While it’s not intentional, there’s a big group of lacrosse coaches out there who are hurting their goalies’ development.
With the growth of lacrosse sport, many teams find themselves with head coaches having minimal experience. It’s a tough job to expect that the majority of teams would have an experienced coach.
Just because you were never a goalie doesn’t give you an excellent excuse to ignore the goalies. For example, some head coaches played defense in their playing days, yet they have no problem teaching man-up strategy.
This post is a collection of mistakes seen from some coaches make when it comes to developing the goalie. Think of this as a list of things to avoid if you want your goalie to reach his full potential.
Here are some ways to destroy your lacrosse goalie’s development.
Neglect the Goalie
Goalies are not like other players. It’s a specialty job and must be coached as such.
The good news is you don’t need goalie experience to be a great goalie coach.
Sure it helps, but nowadays, with Instagram, YouTube, and a few websites layout everything, there is no excuse to be ignorant on how to coach a goalie.
If you don’t have a dedicated lacrosse goalie coach, it is recommended that you assign the responsibility to an assistant coach or a parent.
Once the coach learns some fundamental teachings of a lacrosse goalie stance, positioning, arc play, and save techniques, they can start to examine and critique your goaltenders. That way, they learn and remember the proper form.
Can’t recognize things on the fly? Try recording them during practice or games and watch the tape in slow motion. Bad habits will become amplified in slo-mo.
Coaches that don’t have one-on-one practice sessions with goalies are hurting their development.
In our opinion, the goalie is the most critical position on the team. So a coach cannot be so busy with the attack and defense that they don’t have time to commit to an important position on the field – the goalies.
Place Unrealistic Expectations on the Goalie
Nothing seems more challenging than being overwhelmed with the expectations of an MLL goalie. Moreso, when you are ineffective in executing the saves at that level.
When you scream and yell at the goalies for errors, are you being reasonable? Does the goalie have enough experience to make the saves you want?
Be fair and train them to take responsibility for plays that they can control. Give them the wisdom to know what type of scoring positions they aren’t yet capable of handling.
As a coach, you cannot expect your goalies to stop every shot in practice. Setting unrealistic objectives in practice and letting them understand when they fail to live up to these goals will cause many goaltenders to break down mentally.
To secure goaltenders develop, try to aim for a save percentage that is realistic for the goalie’s skill level and experience.
Setup Unrealistic Shooting Drills
This is the most basic and ridiculous problem for goalies.
How many times does the referee blow the whistle and line up players in an arc and permit them to blast away rapid-fire shots at the goalie?
This is what some coaches view as “goalie practice.”
If you can’t classify what skill you are growing in the goalie (other than lots of shots), then the drill is for the shooters – NOT for the goalie.
It is 100% true that goalies face shots during drills in practice, no problem with that. However, if they are going to face shots, at least make it a realistic situation as much as possible.
Shooters have to move their feet, change speeds, deal with a harassing defenseman, and more. These ideas will develop their scoring ability and make sure the goalies are developing, too.
If you’re doing a shooting drill with no defense, put a cone down on the ground and tell them the offensive players. That way, middies and attackmen don’t crank silly shots at the keeper.
Alternatively, if the drill’s goal is to develop shooting, consider having the goalies execute a workout on their own.
You can buy an attachable goal target that you can use for shooting drills. That way, players can practice hitting the right zones.
Staying away from unrealistic situations will help the goalie keep the right attitude during practice.
Not Include the Goalie in Line Drills
In the clearing sport and even for making saves, a goalie’s stick skills are essential.
In addition to many wall ball sessions, goalies should join the team’s line drills every once in a while.
Many coaches let the goalies do their warm-up while the rest of the team works on line drills. Unsupervised, some goalies lead to go through the movements or repeat bad habits during this time. This relates to the 1st item about being neglected.
Goalies added inline drills learn to catch, throw, fake, and dodge. All essential skills to know when you’re leading the clear.
Therefore be sure to incorporate your goalies in line drills every so often.
Blame the Goalie for Everything
When a goalie creates an error, it directly leads to a goal for the other team. So it’s straightforward to blame the goalie when your team gets scored on.
But never ignore that it’s a team game. The attackman who launched the ball away, losing possession, is just as guilty for the next goal as the keeper who let one slip by.
The middie who missed the second slide is just as guilty as the goalie who yields in a 10-yard step-down shot.
Goalies tend to have broad shoulders when it comes to taking the blame for losses or goals. As a coach, you cannot join to that. It will surely destroy their confidence and, ultimately, their growth in the cage.
Put Additional Pressure on the Goalie
Some coaches used to say to the whole team, “We need a big game from [the goalie] to get the win today!”
Coaches who exaggerate the difference between winning and losing are doing the team a disservice.
Goalies already have enough pressure on them as if. If anything, the coach should be trying to remove the stress from a goaltender’s shoulders to focus more effectively on the game.
Remember, too much pressure can make a goaltender too tense and stiff, and that is the exact opposite of how we want our goalies to play.
Play Mind Games
Goalies need to understand what you, as a coach, think of them.
They need to understand what they must do to develop their skills to earn that starting role or advance to the next level.
You will develop “head case” goalies if you start ignoring them. One example is keeping them in the dark on who’s playing and who’s benching.
Conversation with a goalie must be open and honest.
You don’t want a goalie to be coddled, but be honest with them as to your expectations, and you will have fewer headaches.
Under Work the Goalie
As a coach, a part of your responsibility is to push the whole team to give its max effort. And it also applies to your goalie.
The full range of training of a goalie for some teams indicates that they send an attackman and the goalie down to the far end of the field to take shots.
Seeing shots helps, but they’re sure is so much more that you could be doing to train a goalie. Many lacrosse goalie drills improve their hands, eyes, quickness, physical stamina, etc.
When left to train themselves, there are also plenty of kids who will not push as hard as is needed to become a champion.
Remember that goalies must also be physically trained to get bodies explosive to the ball in the elite lacrosse goalie triad. If you’re underworking them physically, their game will surely suffer.
If your goalie is not getting driven to exert maximum effort, you are doing them a disservice.
In the same way, you motivate, encourage, and sometimes discipline your team, the goalie must also experience the same—no special or indifferent treatment.
Don’t Allow Goalies to Fail in Practice
For a goalie to progress, they need to get out of their comfort zone.
The fact is when you’re performing drills, they shouldn’t be keeping 100 percent of the shots. It merely indicates that you are shooting unrealistically slow.
Shoot for something more in the 70 percent limit. That way, the goalies don’t get discouraged, but at the same time, they’re seeing realistic speeds that will help them progress. You’re also coaching them to shrug off goals given up and compare the next save with the same high level of energy as always.
You also must encourage them to work on their weaknesses even though they may hate it sometimes.
Many goalies usually struggle with off-stick hip or bounce shots. And even though they may lose, those weaknesses must be addressed through proper coaching. This includes strengthening that technique via drills.
Don’t Coach Them Mentally
Lots of coaches know the part about turning goalies into great ball stoppers. But there is another bit of an elite lacrosse goalie, and that is they are mentally challenging.
Leaving goalies to figure out mental toughness on their own is a big misconception.
Remember, their young, developing minds could go in a million directions, and it usually ends with self-blame and doubt.
As a coach, take time to improve your goalie mentally. Teach them a few anecdotes like the Tale of Two Wolves. Also, teach them how to act after giving up a goal. And finally, teach them the traits of the mentally elite goalies.
Teaching goalies to be mentally tough is just as important as teaching them the proper save technique.
Don’t Allow Them to Leave the Crease
During this modern lacrosse, goalies must handle the ball outside of the crease.
If you do not train your goalies to be good at stick handling, their game will suffer. Your team’s clears will suffer.
Leaving the crease doesn’t mean they’re rushing into the offensive zone every clear. And it does not also mean that they have the freedom (and the talent) to lead a clear on foot or chase out a shot.
It just simply means that they feel comfortable dodging a riding attack when the situation calls for it. There is also a substantial similarity between stick skills and save ability, so by working on their handling, they’re working on saves, too.
Adopt the “My Way or the Highway” Attitude
There are a lot of different forms of lacrosse goaltending.
Some goalies are better with a flat arc, while others thrive in a familiar arc. Some goalies prefer stepping laterally versus stepping to the shot at the 45. Some goalies fixed up a little more upright in their stance, while others prefer a deeper knee bend.
Some goalies are settled with their high hands (thumb around the eye) while others have the top hand lower around the chin. Some goalies are already settled in their stance with a vertical stick, while others have it angled.
The point is there isn’t a particular approach to play. Meanwhile, coaches who force their style onto a goalie who is accustomed to playing another way do not help.
Some coaches have a “my way or the highway” attitude when they acquire a goalie. And for some everyday things, like the level of effort expected, hustle, or the communication used with the team, this is excellent.
But for other things like stance and arc plays, some coaches need to work with a goalie’s style instead of forcing their own.
Every coach has excellent intentions, but some coaching methods and tactics are not suitable for a lacrosse goalie’s development.
If you’re wondering how to avoid destroying your lacrosse goalie’s development, this list is for you.
Avoid all of these methods, and your lacrosse goalie should continue on a great path of development.