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From having a lot of knowledge on the rules to choosing the right stick to be mentally healthy, playing goalie in lacrosse is easy.
However, goalies and coaches can learn a lot about the most challenging position to play. This is possible by working together and continuously perfecting the craft.
Train as you play. You should encourage your players to train hard so they will play hard. They should shoot to score, but if your goalie is included in the drill, the shot should come as it would in matches as well.
Warm-up is not a period for shooters to tweak their sticks. Shooting practice is not a time to see how strong you can shoot with your toes on the edge of the crease: that is also what wall ball is for! Learning under hands and sidearms are not part of pre-practice loosening up, and that is what wall ball is for!
Younger goalies can easily be taught to fear the ball, essentially because of getting hurt by a shot they did not see.
Only through reasonable field control can you ensure your goalie does not generate a fear of the ball. Why? Because it is a hundred times more difficult to learn not to fear than to learn to fear!
Have your shooters challenged a defender between the shooter and the goalie, or would the shooter proceed as they would be in a game? Your goalies will progress, and your shooters will know how to deal with game situations as well.
On the Goalie Stick
A note on stick choice; this is a personal preference, and each stick type has advantages and disadvantages. Size, weight, durability, and cost are all factors in stick choice.
On the other end of the spectrum are composite heads with aluminum, graphite, or titanium shafts. These are generally more lightweight and easier to maintain and tune.
The term “tune” your stick is about how a player personalizes his stick set up. Goalies should spend as much time as players ensuring they can pass and catch. They have to ensure that they can make short, medium, and long passes as effectively as any other player on the floor.
This skill is critical if you want your goalie to become an offensive threat.
And one last point, always leave the shaft as long as possible! The butt end is right for one to save a game! The Golden Rules of Goaltending.
All lacrosse goalies should know these four Golden Rules:
- Stay on your feet. The game is played above your head.
- 90% of saves are positional, the other 9.99% is a goalie reaction, while .01% is the butt of the goalie’s stick.
- 1.5 steps from the crossbar are far enough out to cut down an angle, go further out, and shooters will go over your shoulders.
- NEVER try to catch a shot with your free hand
The MASS Approach
There are several kinds of shots a goalie will face in lacrosse.
Unlike any other sport, a lacrosse goalie has to deal with the multiple angles of approach. One is when the ball comes from over the player’s shoulder (top-down), from a sidearm (level), and underhand (bottom-up).
Incorporate a bounce and spin, and the number of different shots a goalie can face becomes staggering.
The MASS approach is how a lacrosse goalie gets bigger:
- Move your entire body so the ball hits your centerline (i.e., the vertical line drawn from your nose to your belly button to between your toes).
- Attack the ball with your body. Especially on bounce shots, a goalie moving forward on a bounce shot reduces the bounce and spin effectiveness.
- Shift between angles as the ball moves from one attacker to another
- Stay on your feet!
On Playing Fakes
As the player’s skills improve, their ability to fake also increases. Goalies tend to focus on the stick’s head, and some with excellent reactions can do this with success.
For the rest of us whose reaction time is not quite as good, we can focus slightly past the shooter. This puts the head of the player’s sticks in our peripheral vision.
If we trust that part of our site, we can react faster to the ball as it exits the stick’s head, and we are less likely to move on a fake.
Train yourself to watch for the ball, leaving the stick as opposed to the ball. Once it leaves the stick, then keep your eye on it!
Defending the Quick Stick
The quick stick is lacrosse’s equivalent to a “one-timer.” This comes down to a goalie’s agility and practice in moving from each base angle set position to any other set position.
You simply have to get there as fast as the ball. This where it is critical to stay on your feet! Shooters practice crease to crease passes all the time.
If a goalie drops to his knees on a crease, and the quick stick becomes a pass instead, that goalie concedes. If you stay on your feet, you have a chance to get back across.
Quick sticks (most commonly crease to crease) are not limited to the crease, by the way. They can come from anywhere. Crease to top, shooter to crease — literarily, if you can think it, it can be done!
A shooter can also take a pass while cutting through the house. If you get lazy or don’t train on the five-set positions, you haven’t got a chance to make these saves.
Initiating the Offense
When a goalie recovers a ball following a shot, the goalie should make the pass that the teams break out scheme demands. Some examples are short pass away from the bench, the medium passes, fast breaker from the floor away from the bench, or even quick breaker from the bench.
If the goalie cannot find an open player to pass to within the five-second rule, they should step out the back of the crease behind the net. The crease is now the goalie’s shield. The shield comes from the rule that an opposing player(s) cannot cross the crease to reach another player or shorten their route to the ball.
If a player pursues the goalie, the latter can move around the crease. This can keep the opponent at the opposite side of the crease, creating time and space for the goalie to find an open player.
The goalie has to keep an eye up the floor for an open man because eventually, a runner will catch up. This is also why a goalie needs to be able to cradle and pass while running.
Stopping Bounce Shots
There’s no easy way to say this, but bounce shots are tough to save.
The basis for the difficulty is that to make a save on the bounce shot. A goalie typically requires two movements. Moving downwards to counter to the low shot and then springing upwards as the ball bounces off the turf or grass.
All while simultaneously moving his body laterally and forward to get back and cut off the shot.
All in all, it’s a tough save.
Here is what should be taught to young goalies when it comes to improving their game on bounce shots:
Step Out to Cut Down the Angle
There is some discussion in the lacrosse goalie community about whether a lateral step or a 45-degree angle step is the best way of making saves these days.
But for bounce shots, there is no dispute. You need to step out at the shot, at least at a 45-degree angle.
Stepping out at the shooter is the most efficient way of saving bounce shots.
By stepping to the ball and getting your body behind the shot, your body will be there to tackle the shot even if you fail to save it.
You’ll see that many top goalies perform saves on bounce shots with their bodies. That’s because the grass reduces the shot’s speed, enabling the keeper to get his chest protector behind the bounce shot.
You would want to try to meet the ball as it hits the ground. Ideally, even before it touches the ground.
By striking the ball with an aggressive step, you will meet the shot as close to the ground as you can. It also suppresses the shot before it has a chance to beat us on a bad bounce.
Stay “Big” in the Goal
When a shot comes to you, you want to keep your shoulders to square to the shot.
This would make the goalie as “big” as possible in the cage. Taking up as much space as possible.
This is excellent advice for all types of shots, but it’s worth restating here as we discuss how to improve on bounce shots.
Many goalies think that they are required to do something different for bounce shots. But a fundamental goalie saves principals are what is needed to improve on bounce shots as well.
Don’t Worry About Catching a Bounce Shot
If you’re stepping out to trim down the angle and staying big in the goal at the same time, you’re putting your body in a great position to make a save.
With a bounce shot, you may get your stick on it, but it’s far more normal than you’ll block it with some part of your body.
You should still try to catch it with your stick as it is fundamental to save practice. However, also know the significance of getting your body behind the bounce shots.
If you make a body save, be sure to quickly clamp the rebound so that the attackman doesn’t get any garbage goals.
Read the Crease During Warm-ups
Ona a surface bounce, shots are incredibly easy to read as they always bounce through.
But on a grass field, especially a worn one, the bounce shots can hit soft dirt or divots. Meaning, it can take unexpected bounces.
Therefore, as you make it through your pre-game warm-up routine, when you get to bounce shots, take note of how the ball is bouncing. Even try to get a few more bounce shots than usual if you’re accustomed to practicing and playing on turf.
Perhaps, there is a pack of soft dirt or long grass in front of the crease that makes the ball stay low. It’s also possible that there’s hard, thick dirt that creates bounce shots high.
Taking note of how the field situations are will help you determine what a bounce is likely to do and then react accordingly.
Since you only warm up on one goal, try to make a few bounce shots on the other goal, so you’re ready for the 2nd quarter. This can be done before the game or even before the 2nd quarter starts.
Do Not Drop to Your Knees
While some coaches teach this technique, it is still recommended not to drop to your knees.
The only time you should ever drop to your knees is when you ask your girl’s forgiveness for a colossal mistake.
Staying on your feet will help you develop your bounce shot saving ability.
Why? Because once you drop to your knees, you won’t be able to come back up with your body quickly enough to make a save on a bounce shot.
Most keepers drop to their knees resulting in a bounce shot go right over them and into the goal.
So you better stay on your feet to save bounce shots.
Play a Higher Arc
There are pros and cons to each variety of lacrosse goalie arc.
One of the advantages of playing a higher arc is that you’ll be able to step out and cut off the angle of a bounce shot.
All goalies should be aware of and comfortable with various kinds of goalie arcs to shift when the situation warrants.
If you believe that the opposing team has scouted you as a goalie who is weak on bounce shots, consider changing to a higher arc.
The higher arc makes a goalie absorb more of the goal space from the shooter’s perspective. It also enables them to be more easily get your body behind a bounce shot.
Practice, Practice, Practice
If you know to yourself and the opposing team that bounce shots are your weakness, you have to work hard to improve your game element.
Some goalies stay away from bounce shots during training because they don’t like them. Perhaps, the reason they’re hard to save, or they’re more likely to hit your body in a pad free area and cause pain.
But you should not avoid bounce shots. All-American goalies manage every type of shot, including bounce shots.
So fill yourself up with some extra protection/equipment and get to work to improve on bounce shots. This is just one of the tips for practicing taking bounce shots on the type of playing surface you’re not accustomed to. So if your team trains and plays on turf, practice bounce shots on a grass field as well.
If you play on grass, you might as well practice taking bounce shots on turf.
The more bounce shots you take, the more you’ll go into unconscious competence. For instance, your body will react naturally and will be more efficient in dealing with bounce shots.
After a while, you’ll begin to feel more and more certain with bounce shots. And we all know a confident goalie is a great goalie.
Drills to Help Improve on Bounce Shots
There are lots of lacrosse goalie drills that will help you develop your ability to save bounce shots.
Here are the goalie drills you should focus on if the goalie is struggling with bounce shots. These drills will help a goalie’s overall game, and it will also help him or her improve on bounce shots.
- Mystery Shot
- Doc Drill
- Bounce Shots Drills
There’s no better way to develop your bounce shot save ability than to get reps of bounce shots.
Other speeds and agility drills for lacrosse goalies can help develop their agility needed to attack bounce shots. However, the exercises listed are what you would focus on for a goalie struggling with bouncers.
Goalies are often referred to as the last line of defense. This puts the goalie in a unique situation wherein he can be labeled the hero or the one who let the team down.
The Attacker knows that for a goalie, a bounce shot is a much tricky thing to save.
While perusing the lacrosse goalie forums, you’ll usually read stories of goalies who feel comfortable with every type of shot except the bounce shots.
Many defensive errors can occur as a play develops from the attacking team’s end to a defender’s goal. Most of these errors go unnoticed or without blame. However, everyone sees the goal that was let in by the goalie. A certain level of mental toughness is required for someone to stand between the posts and bear this pressure.
Goalies are unique. They dress differently, their role is different, and are imposed a higher level of responsibility. Being a goalie can be referred to as an individual sport within a team environment as the crowd quickly identifies him/her for both good and evil.
Mistakes will happen; wrong goals will be let in. Strong goalies are mature enough to maintain their composure in these situations and put it behind them. This is essential as the goalie plays the entire game and does not have the opportunity to take a break to reboot.
The sooner he puts a wrong goal in the past, the sooner he will regain his focus and concentration to get back in the game.
A goalie needs to be courageous, one for the extra weight that he bears on his shoulders. That’s because it takes a particular breed of person to stand in front of a hard rubber ball traveling through the air at 100 miles per hour.
If you’re not tracking your performance with the appropriate lacrosse goalie metrics, you need to start that as soon as possible. That way, you can determine if bounce shots are a weak part of your game.
By following these tips and working hard soon, the opposing teams will remove “weak on bounce shots” from your scouting report.