This week’s player development feature highlights proper goalie positioning covering a variety of different situations. Former Towson head coach Tony Seaman breaks down key tips and techniques for goaltenders when the ball is behind the cage and being dodged from the side. Also, learn about how to “match sticks” and figure out player “tells” in order to stay one step ahead of the opposition.
Positioning with the Ball Behind the Net
The position of the goalie when the ball is behind the net is very important. Let’s start with footwork. When a player has the ball behind the goalie on the left, the goalie’s right leg should be in the middle of the goal. Meanwhile, his left leg should be facing towards the player with the ball.
Notice that the stick is not higher than the pipe. This says to the offense that if they want to pass the ball over the goalie, they can probably go ahead and try. However, the goalie has the ability to reach out and knock down any of those passes. We say, “try it”, but we’ll more than likely knock it down.
Positioning on Dodges
Next, if an offensive player looks to moves up field from behind the cage on the side, the goalie can also step to the pipe. At this position, a goaltender will be closer and taller in the pipe and won’t allow an offensive player to have the inside angle to shoot at. This also forces the opposition to go around and shoot around the goal. This is considered good pipe coverage.
As for the opposite side (to the right), the left foot should be in the middle of the goal with the right foot facing the offensive player. As that player drives, the goalie should step up and protect the pipe while facing the offensive player. One of the biggest rules for a goalie is to never give up the near pipe – AKA the space between the goalie and the pipe.
One area that isn’t practiced far enough with goalies is when players dodge from behind or pass the ball from behind. These are the situations when goalies must learn how to turn, follow, and pick up the shot. It’s typically one of the keys for most offenses you go against, so it’s important for you to work on this technique and skill. Remember, your body should also follow your hands.
Many goalies keep a rule of thumb in mind to match sticks. In other words, this means to match the plane of the ball. If one offensive player throws a pass out in front to another player, the area where the player catches the ball is probably the level where the ball is going to come from (off the shot).
With the ball down low, 90 percent of the time the shot is going to come from the hip or side arm or lower. The vast majority of shooters in the country will shoot low when they drop their sticks low. Therefore, the biggest thing for the goalie is to follow the plane of the ball and get the stick there.
Intercepting Balls Thrown from Behind
When intercepting balls thrown from behind the goal, the goalie should be in a position to reach up and deflect or catch a pass. Keep that outside foot in the center of the goal and maintain proper positioning. Always be in ready position.
If a ball is thrown from up top to behind the goal and close to the cage, the goalie can come out and intercept the pass on the run. But beware of the fake pass, as that player will have an open look on net. Don’t get out there early. Leave once the ball has been thrown.
Practice Drills for Goalies
Good technique comes from practice and extra hours even away from the field. Just playing catch can have a major impact for a player — and it doesn’t even have to be with another goalie.
Each and every time you want to get a good step with the lead foot and nice follow through. Continue to pass and catch further apart and work on longer passes. Start with good, straight throws and then eventually move up to arcs and 35-40-yard passes that you can make with accuracy and control.
Meanwhile, when you don’t have someone to throw to, look for a wall. This gives you a chance to work on your skills by yourself. The wall never misses a pass and always throws it back. Remember to work on good technique of stepping towards the ball and stopping the ball. As a goaltender, it’s key to stop the ball, not necessarily catch the ball. We don’t want to turn the stick and cradle. Rather, we want to use as much of the face of the stick to stop the ball as possible.
Notice that the stick is always facing out toward the shot until the ball has hit the stick. Use good form to throw it back. Plus, a wall with an uneven surface really helps for catching and your overall reaction.
The above clips and techniques can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion Lacrosse Player: The Goalie” with Tony Seaman. Check out more goalie-specific videos in our extensive lacrosse DVD library.