There is nothing I hate more than seeing a hard-working lacrosse goalie who is wasting their time on a drill that is ineffective, or worse, teaching them bad skills.
Unfortunately, this is all too common.
I have gone on record for a very long time saying that the lacrosse goalie position is THE most difficult goalie position in ALL sports.
It is also the most poorly coached position.
Why is that?
Well, a number of reasons, but primarily, because the sport of field lacrosse is so small there is not enough money for people to spend enough money on research to prove what is true.
Outside of that, it takes people like me and a few others to remind everyone about what actually works and makes sense and what needs to be discarded based on athletic principles.
Coaching for the lacrosse goalie position has been haphazard at best. Coaches rehashing old coaching motto’s from the late 70’s and 80’s still pervade the lacrosse coaching community today.
With the power of the internet anyone with the camera can put up coaching content whether they know it to be helpful or not.
One professional goalie told me that a piece of coaching content he did for a sponsor was done, “On the fly. They needed some content quickly so I just gave them…something. I don’t really do it though.”
I don’t believe ANY content out there for lacrosse goalies is done to deliberately hurt them but they can set back a hard-working goalie by years and can ruin potential careers.
I don’t want that for you or your goalie.
What Is a Lacrosse Goalie Drill For?
When we break it down to the basics:
a lacrosse goalie drill is designed to reinforce a movement in response to an input.
Sounds a little complex, but think about it…the goalie sees the ball coming at them, they recognize where it’s going, and then they move in front of the space where the ball is going.
Ball goes here. Goalie goes there.
So a drill you choose is doing one of three things. It is:
- Reinforcing a proper movement.
- Breaking down a movement into smaller sub-movements in an effort to build on what is working.
- Reinforcing an improper movement.
We Are Wiring a Lacrosse Goalie
We know from neuro-biology that neurons that wire together…fire together.
But it needs to be done repeatedly in order for the neurons to stay wired together. This is an important point because instead of throwing a ton of drills at a goalie, or any athlete for that matter, you’re better off sticking to a handful of drills that a goalie can master so that they become automatic.
Think of a single thread. When a goalie masters a movement it’s like a single thread is now holding that skill together.
If you don’t reinforce it, that skill will just break. But if you do it again and again successfully that string turns into a thread that turns into a rope, and that rope can eventually hold a battleship it’s so strong.
When we wire our lacrosse goalie we are creating those threads, over and over again. And that is why your choice of drills is so important because:
- A drill is either taking your goalie CLOSER to the ideal movement, or…
- It is taking them AWAY from that ideal movement.
There is no in between. There is no grey area. You are either wiring proper movement or you’re not.
So here’s the first clue...if what the goalie is doing doesn’t specifically replicate what we want them to do in the cage then it is taking them AWAY from what we want them to do.
The Mistakes I See Most Goalie Coaches Making
When it comes to lacrosse goalie drills that are a waste of time, they fall into a few categories. I wrote about some specific drills that are a waste of time in this post here.
There are more and I want to give you some categories so you notice what drills are effective for YOUR goalie and what aren’t.
Using Drills That Are NOT Difficult Enough For Your Lacrosse Goalie
If your goalie can catch and throw relatively well with a goalie stick, then you should probably spend time with them increasing their skills…with the stick.
Taking a goalie who can throw and catch and then having them do a soft, arcing ball toss is a waste of time. It looks like work…but it’s a waste of time.
I watched a team a couple of years ago where the offense was in a shooting drill and the goalies were off doing the one-handed-soft-toss drill. That is an absolute waste development time for your goalies.
Drills That Reinforce Bad Movement
The drills you pick need to replicate proper movement in front of a ball.
That means, no stabbing of the hands at a ball. No reaching. No vertical jumping.
We need to be reinforcing quality lateral movement that a goalie needs on game day.
I received an Instagram post for one of my goalies last week wondering if it was OK for her to do.
In the video the goalie was getting shot on by a goalie coach and a tennis racket. He was doing a rapid-fire drill firing tennis balls as fast as he could.
Now, I get it…the idea here is to get lots of reps and to fatigue the goalie.
But the goalie was stabbing and flailing and looking nothing like a lacrosse goalie in the process.
As she stabbed at the ball and then tried to toss them to the side quickly she did nothing to improve her game in those 8 seconds as she saw thirty balls.
While fast shot drills can be fun…they tend to reinforce bad movement.
So does jumping rope as well as most rebounder work.
Rebounder Work Can Cause Bad Habits
What!? Re-bounder work?
Hold up…I’m not saying re-bounders are bad…but it depends on the qualities you’re trying to improve.
If you watch most lacrosse goalies on a re-bounder they are basically throwing down at the re-bounder in order to have the ball bounce high enough to catch it.
I do believe the throwing reps can be good, but when you get out to the field, if you notice your goalie can’t throw a ball in an arc down the field, the reps on the re-bounder may be the culprit.
Drills That Are Not Effective For What The Lacrosse Goalie Needs
Drills need to be specific and all too often I see goalies doing drills that are really easy or just inappropriate.
Most ladder drills fall into this category.
People think, incorrectly, that a lacrosse goalie needs “fast feet” when in fact what they really need are “strong legs”.
Is your drill making them look like an Irish Step dancer bouncing in a circle? Or are they in the gym working on their lateral mobility and leg strength?
Or take this gem of a “hand-eye” drill that was making the lacrosse goalie rounds.
How dropping a ball…TO YOURSELF!…can be some sort of reaction drill is beyond me. (DON”T DO THIS DRILL)
(BTW this guy didn’t get fast hands because he was reaching for tennis balls he got fast hands because HE”S BEEN PUNCHING PEOPLE! For years!)
Drills That Are Trying To Do Too Much
This is a VERY common mistake by well-meaning coaches who just don’t know any better.
Hey what’s better than one cool drill? How about three cool drills ALL AT THE SAME TIME!?
There’s a joke about triathletes and it goes like this…as fit as they are…they are still bad at swimming (compared to a swimmer), bad at cycling (compared to a cyclist) and bad at running (compared to a runner).
Now they might still be way better than you, but that doesn’t eliminate the problem.
They are trying to do too much to be any good at any of it.
And that’s what most lacrosse goalies do. Too much.
Take this video for example I found on Instagram:
Now if you know this goalie, please don’t pick on him. I don’t know who this is and I want to start by commending his effort.
But this is exactly what bothers me. This is obviously a very hard-working goalie…but this combination of drills isn’t really helping him because he’s trying to do too much at once.
Use a slide board. Just don’t try and slide board AND cradle AND do wall ball at the same time.
If you’re going to work your hips…work them properly.
If you need to improve your shoulder and forearm strength…get in the gym.
Do ONE thing and do it well.
And no…sorry. Don’t tell me you don’t have time.
The average student-athlete these days wastes 4-5 HOURS a day.
You’ve got time.
Drills That Are Too Hard For The Lacrosse Goalie
This sounds obvious but too many coaches ignore it.
Sometimes…the drill you pick is going to be too hard for the goalie.
You’re not doing ANY benefit to the goalie if they are in there and they are physically overmatched or worse…afraid.
If your goalie is freaking out inside…they aren’t learning. Period.
You’re not “toughening them up”. You’re putting them on the wrong side of development.
Your goalie should be thriving and not surviving.
So What Should You Do?
Simplify. Stop doing drills for drills sake. You are not at a goalie camp trying to make up time.
- Coaches need to get better about incorporating lacrosse goalies into their normal, every day practice.
- Skip line drills and shoot instead. Get your goalies protected. Move shooters back to regulate shot velocity. Etc.
- If there is a flaw (i.e. the goalie isn’t moving right)
- Tone down the stress on the goalie. They have to be able to think to improve. If they are scared…you’re not helping.
- Make sure they are physically capable of the movement you’re asking them to perform.
- Work on “layering” their skills every day.
- Find the “layer” that needs the work. (It’s usually the one below where the fear set in.)
There is very rarely an exception to just shooting on a goalie with a stick and a ball. You don’t need some gimmicky drill. Your goalie needs reps to learn how to see the ball, know where it’s going, and then move in front of that ball.
Be smart. Have fun. And help your goalie. And remember…everything is possible with progression.