Last week we talked about if a lacrosse goalie should play a high arc or a shallow arc and got some great comments on that discussion. Today we’re going to talk about the three step arc or the five step arc.
This has to be one of the dumbest conversations in the sport of lacrosse.
The question is not, “Should my goalie be in a three step arc or a five step arc?”
The question should be, “What does my goalie need to do to be in the correct position when the ball is shot at the goal.”
No Other Sport Has This Discussion
I was a goalie in three sports. Hockey, Soccer, and Lacrosse. So I’ve had a bit of experience learning about the position from those three perspectives and I will tell you…no one else talks about this. And I’ve never concerned my self with it either.
When coaches started talking about the 3 step arc or a 5 step arc way back in the early nineties I called B.S. on it way back then too. It makes no sense.
A goalie (in any sport) needs to know where they are between the pipes at all time. It’s a skill to learn just like every other skill and there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.
So please, stop talking about it in terms of 3 step or 5 step because, to be honest, you may need a 6 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. Period.
Your focus should be on your own physical ability.
Your own 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?
How To Know Where You Are In The Cage
Very inexperienced coaches will give the advice that you should scuff the field so you can look down at a mark in the ground. Or line up a tree or the side of a house in the distance to know where you are in the cage.
The pipes are six feet apart. That’s it. They are behind you. Get used to that.
When the ball is close to goal line extended (GLE) you will be standing with the side of your foot on the pipe.
Your foot is touching the pipe.
Your foot is still touching the pipe.
Do you know where the pipe is? (The answer is “Yes”)
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 relationship 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. Why? Because in practice your coach, or another shooter in warm up, has been telling you, “Hey you’re a little too far to your left.”
Those corrections over time will help you know where you are between the pipes at all times.
You will get so good at this with 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 Tap The Pipes Like a Woodpecker
One of our parents in our Facebook Group posted a video of their son tapping the pipes in a game so hard he looked like a lumberjack trying to take down a big tree. It was a nervous habit. He hadn’t even taken a step and he was tapping the pipes. Silly. Not necessary. Don’t do it.
You can take time in practice to work between the pipes moving from left to right, right to left. Out. Up. In. Out. Right. Left.
Don’t Scuff The Field
The last thing you want to do as a lacrosse goalie is take your eye off the ball. Ever.
So looking down for a scuff mark on the field is NOT something you want to do.
One of my coaching clients is a very talented lacrosse goalie on the east coast who we are trying to help eliminate the habit of looking for a scuff mark on the field. When he was young he was taught this technique and as he’s gotten older it has hurt him as he has started to play against better and better players. He’s given up two goals this season looking down for the scuff mark to see if he was centered. Not good.
The past week he got LIT UP because he was out of position four times in the first half of the game. At half time the assistant coach took him out to the goal to talk about what was going wrong.
My goalie had noticed that there was a scuff mark that someone had previously made in the crease. It seems that the home team goalie likes to scuff the field in the center of the crease to know where the center of the field is. So instead of making his own spot, my goalie just used what was already there.
But it turned out he was way out of position. Why?
The assistant coach noticed that the field maintenance guys had pivoted the field slightly to avoid wear and tear on the field. Because of the space available for this field all they could do was pivot it from one of the creases and not slide the field left or right.
So on closer inspection, that scuff mark that used to be at center was now about fifteen degrees pointing left. Not good.
This is just one example of why relying on a spot on the field can be bad for you.
Can I Do That With a Young Lacrosse Goalie?
No!! Stop. Stop looking for gimmicks and have the patience to teach this properly.
Take your goalie and have them work between the pipes. My coaching client that I mentioned in that last story has had to spend so much time eliminating bad habits that he was taught to do when he was young.
It should only take you about a month to really teach this and when it’s taught, the goalie has it forever and it just keeps getting better.
The 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 really keen, tape two hockey puts to the floor that are six feet apart.
Every night, have your goalie shuffle between the two spots in varying arcs.
Boom! You’re welcome.