A major part of a goaltender’s success stems from the first step. Developing that initial step will enable you to get to balls quicker, develop better range, and ultimately contribute towards improved performances.
This week, North Carolina women’s lacrosse coach Phil Barnes reveals his top overall goaltending keys before leading you through effective stepping drills for warm-ups and practice. These easy-to-implement drills will train the stick and the feet to get to the seven defensive areas of the cage and go a long way towards developing overall goaltending skills.
1) Technique — Your number one priority as a goalie is to stop the ball. If a goalie has has good technique, they will be able to do that. Remember, there’s only so many movements to make, so the variables are not the same as a defender or attacker. In the end, technique is what will put a goalie over the top.
2) Hand-eye Coordination and Intelligence — If a goalie has above average hand-eye coordination, they can probably do everything you want them to do from a technique standpoint.
3) Mental Toughness — Goalies will see a lot of shots and the ball will go in. There is responsibility around this. If a goalie isn’t mentally tough, you may want to find a different one. You may end up working more on the mental side than the physical side of things.
We’re looking to improve that first step to the ball so you can get there quicker. The following stepping warm-up drills train the stick and feet to get to the seven defensive save areas. It also focuses on a quick and clean stick turnover.
There are tons of different theories on how you should lead warm-up drills for stepping. For Coach Barnes, it starts with the first step/lead step/attack step. The second step is something that occurs naturally. Therefore, our first concern is how quick is that first step to the ball. If the first step is slow, you will never get to the ball regardless of how quick you get your second step there.
7 Save Areas: High right, high left, middle right, middle left, low right, low left, and between the legs.
Stick Side Low — Players should assume ready positioning and then repeatedly make stick-side low movements using their first step. No saves or balls are used in these drills. Every fourth rep, have the players step with two steps (so they keep that habit of bringing the second foot).
Key: Look for quick and clean turnover here. Also, remember the stick and first step hit the ground at the same time.
Non-Stick Side Low — Put an emphasis on the stick and first step getting there at the same exact time. Notice players hold the save positioning for a few seconds so they can get that muscle memory in there (about three seconds). Mix up the reps every time you run this drill (anywhere between 6 and 20 reps).
Going High — Keep in mind that the first step is always the same for any save. Nothing changes.
Stick Side High — Concentrate on raising the stick up high. If you tilt the stick back, the ball may go over your stick.
Non-Stick Side High — Here, we’ll implement the “Windshield Wiper” technique. Using the wrists, arms, and shoulders, drive them all together. Keep the stick straight so you don’t lose your angle to the ball. On every fourth rep, continue to step with two feet.
Stick Side Mid — We’re using the exact same motion here as we do going for low saves. We’re looking for a complete stick turnover in order to translate to a low save technique.
Non Stick Side Mid – Don’t forget to keep that same distance between your chest and the stick.
Typically, this warm-up drill will go for five minutes. Look to go for about 8-15 reps, maybe 21 per practice. Remember, technique is what separates good keepers from average ones and you can fall back on it time and time again.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Progressive Skill Development Warm-Up for Goalies” featuring Phil Barnes. To check out more videos highlighting goalie skills and drills, click here.