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There may be no position more important in lacrosse than goalie. Goalies make up the core of a defense and “run the show.” It’s no secret that they have a big responsibility. This vital player must make the stops, and if they don’t, they receive the blame if the ball goes in the net. According to Towson head coach Tony Seaman, very few teams have won championships without an above-average goalie.
In this week’s player development feature, we’re going to take a closer look at three key areas of goaltending: proper grip, stance and footwork. Without having a solid foundation of these goaltending fundamentals, it will be difficult for a player to improve and rise to an elite level. However, if one can excel in these three areas, they’ll be well on their way to becoming a difference-maker in the game.
The top hand on the stick should be your dominant hand and should be placed on the top part of the stick as close to the head as possible. This positioning gives you much more control of the stick and allows you to get the stick head out to a shot. Plus, when the ball hits the stick, you want to be able to control the stick so it doesn’t turn on you and the ball ends up going in the goal.
Meanwhile, the bottom hand should be a comfortable distance apart from the top — about 10-12 inches, depending on one’s size and strength.
Also, keep in mind that a longer stick has the tendency to get caught on the body or uniform during play, but a shorter stick allows more freedom and less interference. But most of all, do what’s comfortable. For beginners, it’s recommended that you go with the shortest stick possible.
Next, the grip itself should make sure the wrists and hands are flexible. This is so the player can get to all parts of the cage quickly and save the ball. Meanwhile, your thumb should be to the side of the shaft. Sometimes, it’s preferred that you even wrap your thumb over the forefinger to give you more strength. However, make sure you don’t have a death grip or full-hand grip. This will take away the flexibility of your wrists. But with a flexible grip that features your knuckles pointing out, you won’t give up as many rebounds.
When talking about proper stance, goalies must always be bent. This allows you to get to the ground a lot quicker for low shots and your whole body is much more flexible this way. Never keep a straight back.
Next, your knees should be bent and avoid locking your legs. Locking your legs doesn’t allow you to step to the ball.
Meanwhile, your chest should be leading and out in front of you while your head is up and hands are in front of your chest and out in front of your body. Remember, never place the stick behind your head. It should be out in front of you so you can get to all directions and meet the ball. Also, goalies should always be “pigeon-toed” and on the balls of their feet. This allows you to step quicker to shots overall.
Proper footwork is very key to becoming a solid goaltender, and stepping toward a shot is vital. Remember, the shortest distance to any shot is a straight line. Therefore, your hands, chest, body and helmet should all lead toward a shot.
When a player shoots to the opposite side of the stick, a goalie should lead with that same foot. Therefore, a right-hander should step with his left foot and a left-hander should step with his right foot. However, for shots to the stick side, goalies should lead with their strong side foot and their body must follow.
A terrific warm-up drill that works on these footwork techniques actually involves no lacrosse stick at all. The participating player will make believe a stick is in his hand. Meanwhile, his partner will throw a ball to his right and left sides and the player must use proper footwork to catch and meet the ball with his hand.
The drill should include 10 throws to the right side and 10 throws to the left side. Throughout the duration of the drill, coaches should always watch the player’s feet. Make sure all body parts stay square to the shoulders, too. Then, switch to high and low throws on both sides after the initial 20 total reps.
The previous goaltending techniques can be found on the Championship Productions’ DVD “Becoming a Champion Lacrosse Player: The Goalie” featuring Tony Seaman. To see additional goaltending videos in our extensive catalog, click here.