TIPS FOR GOALIES
The position of goalie in lacrosse is probably one of the most intense positions of all sports. Essentially, you must play catch with people at a very high speed. Unfortunately for the goalie, most people don't throw at his stick. The goalie wears additional protective equipment: throat guard and chest protector. A goalie stick is typically of normal length, 40-50 inches, with an extra wide head. Unlike goalies in hockey, lacrosse goalies must be very mobile. They often come out of the circular crease that surrounds the 6’x6’ goal. Explosive speed and very quick hands are key ingredients in making a goalie, as well as a tolerance for pain. When a goalie comes out of the crease to fetch ground balls or to clear a saved shot, he becomes a target, much like the quarterback in football. A good goalie leads the defense by reading the situation and directing the defensemen to react. A goalie also directs the clearing patterns and provides intangible cohesion that binds a team together. A good goalie should have excellent hand/eye coordination and a strong voice. Quickness, agility, confidence, a "thick skin" by not getting too down when scored on and the ability to concentrate are also essential.
The goalie defends a square goal six feet wide by six feet high. Around the goal is a circular crease. The crease area is limited to entry by the goalie and defensive players only. Once the goalie makes a save he has 4 seconds to either pass the ball or run the ball out of the crease. In these four seconds no one may touch him. Once the goalie steps outside the crease he is no longer allowed back into the crease unless he yields possession of the ball.
Rule 1 - Watch the Ball - Many goalies struggle because they watch the game, guide the defense and get caught looking at the shooter's motion or eyes during the shot. These are all distractions to the real job of watching the BALL and reacting to it. If you can't see the ball because of a screen or the shooter is hiding the ball behind his shoulder or helmet, wait patiently for the ball to appear from the area where it is and then react to it.
Rule 2 - Watch the Ball Too (WITH YOUR HAND) - In clinics, I teach that the 1st rule of goaltending is to Watch the Ball. The second rule is also to Watch the Ball (that's how important this is). But, some folks miss part of this. If you watch the ball in flight, see it land and simultaneously move to be setup for a shot from that person, you are moving with the ball and will not be late on cross crease passes or feeds into the middle or other similar passes. We tell our keepers, set up on every exchange and watch the ball ALL THE TIME and use your top hand to guide you (point your top hand thumb at the ball while it is in flight). Tony Seaman said the other day that this sounds so simple but is very hard to do, so practice it until you can see the ball rotating during a pass or shot.
Rule 3 -Get Ready Early - I expect that nearly half the goals scored are scored because the keeper is not ready to move to the ball. I think that this means hands and elbows in front of the chest with the wrists on the back side of shaft with hands raised to cover the higher shot. Knees are bent with the chest slightly ahead of the hips. Weight should be forward a bit ready to step to the shot. Play on the Balls of Your Feet - If you play with your weight on your heals, most likely you will rock backward on the off-ball foot and kick the front foot towards the ball. This rock is slow and the kick both short to be effective limiting your range. If you play with your weight on the balls of your feet, you can step quickly to the ball without rocking first. To facilitate the step, play a little pigeon-toed (toes closer together than heels). In this position when you lift your ball side foot your body will flow to that side (try this slew footed and nothing happens). Since the goal is to have your WHOLE body moving toward the ball to make the save, this stance helps and is faster than other stances. Get Your Hands Off Your Chest - If your hands are back or down out of your vision, your mind has to tell your hands and your body where to go (and likely your wrists are to the side of the handle limiting the amount of wrist rotation you can use to get to the ball). Having your hands up in your vision (we call this eye-thumb-ball), lets you drive your hand to the ball (it's quicker) and your body will follow. Get ready is called Rule 3.
Rule 4 - Make a great move to the ball - If you are ready this usually means driving your top hand to the ball and making the save. Play the Pipe and High - As a shooter comes closer and closer to the goal (let's talk about drives from behind first), he/she wants to shoot high on the pipe side (between the goalie and the pipe). If the goalie's stick is up there already, then the shooter has to change the shot or shoot it into the keeper's stick. As a cutter cuts and is fed, he / she usually receives the ball high and shoots high. So playing with the stick low and stabbing to the ball gives the shooter the edge. Playing with the stick high (top even with the crossbar), gains you a couple of saves per game that you won't get by stabbing. In the same vein, play the pipe closest to the shooter's side. We call this Rule # 6 (NEVER get beat PIPE side).
Rule 5 - Start the Break - The object is to get the ball and keep it until your team scores. The keeper can do this by getting a ground ball, cutting off a pass, running out a shot to the back line or making a save. Once you have the ball, get it moving up field preferably by throwing a good pass over the other team to your player so he can lead the break for a goal. We call this Rule 5. Quit Baiting or Guessing and Play the Ball - Once you have a good, mobile stance and are watching the ball, we suggest you quit guessing, watch the ball (Rule 1 and 2) and drive your top hand to the ball. This really works a lot better for a very high number of shots than stabbing or guessing.