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One of the most under-appreciated phases of the goalie game is getting a good warmup.
Too often, we see coaches send an attackman to crank shots on a young goalie hoping to prepare him/her for the game. This is not an effective lacrosse goalie warmup.
For coaches, if your goalie’s save percentage is noticeably lesser in the 1st quarter, there’s a good chance they’re not getting the right pre-game warmup.
An excellent warmup for a lacrosse goalie gets your body and your mind ready for a game.
Here’s the complete warmup before a game. We’ll also do this warmup periodically at the start of practice depending upon the situation that day.
Reason for Warming Up
From the player’s perspective, the warmup aims to prepare their bodies and minds for the task at hand.
We have to point out that lacrosse goalies often receive ineffective and counterproductive warmup sessions.
Sure, it’s easy for a busy coach to overlook the significance of this time. But goalies need three basic things to prepare themselves to perform at a high level effectively:
- A dynamic warmup to get our blood running, elevate your core temperature, and ready your muscles for activity.
- A hand-eye coordination warmup to prepare the mechanisms in your nervous system that are accountable for creating visual stimuli and coordinating our limbs’ physical motion.
- A shooting warmup to reinforce your position-specific technique and movement.
You must be questioning how in the world you can fit all that into your existing practice plans.
It’s easy if you take a moment to rethink how you manage your practice planning. The same thing goes for how you empower the player to take responsibility for their preparation.
To keep goalie warmups from taking away too much attention from the team’s practice time, it is recommended that you implement a “Goalie Time”.
This standard requires all goalies to report to the field before the rest of the team, about 15-30 minutes should do.
One item that you’ll want to clarify “Goalie Time” is that the players are to be prepared and ready at the stated time. It does you, and them, no good to arrive 15 minutes before training to take 10 minutes putting their gear on and tying their shoes.
This is a point you would want to be sure to cover with parents as well as players. Now that you’ve got all this extra time let’s break down each element of a good warmup.
The Dynamic Warmup
If you’re unfamiliar with a dynamic warmup concept, it is essentially a period of light form-running and agility exercises.
It’s a relatively recent evolution in the science of sports health. Nonetheless, its use is proven to minimize the occurrence of sports-related injuries.
- Start with 15-yard form running (about 4-6 reps) to help get blood flowing and elevate our core temperature. This can include half-speed jog, high steps, butt-kicks, lunge walks, toe pulls, skip and twist, Frankensteins, etc.
- Next, do ten deep squats to engage the large muscles in our lower body. With feet shoulder-width apart, the player will bend his knees to drop his hips as low as possible. Pretend you’re sitting down on a tiny chair. It’s essential to keep your back straight and not braced with your hands on your knees or waist. Balance is vital. A slow pace is better.
- Next, do two-legged hopping routines to engage the smaller muscles in your lower body. Meanwhile, the quick-twitch employs the balance mechanisms in your nervous system. You can effectively accomplish the same thing with a jump-rope, the lacrosse goalies’ best friend.
- Finish up with 10-second agility drills using either a coated line on the field (beginners) or their stick (advanced). There are several variations in these exercises. You would want to make sure to cover the basics: lateral, forward/back, and opposing variations (like scissor-jumps or 2-steps).
All in, you’re only seeing at about 6-10 minutes for this dynamic warmup. It should be noted that this is the most vital part of the warmup and should not be skipped. This is especially true after a long bus ride or time off between games during a tournament.
Hand-Eye Coordination Warmup
After the dynamic warmup, you would want to do a hand-eye coordination warmup. This is to employ the mechanisms in your bodies that process visual stimuli and are responsible for kinesthesia.
This should only take 3-5 minutes and incorporate a partnered soft toss, butt-end saves hot potato, fill-the-bucket, or even juggling.
As a coach, you would only want them to do one or two variations per warmup period, but you should encourage them to choose a different one every day.
Take most variations of these drills from other sports in which similar skills are used.
The final component of your warmup is the shooting portion. Even though coaches are doing this for a while and are well aware of, look at ways to make it more effective.
You will want to keep in mind that you will combine many different shot types during this portion of your warmup.
You would want to include various ranges of your shots, different shot locations, and release points. You will also have to consider shots of a movement to replicate a game-like scenario.
For coaches, if you are lucky enough to have more than one goalie on your roster, you’ll also need to make sure you get the “back-ups” regular reps.
Remember, as a coach, you’re only one accident away from having your entire season resting on the shoulders of your back-up. So, make sure you’re giving them attention as well.
You’d also want to rotate your goalies through every four shots before practices. During pre-game warmups, have the starting goalie take six shots per rotation while each of the back-ups will take two shots per rep.
This rotation schedule achieves two things. First, it emulates the ebb and flow of a game situation. Second, it gives each goalie a chance to rest between reps.
It is up to you whether you decide to have them rotate through in drills throughout the practice. However, you’ll want to make sure every goalie on your roster is getting regular exercise, even if it is to a lesser extent than your starter.
At this point, your focus is on the efficient movement toward the ball and sound save-technique.
To start the shooting, begin from the inside (about 5 yards out) where you’ll be tossing the ball towards the goal with no real intention of scoring.
Make them start moving and building confidence in their ability. Then move out to about 10 yards, where you’ll be shooting with about 75% of full power.
Finish it up with deep shots at about 90-100% of full power, so they can see what game-speed shots will look like.
Each phase is being done from the middle part of the field and will go through each distance twice before moving on to other shooting areas.
Ball-handling, throwing, and receiving skills are crucial to successful lacrosse training. Yet, the hands and arms’ muscles are often disregarded during drills that focus on other aspects of the game.
Hence, it’s a good idea to make stickwork a regular part of any training warmup session.
Before driving into a practice that focuses on agility and more extensive plays on the field, start a regular session with a dynamic warmup, followed by a preliminary round of lacrosse goalie drills.
This drill is not just for goalies. By having a partner and achieving each round of this short series, all players on the field should warm up their hands, arms, and shoulders.
Doing so helps them wake up the essential hand-eye coordination that can mean the difference between catching and dropping the ball or winning and losing a game.
The lacrosse field’s most profound moments often take place within reach of the net and around the GLE (the goal line extended). To complete this drill, players will be working within this zone and focusing on stick handling and technique.
Short Range Passing Sequence
This drill begins with a close passing series that will take place within a short distance from the net.
For this phase, partners will pair up with one player blocking the net, and the other positioned about three to five yards away.
Both players will start passing the ball back and forth at one corner of the net. And then they will slowly move across to the other corner while keeping the ball in motion.
Both players will work to hold their sticks high and under control. The hands should stay soft, which means with each catch, the stick should remain relaxed. Both hands should also stay almost close together, not extended far from each other along with the stick.
Close hand position will help players stay in control of the catch and quickly pass the ball.
Second Shot Sequence
For the second phase of the drill, the first player will stay near the cage while the second player moves ten to fifteen yards out toward the field center.
The players will give the ball back and forth with overhand shots, beginning at the GLE about ten to fifteen yards out from the cage. Players will start at about eight to ten overhand shots per hand position.
Again, the player close to the goal will begin in one corner and move slowly around the smaller arc, while the other player defends the larger arc beyond the GLE.
During the last passing and shooting sequence in this blocking drill, players will stay at the same distance and perform the same number of passes around the arc at the same speed.
The athlete in the field will give the shot toward the goalie from the low three-quarter position as before. But this time, the shot’s delivery will stay low, and the shooter will point for the goalie’s feet.
This will test the goalie to go low to block the shot. This may also require the goalkeeper to move forward aggressively and rotate quickly from high to low stick position.
As before, the entire arc should accommodate eight to ten shots in one direction and eight to ten more moving back in the other direction.
Players and coaches should keep this blocking warm up nice and simple. They will perform the reps at a reasonable pace while concentrating on form and body position.
Goalies should work close to the corners of the net and concentrate on hand position during high and low shots.
Simple Warmup Plan
Before we jump into the cage, we need to get our bodies going.
We want to get warm but not tired, and we also want to trigger the muscle memory that we’ve worked so hard in practice to develop.
Before taking any shots, make your goalies do some light cardio and stretching.
Light Cardio and Stretching
- 2-3 minutes jump rope or 2-3 minutes Magic Square drill followed by a handful of sprints
- 5 minutes stretching
Now your body is a little loose, and you start with your muscle memory drills with no stick.
No Stick Muscle Memory Drills
How many times do you see lacrosse goalies jump right into the goal for a warmup? A good warmup starts outside the cage and begins to prepare your body to make saves.
Here’s what you should do for your goalies:
- Goalie Shuffle Drill
- Walk the Arc Drill – Have the goalies walk the arc back and forth, taking a ready position each time. Check their positioning to ensure it’s okay.
- Lead Hand Drill
Look at all the work you’ve put before stepping into the goal. These warmup drills are not physically tiring, so we’re still leaving plenty in the tank for the game.
- From 10-12 yards out, shooting at about 70-80% speed, take 5-10 shots in each of the areas, particularly in this order:
- high (above chest)
- hip (chest to knees)
- low (knees to the ground)
- bounce (high bounce and low bounce)
- shots anywhere
- This method is better than shooting stick-side high, off-stick high, etc. because you get the goalie reacting to the ball. These shots should be at a reasonably fast tempo.
- Now repeat step 1, except this time you’ll be moving on an arc, so the goalie gets to see shots from different angles.
- Progressively increase the speed here until we reach 100%
- Next, do alley dodges simulating a sweeping middie and take shots.
- 5-10 shots from each side.
- Introduce a feeder who passes the ball before the shot. Ensure the goalie is getting into a decent position, giving a loud “CHECK” call, and stepping to make the save.
- 5-10 shots passing left to right
- 5-10 shots passing right to left
- 5-10 shots passing X towing
- Finally, do some drives from X’s to work on 1×1 saves.
This lacrosse goalie warmup should only last for about 15 minutes if it’s taking longer, up the tempo of your shots.
If a goalie struggles with a particular shot, then do a few more reps until he/she gets comfortable making that saves.
During the entire warmup, the goalie needs to shout “SHOT” during each shot. This will get him in the habit of being loud and communicating with the defense.
If the goalie is gassed after this warmup, it indicates that they’re not in good shape. You should then incorporate fitness drills into their training and ensure they’re following a lacrosse goalie workout program.
After this warmup, they should have a sweat going out but not tired. Have the goalie grab some water and rest a little before the game starts.
Providing Encouragement During the Warmup
Part of the perfect lacrosse goalie warmup not only gets their bodies ready but also their mind.
We want the goalie’s confidence to be built during the warmup and be exceptionally high during the game.
During the warmup, encourage the goalie to get his confidence going and reinforce a proper safe position. Here things you should say during the warmup:
- Great save, Matt!
- Nice step, Matt!
- Good Matt! Way to move your feet!
- Nice save, Matt! Good quick hands.
- Looking good today, Matt!
Use his name, and the proper tone of your voice should be extremely excited. This will help build his/her confidence.
Even the most outstanding goalie in the world still gets scored on. So if some shots go in during the warmup, it’s okay. Reinsure the goalie saying things like “No problem, that was a tough shot” and providing some feedback.
What to Do During a Bad Warmup
It occurs to all goalies at some point in their lacrosse career.
The coach is not shooting unusually hard during the warmup, but you can’t seem to stop anything. Shots are going in left and right, and the game hasn’t even started yet.
Here’s what goalies should do if they find themselves off during a warmup:
- Take a walk – Leave the crease and take a walk. Let the coach understand you need a minute and take a breather, mentally clearing your head.
- Deep breaths – Take a few deep, focused breaths to calm down and mentally clear your head.
- Stretch – Often, you’re a little slow to react because we’re tight. Spend a bit more time stretching and relaxing the body.
- Start Over – Time permitting, sometimes it’s great to start the warmup over. Right from the very start with some light cardio and no stick drills, going through all the steps needed to get your body ready. Wipe the slate clean and start over with your mind and your body.
It’s okay to have a lousy warmup. This happens to every lax goalie.
The key is to be ready for it.
Know what you do when you’re in the middle of a lousy warmup. That’s because when the game begins, that All-American attackman could care less whether or not you had a lousy warmup.
A proper warmup is crucial to getting a goalie ready for a game.
You can’t go from seeing shots at a 50% rate of speed to suddenly seeing full speed shots and expect great results. Therefore we must use the time before the game to get our goalie’s body and mind adjusted to dominate a complete game.
Using the techniques and drills described above, a goalie should be prepared to make saves when the first whistle blows.