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Lacrosse coaches at all levels must make sure that the goalies are receiving the coaching and drilling they need to succeed.
It doesn’t need a former All-American goalie to coach a future All-American goalie. All it takes is a commitment to learning the fundamentals of the position. It will also help if the goalie drills build responsive muscle memory.
One of the biggest keys to success for a goalie is repetition. It will take thousands of shots for goalies to learn their proper movements and responses.
To help coaches, players, and goalies themselves get better, we have put together a list of excellent lacrosse goalie drills. This list comprises various simple ball drills to build hand quickness and eye-tracking. It also covers more complex routines that require multiple shooters.
These drills can be a part of an off-season workout program, or you can work them into practice when the goalies are sent off to goalie island.
This is a mental drill that also works the goalie’s hand-eye coordination.
The coach will stand elevated on a bucket or chair with a deck of playing cards. Standing on the bucket copies the same shot angle from which you’d see a standard overhand lacrosse shot.
The coach flicks cards one at a time at the goalie, who makes the save by driving the top hand and lead foot to catch the card. They will be throwing the cards quickly, one after another.
This drill will work hand-eye coordination and concentration as the goalie must catch the approaching card.
Again, you won’t be successful with every card. That’s ok. Focus on the next card.
For this drill, set up three cones in a line, standing 3 feet apart.
Start with your goalie stance slightly behind the center cone.
Shuffle to the left, bend down at the waist to touch the cone, then shuffle back to touch the far cone. Finally, shuffle around to the center and get into a ready position.
The goalie should also touch the cones with their top hand because that simulates making a save.
An optional step here is to throw a shot at the goalie, who needs to make the save by reacting quickly.
So the steps are shuffle to the left cone, shuffle to the right cone, shuffle back to center, make a save.
The Goalie Shuttle drill is going to tie together your footwork and lateral movement. It also allows you to be set and in a proper save position after being on the move.
For this drill, we need colored tennis balls in four different colors and four mini disc cones.
Setup the cones along the crease to mimic the spots on a five-step arc.
Place a contrasting colored tennis ball atop each cone.
The coach stands about 5 feet in front of the goal with the colored tennis balls in a bucket. He will pull out a ball quickly and throw it to a different spot in the goal.
The goalie must make the save, driving their top hand and lead foot to the ball. After making the save, the goalie tosses the ball at the cone, which resembles the tennis ball’s color.
There should be very little time between throws. We want this drill to be quick. As the tennis ball approaches, the goalie doesn’t know which color is coming. This means the goal must act accordingly, depending on the color of the ball.
It would also be better if you shout the name of the color as well as he/she makes the save.
If you make a mistake, don’t worry about it and move on. As a goalie, you’re going to let in goals. It happens.
Any sport that requires quick feet and quick reactions will benefit from jumping rope.
Jumping rope is usually synonymous with boxers. But lacrosse goalies should also work as much of this exercise into their regiment as possible.
As part of an excellent pre-game warmup, it is also highly recommended that lax goalies work in jumping rope in addition to their regular shot regiment.
Any standard jump rope will do, doesn’t have to be fancy.
Try doing it for at least 10-15 minutes of jumping rope per day.
Jumping rope is also a drill you can do before practice or even after practice to get in some extra work.
Juggling improves your hand-eye coordination, an essential element for all lacrosse goalies.
It’s not recommended doing this drill during practice but anytime outside of the field is perfect to learn how to juggle.
Start with three balls, and then once you’ve mastered that, move to 5 balls.
For this drill, set up three different stations. Similar to other routines in this list, you’re improving foot speed with this drill. You’re also working on the muscle memory and conditioning with the 3 Station drill.
You’ll go quickly from one station to the next after finishing.
Station 1: Zig Zag Drill – Setup 5 lacrosse balls at a 45-degree angle in a zig-zag. Step and drive your top hand to start making a low save. Reset your body position and do it again with the next lacrosse ball at the station.
Station 2: Arc Drill – Immediately move to station two, where you have 4 lacrosse balls set up to simulate the spots in between our 5-step arc. Try making a save on a low shot in between your legs.
Then move to the next point on the arc and reset. Again, try making the low save, driving your top down. Move to the next spot and repeat.
Station 3: Lateral Step – Lateral step is a little more of an advanced move, so skip this if your goalie is brand new. In this station, setup four balls in a row. Instead of taking our 45-degree step, you’ll take a lateral step and simulate making a low save.
This drill improves the foot speed and agility of the goalies.
To set up this drill, place the goalie stick perpendicular to a line on the field, as pictured above. This creates four quadrants.
With this magic square, there are several variations that we will do.
One Foot – Jump on one foot from quadrant 1 to 2 to 3 to 4. Repeat with the other foot.
Two Feet – Jump and land on two feet now from quadrants 1 to 2 to 3 to 4. Keep your feet and ankles together.
Diagonal and Back – On two feet, jump diagonally from quadrant 1 to 3, then 3 to 4 jumping back, then 4 to 2 diagonally, and finally 2 to 1 jumping back.
Jump Turn – Start with 1 foot in quadrant one and the other in quadrant 4, straddling the stick. Jump forward to land with your feet in quadrants 2 and 3. Then jump and do a 180, so our feet are now reversed in quadrants 2 and 3. Jump forward to quadrants 1 and 4 and then do another 180.
The goalies should go for 30 seconds for each of the variations, then followed by a 30-second break and then repeat.
Off-Stick Hands Drill
Position yourself in the goal, on your knees with stick and gloves (other gear optional).
The coach will throw or shoot the balls to the off-stick side.
Have the goalie focus on really getting that underhand movement while driving the top hand to the ball.
Make sure they’re not sweeping that top hand to the ball. They should be “cutting the clock,” moving the top hand in a straight line to the shot.
The bottom hand punches out to assist in quick stick rotation.
You’re not going to move your legs, feet, or body in this drill. You’re strictly working on hands movement here.
Similar to jumping rope, the agility ladder is perfect for improving conditioning and foot speed.
You’ll need to purchase an agility ladder if you don’t already have one.
As you are doing the agility exercises, have a partner toss you balls that you catch and toss back. This will work hand-eye coordination while you’re moving our feet.
Mini Hurdle Drills
For this set of drills, you’re going to need a set of mini hurdles.
These drills are a proven system for improving foot speed and quickness.
Once the goalie is comfortable progressing through the hurdles, you can increase the complexity of this drill. Throw a lacrosse ball for the goalie to catch while getting past the hurdles.
You can also perform the drills with your lacrosse goalie stick in your hands, simulating saves as you go through the hurdles.
Goalie Lead Hand Drill
This is a classic lacrosse goalie drill and should be in every goalie’s training arsenal regardless of age or level.
For this drill, the coach will throw balls at the goalie, who makes the save with only his top hand.
If you have two goalies, have them throw each other the balls while the coach analyzes their form to ensure its right. Do it with your chest up, top hand straight to the ball, with a lead step. Eyes ridiculously focused on the ball the entire time.
You’ll work on tying together our lead hand and our lead step. The lead hand is the top hand (right for righties, left for lefties). And the lead foot is the foot on which side the ball is shot (ball shot to your left, the left foot is the lead foot).
For this drill:
- Start with just your top hand
- Add lead step (top hand + lead step)
- Include trail step (top hand + lead step + finish with trail step)
This is a great drill to include in your lacrosse goalie’s warmup plan.
For this drill, as you may have guessed, we’re going to be working on improving our reaction time.
You’ll need a special ball called a reaction ball. The reaction ball has lumps on its surface so that the bounce is unpredictable.
There are a variety of drills you can do using the reaction ball:
Solo – First, drop the reaction ball in front of you. Then react by taking a step toward whatever direction the ball bounces and catch it in your hands.
You can do this drill using only the top hand to catch the ball and then use both hands to catch the ball.
Bounce Shots with Partner, bare hands – Stand about 5 feet apart from your partner and make a bounce shot to one another using the reaction ball. Step with your lead foot and drive with your lead hand, making a reaction as you see where the ball is heading.
Get reset in your stance before each throw.
Bounce Shots with Partner, with equipment – Same drill as above, but we’ll know where our sticks, gloves, and helmet. Like above, you would want to drive your top hand to the ball and step with your lead foot.
This goalie drill is from the MLL’s Brian Phipps. It’s called “Hot Potato” and is meant to improve soft hands in lacrosse goalies and reduce rebounds.
This is a drill to work into the beginning of practice to get the goalies going.
You throw the ball back and forth – catching and releasing as soon as possible – and ensuring that you’re 1.) watching the ball at all times and 2.) receiving the ball with soft hands.
You should not be snatching or stabbing at the ball but rather receive it like an egg, the same way attackman/middies learn how to catch a pass.
Some variations of the Hot Potato drill:
- Perform it against a wall when you’re alone
- Play in a group of 3-4 so you have to track the ball (try some no-look throws)
- Play “P-I-G” or “H-O-R-S-E” where each player gets a letter if the ball is tossed to them, and they drop it or snatch at it.
The goalie should focus on watching the ball into his/her hand and receiving the ball with soft hands in each case.
For this set of drills, you’ll be using a heavy bar from the gym. A lacrosse shaft stuffed with pennies or sand can also substitute here.
You can also buy a power shaft (no affiliation), which was invented specifically for these types of drills.
You’re going to be working on building quickness and muscle memory in this set of drills.
Walk the Line – Assume making saves to all the different spots using the heavy bar. Stick-side high, stick-side hip, stick-side low, five holes, off-stick low, off-stick hip, off-stick high.
Save Tennis Balls – Now, you’ll throw tennis balls at the goalie and have him make saves using the heavy bar. You should focus on driving our top hand to meet the tennis ball. Shoot to various areas of the
Walk the Arc – Holding the heavy bar, walk your arc, back and forth.
Standard Warmup – You can even add the heavy shaft to your typical goalie head and go through a normal warmup. After doing this exercise, when you go back to your regular lacrosse shaft, the thing will feel as light as a feather in your hands.
You can also join the heavy bar with the 3 Stations drill or the Off-Stick Hands drill described above for an extreme workout.
This drill will build up arm strength and hand quickness while maintaining a good goalie positioning.
Wrapping Paper Drill
Many times in a game, a goalie will need to make a save through traffic. This is an excellent drill from Devon Wills to simulate that and work on a goalie’s reaction time.
This drill also helps the goalie track shots.
Tennis Racket Reaction
This one is courtesy of MLL goalie Scott Rodgers.
For this exercise, the goalie stands in the cage, without the stick.
Another player will throw a ball to the coach who has a tennis racket.
The coach will toss the ball at the goalie, who makes the save. Similar to the Goalie Lead Hand drill, the goalie will push his top hand to the ball.
Works our reaction time and saves technique, especially for those close-in shots.
Rabbit and Dog Agility Drill
This drill is going to help the goalie’s agility and reaction speed.
One player plays the role of the rabbit and the other player, the dog.
Set up two cones 6 feet apart.
The rabbit moves back and forth laterally, and the dog must copy his movements, mirroring his lateral movements.
The dog must read the rabbit’s change of direction and copy his movements. Go for about 20-30 seconds, three sets. Then switch roles.
Here’s a drill from MLL Pro John Galloway. It’s called footie, and it helps goalies learn to step to the ball and get the feet instinctively moving when you see a shot.
It’s a great drill that can be included in the warmup and where you can also perform at halftime to get the feet going.
The goalie stands with his hand behind his back while a teammate shoots low worm-burners at his feet. The goalie will step to the shot and block it with his foot.
Drive your foot to the ball, finish the save balanced, and then do it again.
After lots of reps of this drill, the goalie will be trained to move his/her feet immediately when a shot is incoming.
How can You Improve Your Lacrosse Goalie Skills?
While facing live shots is different during the drill, there are many ways to improve your all-round goalie game.
Remember, the goalie is a specialized position and should be treated as such. Far too many coaches treat the goalie as an afterthought and blame them when they don’t save every shot.
Consider making a lacrosse goalie practice plan by incorporating some of the lacrosse goalie drills. Take the time needed to become the best shot-stopper you can be.
The lacrosse goalie drills listed above can guarantee to help you improve your footwork, balance, reaction time, and clearing skills.
When you are confident between the pipes, your next step is to become the defensive “manager.” This means learning how to organize and control the defense in front of you effectively.
But first, you need to earn the respect of your teammates by getting the basics right and showing that they can trust you as a goalie.
If you want to have fast feet and quick reaction time, you have to work hard.
Even though you may not have been blessed with these attributes, it is possible to increase your foot speed and reaction time. Thanks to the lacrosse goalie drills that were described above.
Although some of these drills you can do by yourself while others require a partner or a coach.
Now get out there and use these lacrosse goalie workouts to improve your goalie game and become a true master of your position!