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One of the critical elements of being a great lacrosse goalie is your positioning.
That is – where you are in the goal when the shooter is about ready to tear one at you.
Along with your stance and your save movement, your positioning is one of the three critical technical elements of a good lacrosse goalie play.
You could have a great stance and lightning-fast moves to the shot. But if you’re not centered in the goal from the shooter’s perspective, the likelihood of making a save is decreased.
To learn excellent positioning, lacrosse goalies must learn the lacrosse goalie arc.
Like many elements of lacrosse goalie play, there are different ways of arcs that goalies prefer.
In this post, I’ll discuss those different goalie arcs along with the pros and cons of each.
What is a Lacrosse Goalie Arc?
The lacrosse goalie arc is a semi-circle about 1-3 feet in front of the goal line. It has different points that designate where the goalie should be set up, depending upon where the shooter is positioned.
Being in the right spot on the arc and moving fast are such elements in making a save.
Simply put, we’re putting ourselves in a great position to make a save.
There are two primary arcs that I teach:
- The typical arc, also called a 5-point arc
- The flat arc, also called the 3-point arc
There isn’t a right and wrong arc, but each comes with its set of advantages and disadvantages.
Why even use an arc to start with some beginners typically wonder? The reason is when the shot is coming at us, we want to be set.
Taking baby steps to move around the arc isn’t efficient and often leads to the goalie being on the move when a shot comes.
Instead, we determine our arc and only move to those points on the arc.
The Different Types of LAX Goalie Arc
Traditional Arc – 5 Point Arc
The standard arc is a semi-circle about 2-3 feet in front of the goal line.
The 5-points on this arc are:
- Top Center
- Right 45
- Left 45
- Right Pipe
- Left Pipe
As the ball passes through different field quadrants, the goalie will move from one spot to another on the arc. Always staying square to the shooter.
The traditional arc is usually what goalies start with. Most youth goalies have a shorter frame, and thus, being out closer to the shooter enables them to cut down the angle on shots headed for the corner.
Meaning do you don’t have to move as much to make a save.
It is recommended for goalies to start the position with the 5 point arc. But as for the professional MLL and PLL goalies, you’ll also find that about roughly half of the goalies still use this arc in their play.
A typical bad habit with this arc is to move quickly. Meaning, as a ball carrier starting top center, sweeps down the alley, we tend to move on the arc too soon and expose too much of the far side of the goal.
To solve this issue, remember to “trail the shooter by a step.” Meaning, wait for just an extra step when they pass into the next quadrant of the field, and then move on the arc. You’ll be in a better position this way.
The other advantage of the normal arc is that we occupy more goals. That is, we appear bigger to the shooter.
The 5-point arc is not without its disadvantages.
Because you are closer to the shooter, that gives you less time to react.
The points on the arc are further apart, which means movement and more chance of getting “lost on the arc.” That means you think you’re splitting the cage from the shooter’s viewpoint, but you’re accidentally exposing one part of the goal.
The Flat Arc – 3 Point Arc
In some instances, your heels are even touching the goal line. But for most goalies using a flat arc, your feet will be about a foot above the goal line.
The flat arc is becoming more and more popular today as opposing teams develop faster shots and nastier fakes.
Because you are further away from the shooter, the flat arc enables goalies more time to react to the ball.
For many female goalies, the flat arc makes sense because the shots get by the goalie before they can react. It’s not that they’re particularly fast (although some ladies can rip it), but they’re always taken so close to the goalie.
The flat arc is excellent for bigger goalies (taller than 5’10”) because you can still reach all corners of the goal to your large extent.
Shorter goalies playing a flat arc might never reach a shot directed for the top corner.
There is less movement in a flat arc, so it is more difficult to get out of position. As a ball carrier sweeps from top center down the alley moving on the flat arc is very simple.
So goalies using a flat arc will typically find themselves in the proper spot to increase the odds of making a save.
But there are also disadvantages to the flat arc.
Being deeper in the goal gives the shooter a more open net to look at. You’ll look much smaller in the cage because you are.
You don’t cut down the angle on shots, so the movement needed is more massive.
The Hybrid Arc
Who says you need to select a single style and stick with that arc for every single situation? Many goalies adapt to the “hybrid arc.”
Regardless of what style of arc you choose as your go-to, there are specific game situations where you must adapt. This makes the hybrid arc effective.
When the ball is inside, close to the crease, it’s not good to be high on the arc. The attackman will quickly take a step to either side, and you’re out of position. In this situation, it is recommended for goalies to sink back and adapt a flat arc.
There are other instances where an attacker catches the ball on the crease and based on the situation, they have no choice but to shoot immediately. In that case, it makes sense to step out and meet that shot vs. hanging back and allowing them the full goal to shoot for.
But if a player is winding up for an outside shot and you’re 100% sure he’s going to shoot, taking a step out to move higher on the arc makes a lot of sense.
There are several 8-meter restart situations in the female game where you know the girl must shoot. In that situation, it makes sense to come out on the arc and cut down the angle.
You can also vary your arc play depending on how you’re feeling for that day or that practice.
PLL Archer’s goalie Drew Adams talked about how he varies his arc depending on how he feels in a particular game.
If he sees the ball well, he’ll play the flat arc and rely on reflexes to get the shots. But if he’s not picking up the ball that well on, he’ll play further out to limit the goal a shooter sees and perhaps make a few more body saves than usual.
Learning a new arc will feel uncomfortable at first, and you’ll make plenty of positioning mistakes until you have it mastered.
Therefore you must work on your arc play in practice for a few weeks until you start using it in an actual game.
During practice, put tape down on the turf (or grass) to determine the spots on your arc. Eventually, you’ll want to walk the arc without looking down. However, when you’re learning, it’s ok to look down and check your positioning. With time, the correct positioning will start to feel natural.
The High Arc
A high arc works on time and room shots. But when the ball is in close, and a player is one on one with the goalie, a goalie needs to back up.
But when a player moves across the front of the crease, the angles change quickly. So much so that a lacrosse goalie is put out of position.
You might think you have that pipe covered, but in two steps, that offensive player has opened up two feet of the cage to shoot at, and you’re not making that save.
Also, on shots coming around the back of the cage. If you step out, you will quickly be shot over or around. So stay shallow in those cases and, most likely, the shooter will shoot right into you.
Developing Your Stance Inside The Arc
Determine Where You are in the Cage
Very inexperienced coaches will advise you to scuff the field so you can look down at a mark in the ground.
The pipes are six feet apart, and they are behind you. Get used to that.
When the ball is close to the goal line extended (GLE), you will be standing with the side of your foot on the pipe.
Do you know where the pipe is?
When you step away from the pipe because the ball has now moved up the field, you will need to know where you are between the pipes in relation to the shooter.
Here’s where you can use your butt end or the head of your stick to reach and feel where the pipe is.
With practice, you’ll be able to take a step or two off that pipe and not even need to feel for it.
Those corrections overtime will help you know where you are between the pipes at all times.
You will get so good at this with a practice that you will be able to back peddle from midfield and end up in the middle of the cage, just from experience.
Don’t Scuff the Field
The last thing you want to do as a lacrosse goalie is to take your eye off the ball. Ever.
So looking down for a scuff mark on the field is NOT something you want to do.
Create a Home-Based DIY Method to Teaching Steps
Go to Home Depot and get some painters tape. Mark out two spots on the floor where six feet is.
Now step between them. If you want to be keen, tape two hockey puts to the floor six feet apart.
Every night, have your goalie shuffle between the two spots in varying arcs.
Which Goalie Arc is Best for You?
If you’re a goalie just starting to learn the position, it is recommended to start with the traditional (5 points) arc. It’s easy to understand and allows smaller goalies to take up more cage and cut down the shots’ angle.
On the other hand, if you’re a larger goalie with a long reach, the flat arc makes a ton of sense. This gives you ample time to react to the shot. And since you have a larger body type, you’ll take up enough of the cage and also be able to reach shots to the corners.
For many female goalies, they found a lot more success switching to flat arcs to give them more time to see the shots.
As all goalies who want to gain more experience, it is highly likely that they at least experiment with a flat arc (or vice versa if you’ve always used the flat arc).
You may find that as you move back in the goal, you’re able to make more saves with more time to react to the shot.
No Other Sport has This Discussion
A goalie (in any sport) needs to know where they are between the pipes at all times. It’s a skill to learn just like every other skill, and there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.
You may need a six and a half step arc sometimes. You may need an 8 step arc. If there’s a quick pass across the crease, you may need a 1 step arc to get there.
It’s not about the steps. It’s about doing what it takes to get into the correct position to make the save.
Your focus should be on your physical ability.
Your physical ability is what helps you move in front of the cage and get into position. Why would you limit yourself with where to step?
You need to do everything possible to gain a little advantage, especially when a 90mph shot is coming at you. And set up in the right position on the arc so you can reach the shot perfectly.
There is no definitive rule that you must use one or the other whether you are using a standard (5 point arc) and a flat (3 point arc) arc.
Play what works best for you.
That said, if you’re a smaller goalie who practices making saves with quickness, a typical arc will reduce the amount of distance you need to cover. Your foot speed will more than makeup for it.
Even after deciding which arc is best for your gameplay, it’s essential to know and practice all arc types. That’s because there are situations on the field when one arc is hugely beneficial to another.
As a hockey goalie, you will come out to the top of your crease to “cut down the angle.” It’s a trade-off between reaction time and the volume of the net you’re covering. By taking up more of the cage you:
- Force the shooter to make a more difficult shot that they might miss. The ball either hits you or goes wide, and that is often as good as a save.
- Increase your “Base Save Percentage.” That’s the odds of you making the save if you didn’t move to the ball. The bigger you are in the cage, the more saves you’re going to make.
- Cut down the distance you need to move to get in front of the ball. By moving out, I increase my size in the cage, which reduces the distance I have to move to a ball that is headed to someplace difficult.
The last point is often overlooked because goalies don’t usually know how far they have to move to make a save. Sometimes it’s relatively small, but a goalie may feel they have to move a mile to make that save.