Sports with Goalies

In sports, the goalie is the player whose specific job is to stop the ball or puck when the opposing team tries to score a point. A soccer goalie is the only player permitted to grab the ball with her hands.

The goalie is the term sometimes used for goalkeeper or goaltender. Soccer (or association football), hockey, water polo, and lacrosse are some of the sports that use a goalie to prevent shots into the goal.

Ice hockey and lacrosse goalies don protective clothing and a face mask. Meanwhile, a soccer goalie wore his uniform and is usually a distinctive color, different from other players.

In most sports that involve scoring in a net, special rules apply to the goalkeeper that does not apply to other players. These rules are often instituted to protect the goalkeeper from being a target for dangerous or even violent actions.

This is most likely in sports such as ice hockey and lacrosse, where goalkeepers must wear special gear. This includes heavy pads and a face mask to protect their bodies from the playing object’s impact like a ball or puck.

Here are a few sports that have a goalie that plays for their team:

Soccer or Association Football

Each team’s goalkeeper secures their team’s goal in football and has unique privileges within the game. The goalkeeper’s main task is to stop any penetration of the ball into the goal.

The goalkeeper is the only player in the team who may use their hands and arms to grab, throw, and save the ball, but only within their penalty area.

Goalkeepers must use a jersey color that is different from their teammates and the referee’s jersey color. That way, the referee can easily recognize them.

There are no other specific terms, but goalkeepers usually are allowed to wear extra protective gear such as padded clothing. Most goalkeepers also wear gloves to protect their hands and improve their grip on the ball. Like every player on the field, they are required to wear shin guards.

The goalkeeper is permitted to catch the ball and can punch or deflect the ball away from the goal. The goalkeeper usually has a significant advantage on a ball high in the air. That’s because he can raise his arms and play the ball before an attacker can try a header.

When the goalie picks up the ball, they can kick it or throw it or place it on the ground and play it with his feet.

The Laws of the Game specify that once the goalkeeper has the ball, he must pass it within six seconds. Once the keeper secures the ball’s possession, opposing players are not allowed to strive to play the ball. They must also give the goalkeeper room to attempt a kick.

If a ball is in the air and both the goalie and an opposing field player are challenging for it, the advantage goes typically to the goalkeeper. That’s because he is not capable of protecting himself.

The rule came to be following the tragic death of Sunderland A.F.C. goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe.

Thorpe received a kick in the head and chest after picking up the ball following a backpass. He proceeded to take part until the match finished, but collapsed at home afterwards. He died in hospital four days later from diabetes mellitus and heart failure “stimulated by the rough usage of the opposing team.”

Though the goalkeeper is usually allowed to use their hands in the penalty box area, they cannot catch a ball that a teammate intentionally kicked to them. In such situations, the goalkeeper may strike the ball with their feet, but cannot pick the ball up.

The rule applies only to a ball that is kicked. The goalkeeper may pick up a ball that is headed or otherwise not kicked without penalty. Any infringement of this rule results in an indirect kick to the opposing team.

The referee has some discretion in making this call. For example, a ball that is merely deflected by a teammate may still be picked up by the goalkeeper.

The “back pass” rule has been followed in international football and most professional and amateur leagues since the early 1990s. But leagues for younger players may choose not to implement the rule. The backpass rule is posted in Law 12 of the Laws of the Game.

As the goalkeeper is usually the team’s only player who can see the entire field, they often serve as the team organizer during the defense.

This implies the goalkeeper needs to be loud, with a voice that can project over the pitch’s defensive area. In turn, the players on their team need to be ready to listen and respond to directions called to them.

Field hockey

In field hockey, the goalkeeper usually wears complete protective gear. This includes a helmet, face and neck guards, chest and leg stuffing, arm or elbow guards.

They also have special gloves where the left glove is meant to block the ball, and the right glove is for holding the stick. Moreover, they wear lower leg guards, known as pads, and shoe covers known as kickers.

The gloves, pads, and kickers are made of unique high-density foam material that shields the goalkeeper and has excellent rebound qualities. They are also provided with a stick, either designed for goalies or used for regular play.

Specialist goalkeeper sticks must correspond to the same dimensional limitations as field players’ sticks. Although it can be designed for optimal use with one hand and for preventing rather than hitting the ball. 

From 2007 teams may select to play with 11 field players, and no-one has a goalkeeper’s opportunities.

A goalkeeper could wear a helmet unless they chose to take a penalty stroke against the opposing goalkeeper. They can also wear a different colored shirt and least foot and leg guards. Arm and upper-body protection are optional. 

The goalkeeper is granted to use any part of his body to play or deflect the ball. But he cannot lie on it to stop the game. And they can only deflect the ball within the goal circle or the “D” area. They should follow the same rules as field players outside the D and may only use their stick to play the ball. 

Goalkeepers wearing a helmet are not allowed to pass the 23-meter-line, except for goalkeepers who take penalty strokes. But a goalkeeper who chose to wear only a helmet can remove it as long as he will not leave it on the field.

They may take part in the match in any part of the pitch and engage their goalkeeping privileges, even if they do not have time to replace the helmet before making a save. 

It is required to wear a helmet when defending a penalty stroke or penalty corner.

Ice Hockey

In ice hockey, goalkeepers are generally referred to as “goaltenders” or simply “goalies.” They guard their team’s goal zone (net) by preventing puck shots from entering the net, thus stopping the opposing team from scoring. 

The goaltender plays typically in or near the area in front of the net. This is called the goal crease (often referred to commonly as the crease or the net). 

Due to shots’ power, the goaltender wears special gear designed to protect the body from direct impact. As is true with most other sports, only one goaltender is permitted to be on the playing area for each team at any one time.

Field Lacrosse

In men’s field lacrosse, the designated goalkeeper can have a stick that is 40 inches to 72 inches long. And the head of a goalkeeper’s crosse may scale up to 12inches wide.

This is significantly bigger than field players’ heads to support in blocking shots.

Once a goalkeeper makes a save and has the ball’s authority in his crosse (stick), he may keep it inside the protective crease for four seconds. Before the four seconds ends, the goalkeeper must either pass the ball or leave the crease. After leaving, he may not re-enter the crease with the hold of the ball.

While inside the crease with nine feet in radius, offensive players may not touch the goalie or stick. Doing so is announced “goalie interference” and is penalized by a free clear to the half field line.

There is a difference between NCAA/MLL rules and international rules about a pass while the goalkeeper is inside the crease.

Under NCAA/MLL rules, contact with a goalie’s stick while passing, even after the ball is released, is considered interference. Under international laws, protection ends when possession ends. Thus, contact with a goalie’s stick after the ball is released is allowed.

Also, a goalie is permitted to contact the ball with his hand, although he is not allowed to control it or pick it up.

Once a goalkeeper secures a save and has control of the ball in women’s lacrosse, she may keep it inside the crease for ten seconds.

The blocking rule is similar to men’s lacrosse, although a female goalkeeper can even pick up the ball in her hand.

In both men’s and women’s lacrosse, goalies must wear a helmet and 4-point chinstrap, a throat guard, gloves, and a chest protector.

The use of a protective cup is needed in the men’s game. Thigh pads and shin guards have also been required for women goalkeepers since 2007.

Although they are authorized to, few goalkeepers choose to wear optional protective gear. These are elbow and shoulder pads, thigh pads and shin guards, and long sweatpants.

Box Lacrosse

The box lacrosse goalies are allowed to play in any playing surface area and are not restricted to any zone. Because of this, the box goaltender has a crease, around the entire net, all to himself.

Defensive players can enter this section to pick up a loose ball but cannot join it while taking the ball. Offensive players cannot enter the crease. 

At minor levels and a couple of junior leagues, this includes the crease’s vertical plane. But at the Junior A, Major, and professional levels, it is normal for the player to enter the vertical plane while shooting or recovering a rebound as long as his feet or body do not touch the crease paint on the floor. Such play is called a “crease dive.”

Occasionally, a goalie will run up and join the play in the offensive zone on a slow whistle or delayed penalty. But they are usually pulled and substituted with a field player. 

Goaltenders in box lacrosse are recognized sometimes to score goals for their team in power-play or slow whistle circumstances. But due to the unusual lack of offside rules in box lacrosse, it can be challenging to see a goaltender lead his team in scoring.

This is possible, though, through assists and long passes to teammates to break away from unsuspecting defenders. 

Box lacrosse goaltenders are also urged to be aggressive stick checkers around the ball and brutal cross-checkers when needed. After all, cross-checking is allowed in box lacrosse.

If a goaltender leaves the crease with possession of the ball, opponents can cross-check the goaltender as long as there is no effort to injure.

The two primary forms of box lacrosse goaltending are “playing the stick” and “take away.”

The playing the stick or positional style is all about waiting on an angle with the shooter’s stick. This confronts the shooter by stepping towards him to restrict the amount of net he can see. It also uses the goaltender’s body size to his advantage in preventing the shot. 

Take away or give-and-take is where the goalie stays in the middle of the post on the same side of the shooter’s shot. This intentionally inflicts him on the opposite side.

This serves the shooter a bad angle shot that the goalie is trying to force him to take. When the player hits, the goalie immediately steps across and covers the other side of the net and prevents it.

This style can be instrumental but can fall victim to fake shots.

Water Polo

BV_Water_polo (49)

Goalkeepers in water polo are given some special privileges when inside the five-meter area:

  • The ability to hold the ball with two hands.
  • The ability to stand (that is, if he can. Most Water polo pools are at least two meters deep)
  • The ability to punch the ball with a clenched fist

Yet, they have one restriction that field players do not have: they may not cross the half-distance line.

The law change in 2006:

The four and seven-meter lines were merged into a five-meter line. A goalie may now under revised rules:

  • Go beyond the 5m line according to the field laws (one hand) and not pass the half-line.
  • Use two hands

New cap rules:

  • A goalie cap must now be in sections alternating red/dark for home and red/white for away
  • The goalie must be number 1, 13, or 15
  • Female goalkeepers must wear a red swim cap beneath their goalie cap to easily distinguish.

These changes are according to the NFHS 2006-2007 swimming/diving and water polo rulebook. USWP and NCAA rules may differ slightly.

The water polo goalkeeper is the least covered goalkeeper with no gloves or body protection.


In handball, the goalie is the only player in the team who is permitted to stay in the 6-meter zone throughout the whole match. A goalkeeper is obliged to save the ball with all parts of his body, including two hands, trunks, two legs, and so on, only inside the defending 6-meter zone.

Whenever the ball is dropped on the ground within the 6-meter zone, the goalkeeper has the ball’s possession. But whenever the ball is in the air with the 6-meter zone, the opponent can still spring in to grasp the ball without stepping in the 6-meter zone.

A goalkeeper can join in offense by long-passing the ball to a teammate in the defensive half court for a fast-break score.

Standard handball goalkeeper clothing:

  • Long-sleeve jersey
  • Long trousers
  • Protection such as a base layer or protective cup


In hurling, the goalkeeper’s primary responsibility is to prevent the opponents from scoring a goal by protecting their goal. He also takes “puck outs” after a score or wide ball. 

A goal occurs when the ball crosses through the goal; the attacking team is awarded 3 points. 

The goalkeeper has to follow one particular rule: Opposing players may not physically challenge them while he has the ball in the small parallelogram. But they may attack him, while if he leaves the small parallelogram, he is subjected to the same rules as all other players. 

He wears a different color jersey. If a team has blue jerseys with white font, the goalkeeper will wear a white jersey of the same pattern with blue font. 

Most goalkeepers use a special hurley with a broader ba (flat face) to support shot-stopping.

They are a species unto themselves in the class of athletes. They alone are imposed with the primary duty of keeping the opposing team from its appointed goal.

If they succeed, they are admired as heroes. If they fail, they are blamed as goats. 

There is no rank in sport as worthy as goalkeeping, said by the former Russian great Vladislav Tretiak.

A goalie must clot the wound, derive the tide, redirect the river, save the day. Goalies are unique in that they face the brunt of the wrath of opposing fans.

They can do the impossible by making a great save or do the unthinkable by striking up a soft goal. 

The goalie is like the person on the minefield. He discovers the mines and stops them. If he makes a mistake, somebody gets blown up.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *