up with a trail step.
As a lacrosse goalie, you would want to get our whole body behind the ball during a save.
The trailing step, which is taken by the opposite foot that took the lead step, will help ensure your body is behind the ball during a save.
If you’re not using a trail step, you’re also not exploding off of your back foot to strike the ball.
The trailing step enables you to finish the save in a nice and balanced stance. It prepares you to make an immediate outlet pass or another save if there was a rebound.
If a goalie does not finish his saves with a trail step, you can do the drill called “The Glyde.”
This drill helps goalies to focus on creating the save process with a trail step.
Dropping to Your Knees on Low Shots
Several respected lacrosse goalie coaches teach this technique where the keeper drops to their knees on low shots.
But this is considered a bad habit. Never coach your goalies to drop to their knees on low shots.
It is guaranteed to make more saves over time on your feet.
In the case of a rebound, you should always be ready to make a second save if you stay on your feet. Furthermore, going to your knees frequently creates more rebounds. That’s because the goalie cannot get his body over the ball to regulate the bounces.
Going down to your knees on the save restricts your capability to make outlet passes. In some cases, one of your middies will have slipped behind the offense. And by keeping on our feet during a save, can we make that quick outlet pass to start the fast break.
That outlet pass may only be there for a split second, and in the time the keeper goes from its knees back to its feet, the opportunity may be gone.
Remember that you only have four valuable seconds to make an outlet pass or leave the crease once you gain possession. Getting back up from your knees to your feet consumes up to one of those precious seconds.
Finally, it appears that this becomes a default behavior for goalies who were taught to drop their knees. They’re dropping to their knees rather than reacting to the shot. This is terrible, as a quick attackman will start shooting high and score goal after goal on you.
Therefore, you should correct a goalie’s habit of dropping to his knees on low shots.
Turning Body on Saves
A lacrosse goalie’s body should always maintain square to the shooter.
Pre-shot, during the save process, and post-shot, your body should stay square to the shooter.
Many goalies have a terrible habit of rotating or twisting their bodies while making a save. This is especially common for the off-stick saves where you have to turn the stick to meet the ball.
The problem with rotating your body is that:
1. We lessen the surface area of the body
Our chests have much more surface area than the side of the body. By holding our body square to the shooter, we also stay “big” in the goal. Which is to say we take up the most where the surface area possible.
2. Risk injury
Goalies wear pads to protect their chests, not the sides of the body. Therefore, a goalie who has a bad habit of turning their body on saves leads themselves to accidental injury risk.
Keep your body square to the shooter, and a shot that happens to get by your stick will hit you in the chest pad, not in the exposed areas.
While warming up the goalie or during drills, always point out that the goalie turns his body and attempts to fix it immediately. You can also point out these moments while reviewing your previous video with your goalie.
Not Communicating Loud Enough
A common bad habit, particularly among those newer goalies, is not talking loud enough on defense or not talking at all.
The goalie is a defense leader, and a leader who doesn’t communicate can destroy the team.
1. Make sure you know what to say
Many times, that lack of communication begins from the goalie’s lack of knowledge of the defense. Please review all the defensive terms and start applying them.
2. Use names
In the chaos like a lacrosse game, your teammates will hear you better if you use their name. People react better to their names.
3. Be loud in practice
If you’re an ordinarily shy or quiet person, you’re going to have to break that habit. You need to get outside of your comfort zone. Try putting your self in a circle with the entire team surrounding me and yell stupid things at the top of your lungs.
Whatever it takes to break out of your comfort zone and break the habit of not communicating to your defense.
The goalie has to be the loudest player on the field.
What’s the point of knowing all the proper defensive terms to use if your team can’t hear you?
A goalie’s command needs to be loud, clear, and with the proper tone.
If your goalie is not communicating loud enough, be sure to highlight this throughout the practice.
When you’re staying on the sideline, can you hear the goalie’s commands loud and clear? If not, he needs to develop their voice volume.
You can also have them do some voice strengthening drills to improve a stronger voice that can be heard by the entire team.
Lazy Outlet Passes
Making a save in the sport of lacrosse is difficult. That’s the reason why even the top goalies only have a save percentage between 50% and 60%.
So when a goalie does make a save and then gives a lazy outlet pass for a turnover, it will surely drive a coach nut.
There’s no reason for lazy outlet passes.
Throwing lazy outlet passes is often mental. The goalie tends to relax after making the save. He also forgets to put his full effort into a very critical aspect of goalie’s games: leading into the clear.
Considering that the goalie knows how to throw a proper outlet pass, coach them to stay mentally alert after the save and put 100% effort into every pass.
Not Remaining Still
When you’re set up in our lacrosse stance, you want to be still as possible. Many goalies have a bad habit of what is called “happy feet.”
Happy feet are when a goalie keeps on moving his feet or even his body or hands while waiting for the shot to come. This is not about moving from one spot to another while on your goalie arc. That movement is required.
But once you’re in the best spot on your arc, you should stay still. If you keep moving, it could cost you a 1/2 step or a fraction of a second to then move in the right path of the ball.
Particularly at the upper levels, a fraction of a second is the difference between a goal and a save.
The explanation for this is that when your body is still, you’re ready to explode in any direction to save a shot. Please don’t confuse being still with not being in an athletic stance.
As we studied the perfect lacrosse goalie stance, we’re always in an athletic position. This bad habit indicates excess and unnecessary movement.
This bad habit is somewhat natural, and a goalie might not even realize they’re doing it. Videotaping a goalie while on practice and showing him/her the bad habit can help them distinguish when they might be going into a ‘happy feet’ mode.
Repeating the keyword “Still” can help the goalie concentrate on remaining still while set up in their ready stance.
Kicking the Ball During the Save
The method of lacrosse saves is that we get our body behind the ball. This isn’t like an ice hockey goalie where we try to make kick saves.
Therefore if a lacrosse goalie keeps on kicking their leg out during saves to either side of their body, this is a bad habit that must be corrected.
Why? Because when we’re kicking our leg out, we’re not stepping to get in front of the shot. We’re not turning off our back leg to get our body and stick in the right spot to make a save.
If you see yourself or your goalie kicking rather than driving off their back foot and stepping to the ball, be sure to break this bad habit.
Breaking Bad Lacrosse Goalie Habits
Breaking the bad habits of every lacrosse goalie is really what you’re looking to do. We get in the cage, and we are quickly full of bad habits, and that’s the reason why we can’t even stop the ball.
Change Your Balance
If you’re just basically getting your foot and upper body staying up, and the hands are staying up, then you’ve got a terrible habit that you’ve got to break.
So if you want to look up what a record is, ask your parents. A lot of you young guys may not know what a record is. Before CDs, a record was a piece of vinyl that had a groove in it. Inside that groove was the song.
Let’s relate the song with how you move to the ball. There’s a needle in that groove playing that song, and if you’re not moving correctly, it’s playing the incorrect music. The only way to fix that habit, that song you’re playing, is if we wipe the slate clean and if we wipe that record clean and start making a new groove.
This is called “the wiring of the goalie”. For now, your wiring is off, right? That ball is going stick-side low, and if you’re only placing your leg there, you’re not playing the rest of the song.
And the way we do this is by getting you out of the cage. You don’t need any equipment, or a shooter, not even your stick.
Get out of the cage and work on moving the ball properly in a no-stress situation. No shooter, no nothing.
Don’t worry about getting hurt, don’t worry about not having your equipment on you.
Just slow down your actions and start rewiring yourself for better movement to the ball. That’s because you can’t do something in a stressful situation that you haven’t mastered in a slow situation.
So break it down, get out of the cage, and start doing it over and over and over again.
Once you’ve mastered it, that’s the time to get out there with a shooter who you trust. Slow the ball’s pace down or have them move back and work on moving to the ball.
Use a Baseball Pitching Machine
A pitching machine works well in this circumstance because you can dial in where that ball is going. By knowing where it’s going, you can focus safely on how to move to the ball.
Then, when you get into a game condition and shut off your brain, your eyes will see that ball. All of a sudden, your body is going to take you over and move with that new habit that you’ve created.
Make an Easy Save
There are keys to making every save right. View it, know where it’s going, and then move to it.
Running to the ball part is the one that usually gives us the most trouble. So if you can get physically stronger and more explosive, you can move to the ball better. It’s going to take less time, and you’ll be able to make more saves.
Also, the improvement you make with your strength will help you when you are going to run out of the crease or go to pass the ball on a clear. And it’s going to improve your accuracy too.
If you want to have the stick in your hand and want to do stuff, by all means, go by a wall. Work on your wall ball drills, work on your strength, and your stick abilities.
You’re going to benefit from it in the cage as well. There hasn’t been a lousy goalie with excellent stick skills, and even kids with good stick skills hop in the cage and do well.
Develop Stick Skills
You would think of middies and attackmen who hop in the cage at the end of the season and do well because they have good stick skills.
So don’t even worry about using your goalie stick. Get a short men’s stick with a pocket in it so you can work on your wrists and work on your strength.
To be an All-American lacrosse goalie, you must distinguish and erase all bad habits.
By first understanding these common bad habits for lax goalies, we can ensure that we’re not doing these behaviors on the field.
As a goalie, you would want to look for these bad habits and fix them as soon as possible.
With practice, recognition, and repetition, there’s no reason for any lacrosse goalie to continue with these bad habits just because they’re 100% voluntary.