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The debate rages on. Should a goalie play a shallow arc or a high arc. In today’s video Coach Edwards lays out why your decision is based on fear of the ball, more than anything.

Shots Are Coming Too Fast

Back in the 1980’s, with the development of off set heads, shots started coming so fast at lacrosse goalies that they started having a real hard time seeing the ball and then reacting to it fast enough.

As a result, lacrosse goalies started backing up in the cage in an effort to give themselves more time to react to the ball.

When this started to happen I immediately said that this was a bad move and that lacrosse goalies needed to pad up if they were afraid of getting hit with the ball. Because the trade off between backing up and having more time to move in front of the ball was not worth the amount of cage they were giving up by moving back into the net.

When You Back Into The Cage You Are Giving Up Too Much Cage To Cover

To give you another example, hockey goalies are taught to move out at the shooter to cut down the angle so the shooter has less to shoot at.  It’s a simple equation really…if you move closer to the shooter the shooter has less to shoot at and the lacrosse goalie has more chance to stop the ball using his/her stick or any other part of the body.

If you read my Lacrosse Goalie Manifesto that is inside my Lacrosse Goalie Cheat Sheets you will read my thoughts on just what a lacrosse goalie needs to do when they sign up to play goalie. The reality is that you signed up to put whatever you need to in front of the ball to make the save. It doesn’t have to be the head of your stick.

When I first start working with a goalie, we will work without the stick on basic athletic stance.  It never surprises me that the goalie moves better and takes a more natural stance when trying to get in front of the ball.  Look at a baseball catcher and a throw in the dirt.  That athlete gets down in front of the ball and uses his body to make the stop.

Lacrosse Goalies Think They Should Only Be Making Saves With Their Stick

Lacrosse goalies on the other hand have been taught (incorrectly) that the only thing they should be using is their stick and that’s a waste of a lot of saves.

Also, because the lacrosse goalie thinks that they should only be using their stick, they naturally back up to give themselves more time to make the save with their stick.  In turn they miss stopping shots with their legs, their knees and their bottom hand or elbow. Perfectly good pieces of flesh that could be making the save instead of trying to move their stick to the same spot that’s already being covered.

The Technique That Made Me An All-American and a Division One Recruit

I will get asked to define what made me a recruitable lacrosse goalie and my answer is that I was aggressive in front of the ball. I wasn’t afraid of getting hit and that was partly because of my experience as a hockey goalie.

As a hockey goalie you will come out to the top of your crease to “cut down the angle”.  It’s a trade off between reaction time and the volume of net you’re covering.  By taking up more of the cage you:

  • Force the shooter to make a more difficult shot that they might miss.  The ball either hits you or goes wide and that is often as good as a save.
  • Increase your “Base Save Percentage”.  That’s the odds of you making the save if you didn’t move to the ball. The bigger you are in the cage, the more saves you’re going to make.
  • Cut down the distance you need to move to get in front of the ball.  By moving out I increase my size in the cage which reduces the distance I have to move to a ball that is headed to some place difficult.

The last point is often overlooked because goalies don’t often know how far they actually have to move to make a save.  Sometimes it’s quite small but a goalie may feel they have to move a mile to make that save.

It’s Simple Math To Make a Save

I realized that there was a point when the ball was moving from too close, and at too high a speed, for me to get my stick on it.  It’s simple math.

Let’s take a shot to your off stick hip as an example.  Imagine the ball coming two inches away from where your bottom hand glove would be.

What we teach goalies to do when their young is to move a perfectly good piece of equipment (the bottom hand glove) out of the way, while we try to move our top hand (and the head of the stick) all the way across our body to make that save.

This…is…stupid.

Or as I like to say “thtooopid”.

Imagine telling a hockey goalie, “Ok, this puck is going to go to your blocker side, but instead of using your blocker I want you to move your glove hand across your body to catch the puck.”

Now if the shot was from the point and the goalie had plenty of time to react, he or she could probably make that save.  But if the shot was from inside the face off dot that hockey goalie would probably look at you like you’re crazy.

The Lacrosse Goalie of the Future Will Use Their Body To Make More Saves

On time and room shots, I would take a step forward and be at the top of the crease to make the save.

I would take shots off the top of my shoulders.  My elbows.  My legs.

It’s what I was in the net to do and so I did it.

It didn’t have to be pretty.  It just had to stay out of the net.

But What About The Rebound, Coach?

What about it?

A shot that ticks off of your shoulder and goes over the cross bar goes out of bounds.  The other team gets the ball and you get a chance to play for the save or the turnover again.  Otherwise it goes in the net.

If it hits you and comes forward you still have a chance to grab it just like any other rebound you would give up so that’s really not a bad trade off either.

Also, your team learns how to play in front of you.  When a goalie plays aggressive the defense learns to turn around and look for rebounds. (Just like they should be anyway.)

No One Can Show Me The Math

I’ve been waiting for years for someone to have the tech so we can actually look at this math.  Right now, lacrosse goalies are shying back in the cage thinking that they are going to get hit less.  And that they might be able to get their stick on the ball.

But on a shot that is over eighty miles per hours, how much time does that give you?  Nanoseconds really.

But…but…what does that do to the distance you have to cover.  If I have to move my stick an additional three inches to cover the distance to where the ball is going…how much time does that take?

And the question no one considers is…”Is my goalie physically able to get there?”

When you try to move your stick across your face all the way to cover the opposite top corner, it takes a ton of strength and flexibility to do that.

And most coaches NEVER consider that fact.

When I work with goalies inside my Lacrosse Goalie University program we talk about that.  When I do Goalie Audits, one of the thing I look at is the flexibility of the goalie.  Not just on high shots but low shots as well.

You can be a beast in the weight room and be so tight in your upper thoracic spine that you’ll never get to a shot like that.  Yeah, so why don’t you back up.  It’s not going to work.

Why Step To The Ball When You Can Already Be There?

This has always floored me and no one has ever been able to tell me why we actually step to the ball?  Where that originated?  And why other goalies in other sports don’t do the same?

Coaches will say, “Well, you need to step TO the ball to cut down the angle?”

But that requires a reaction component which means I have to see the ball, know where it’s going, and then move in front of the ball.  What if I just removed all of that and was already there?

By taking a step out and playing a higher arc you are already cutting down that angle you are trying to cut down with a step to the ball.  And you’re taking out the movement aspect of it.

You’re also putting the lacrosse goalie in a better position to make a save that is already inside their footprint.  (When a lacrosse goalie has a wide stance and their feet are covering either pipe they know the shot is going between their legs.  No need for a step then either.)

The Benefits to a Higher Arc

  1. You are taking up more of the cage.
  2. You are forcing shooters to take a more difficult shot.
  3. You have less distance to cover to make a save which gives you more chance to get to it.

The Benefits to a Shallow Arc

  1. You have (supposedly) more time to get to a shot that you probably would have been able to save anyway.
  2. (crickets chirping)

The Game of Lacrosse Is Getting Too Fast For Today’s Goalie

When I watch college and even some high school lacrosse I see shooters who aren’t threatened by a good goalie AT ALL.

A shooter with enough time and room will light a lacrosse goalie up and it doesn’t matter if it’s stick side or off stick side.

That tells me that the lacrosse goalie needs to change and it’s what I preach inside my Facebook Group and to my Lacrosse Goalie University clients.

The lacrosse goalie of the future needs to be more aggressive to the ball.  They need to pad up in order to raise their level of aggression.  They need to dictate where the shooter needs to shoot the ball.  And they need to stop trying to be a naked midfielder standing in the net.

When Does a High Arc Not Work?

A high arc works on time and room shots, but when the ball is in close and a player is one on 0 with the goalie, or he or she is sweeping across the front of the cage, a goalie needs to back up.

“But coach you just said you need to come out and cut down the angle.”

Yes, I did.  But when a player is moving across the front of the crease the angles change so quickly that a lacrosse goalie is put out of position.  You might think you have that pipe covered, but in two steps that offensive player has opened up two feet of cage to shoot at and you’re not making that save.

Also, on shots coming around the back of the cage.  If you step out you will easily be shot over, or around.  So stay shallow in those cases and, most likely, the shooter will shoot right into you.

Conclusion

The idea that a shallow arc is going to give you more time to react to the ball is bunk.  And it’s really an excuse that covers up the fact that most lacrosse goalies don’t want to get hit by the ball.  While staying back in the cage can give you a false sense of hope that you’re going to get your stick on the ball and not your left testicle, it’s not correct.  The bottom line is you should be putting your left testicle in the way of that shot. (Because you’re wearing a hockey goalie cup and not something that resembles a Solo Cup).  That’s what you signed up for, to put whatever you need to, in front of the ball, so it doesn’t cross the goal line.

Step out.  Take the high arc, especially on those time and room shots.  You’re going to make more saves and that’s why we have you in the net.

Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.  And be sure to join our private facebook group for lacrosse goalies to continue the discussion.

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