Should You Weight Your Lacrosse Goalie Stick To Get Faster?
It seems like it should work. I mean, if you move something heavier than what you’re currently using it should make you faster, right?
Not to start out and be offensive, but this level of thinking is the lowest on the scale of creative training ideas.
I don’t mean to be rude, but…it’s not the way to go.
Now I know, I know…there will be some goalies who had a coach who made them play with a stick that was heavy and then they picked up their stick and it “felt” lighter. The idea that the stick now felt lighter was cool and intriguing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play in the cage with a stick that felt lighter, right?
Well, the sensation “trick” here does not actually correlate to moving your stick any faster.
While there isn’t any research for lacrosse goalies specifically, there is a fantastic study that debunked one of the longest held traditions in sport…swinging a weighted bat in the on-deck circle at a baseball game.
The study that was done back in 2009 at Cal State Fullerton proved that swinging a weighted bat made a baseball player’s actual swing with a normal bat slower.
What made a batter improve their swing speed was actually swinging a lighter bat and not a heavier one.
In a similar vein, years ago I read about how Communist East German athletes used weighted and unweighted discus, shot put, and javelin to improve throwing distance without ruining technique. (They also used a healthy amount of performance-enhancing drugs but I doubt your young goalie will be doping any time soon.)
The idea of loading up a lacrosse goalie stick with BB’s, or sand, or marbles, or adding string weights to the head is just incorrect thinking.
Improving a Lacrosse Goalies Efficiency of Movement
When coaches or parents (or goalies) miss a save people think, naturally, “If only they could move their stick faster they would make more saves.”
This is akin to the, “I want faster hands” argument.
And while wanting faster hands is a good idea, it’s not actually what we really need.
When we move a goalie stick to the ball we are applying force from the ground through our body up into our shoulders and arms which move the stick. Making the save then isn’t just about having fast hands it’s about generating force through every joint in the body.
I’m sure if I asked your goalie to clap their hands quickly they could do it. That would be “fast hands” technically.
Words matter and that’s why I absolutely cringe when a parent or coach tells me their number one concern for their goalie is developing “faster hands.”
When we think about making a save we need to 1) see the ball, 2) know where it’s going, and then 3) move, efficiently, in front of that ball.
For the purpose of this discussion, we’re just talking about getting the head of the stick in front of the ball. I am not talking about making a save with another part of the body.
With that in mind, how then do we make a lacrosse goalie move their stick faster? Well, consider the following:
Your Goalie Is Just Weak
For a lot of young goalies, a lacrosse goalie stick is really heavy.
It’s big and hard to cradle with. If it’s a team stick it may have a cheap but heavy aluminum shaft in it which makes it even more cumbersome. Small hands in thick gloves also make managing that stick a bit of an issue.
Couple that with the fact that a lacrosse goalie is still learning how to see the ball and then know where it’s going and you have the recipe for a very sluggish move in front of the ball.. (Very long sentence, sorry.)
There is a level of patience we need for young/new lacrosse goalies. It is totally normal to want to kick Mother Nature in the butt and expedite the process but weighting the stick and then making it lighter is NOT the answer.
Getting your goalie into the gym is.
If your goalie is serious about playing the game at a high level they need to have some sort of Strength and Conditioning program they are following. Getting to the gym two to six days a week is perfectly normal for an athlete who is serious about their sport and that can start as young as twelve years old.
This last year I turned three goalies away from my Lacrosse Goalie University program because what they needed was not more lacrosse, it was focusing on getting themselves stronger physically.
The third “key” to making any save is moving in front of the ball and that “moving” is all about a goalie’s physical ability.
I like to say that your goalie is an athlete who plays the lacrosse goalie position. You don’t become athletic by playing goalie but you can become a better goalie by becoming a better athlete and that usually happens off-the-field and out of the crease.
A common mistake that is made by many coaches and parents of lacrosse goalies is to try and do too much at the same time. Here are a couple of examples.
Using a weighted stick while making saves:
There is some benefit to “loading” a goalie’s movement so they can feel where their weaknesses are but it is NOT correct to try to add weight to something that requires technique. For example, if you attach a bungee cord or a cable to the head of a goalie’s stick and you have that cable pulling from the correct angle, a goalie may feel that they are weak in their ankle or their hip. Or through their chest. Or even their wrist. This extra load can be a cue similar to overexaggerating a technique but it’s not to be used as a way to strengthen. Baseball pitchers will “load” the end range of motion when throwing but they will do that in the gym, and not with a weighted ball.
Doing Agility Drills (i.e. Ladder Drills) while in their goalie stance:
I see this a lot. Let’s take a goalie, put them in their stance, and THEN have them do a ladder drill. Where their head is down and, overall, the whole thing looks like crap. When you cook a steak and mashed potatoes, you don’t throw the steak and the potatoes in the pot of boiling water? Or throw everything on the grill. All at the same time. No. The steak goes on the grill for the appropriate amount of time and the potatoes go in the water early. Each in the proper place. If you’re going to work agility with your goalie…work agility. If you are going to work on movement…work on movement. If you try to do it all you’re going to have a crappy outcome for all of it.
To The Uninitiated Parent
Many parents are just happy that their goalie is hot and sweaty after a session. That is actually their benchmark. I’ve asked parents in the past, “How did you like the goalie clinic your goalie went to?” and I will get an answer like, “Oh it was great! He slept the whole way home!” or, “She was sore for days after that camp it was so great.” To these answers, I say…up your standards. But you can only up your standards if you know better. You must know what you’re looking to improve in your goalie. If you don’t, people will be happy to keep taking your money.
Your Goalie Needs a Lighter Stick
Now, I’m the first coach to tell you that your goalie does NOT need more/expensive/better equipment to play better. I say that because I don’t want young goalies using it as an excuse. Many athletes will cause a subconscious “waiting” by thinking, “Well, I’d be better if I had better equipment.” That’s typically not true.
That being said, IF your goalie is using a club stick that is old and heavy and has a crappy pocket in it, they will probably benefit by having a lighter stick with a better pocket. Just saying.
There are any number of heads that can be used. Personally, I recommend the STX Eclipse or the Nemesis. I’m also a fan of the String King Mark 2 as of this writing.
There are a lot of great mesh options out there as well and we have a rather robust thread in our private Facebook Group that is evolving every season that keeps this updated.
Finally, I have always recommended Titanium shafts or something similar. I used to say that they cost a lot but they will probably last your goalie for as long as they are playing. There are always new shafts coming on the market but remember these concepts:
- The shaft is probably the most mundane piece of equipment and it in NO way will improve your goalie’s ability to move in front of the ball. Anyone who makes a claim that the shaft they are selling you will improve your goalies save percentage is lying. Buy strong. Buy cheap. End of story.
- Avoid carbon which can break very easily. All it takes is one slash and the shaft is compromised. As I said before, going with a Titanium or an alloy that is similar will last you forever. I like Savage X shafts. (Not an affiliate link)
As for titanium…Savage X makes a titanium alloy and not pure titanium. The cost is ridiculously cheap with Savage so I would recommend you start there for $40 USD. But if you can find a Titanium shaft, and you’re not allergic to the price…buy that.
Your Goalie Needs To Improve Their Finger/Hand Strength
I tell my goalies, a lot, you don’t need more wall ball, you need to learn how to cradle and dodge.
The reason is that we need to improve our goalie’s strength in their fingers and their hands, into the forearms, and up through the shoulder.
If your goalie is making passes with their top hand locked to their shoulder and their bottom hand pointed out like a big lever…they need strength in their shoulders.
I have seen kids work hours and hours and hours on Wall Ball only to see that they cradle like they have an egg in a teaspoon and they have no strength in their upper body. This is NOT good.
A goalie who spends 5-10 minutes a day cradling and faking. Dodging and picking up ground balls with authority, will be more confident on the field. They will be comfortable out of the cage and on the clear. They will make more stops.
Why? Because they will be using less mental bandwidth because they aren’t worried about dropping a ball or having to run around someone.
Work on this at the END of practice, or in a separate practice altogether. No need to fatigue them before they get in the cage for practice.
Use Junior Shafts for Small Handed Goalies
Male or female, it doesn’t matter. If your goalie has small hands then they should be using a junior shaft. Go to your local lacrosse store and order a junior shaft with a sleeve that fits into the head.
For Small Goalies Use a Mini-Stick
If you are working with a young goalie there is no reason you can’t use a mini-stick. Just get a decent pocket in it so it throws well. I warn you, this can be a challenge, but the use of the small stick makes a lot of sense for a new goalie who is young and small and all that.
Your lacrosse goalie needs to get stronger from the ground up and this doesn’t happen by weighting their stick. Weighting the stick can actually slow a goalie down not to mention that the loading of the stick causes a fundamental change in the movement for the goalie. It’s just not necessary.
Encourage your goalie to be patient. To adopt a strength and conditioning program. If it’s needed, investing in better equipment can help so keep that in mind. Finally, encourage your goalie to spend 5-10 minutes per day just working on cradling and dodging. Their confidence with the ball in their stick will help them in, and out of the cage. Let me know how it goes.