In this month’s player development feature, pick up a variety of essential save techniques that will go a long way towards boosting the back end of your defense. With Syracuse coach Kevin Donahue as your guide, learn about goaltender tips and tricks that you can start implementing immediately with your own netminders.
Tips & Tricks: Goalie Save Techniques
Soft Top Hands – For effective goaltending, the overall emphasis should be placed on the top hand and having soft top hands. Don’t grab the stick with a death grip. This could come back to haunt goalies on rebounds. Therefore, your hands must be out and away from the body.
Hands Together – Another key is to use the bottom hand together WITH the top hand (versus having a dominant bottom hand). For example, if you go for saves using a dominant bottom hand, you may have a slower save reaction time or place too much emphasis in one area. Your hands also must be comfortable and relaxed.
Follow with the Feet – As for your feet, the key here is to make sure they are following the hands. Coach Donahue always tells his players that the hands move first but the feet follow. It’s essential that you follow with the feet.
Lateral Movement – In the past, coaches used to teach attacking the ball. However, this tactic stopped about 10 years ago. Quite simply, shooters are more accurate and faster, and we realized that most goalies weren’t getting to the corner pipe as much. This is why most feet movements now are lateral (or sideways).
Trail Leg Tips – In the video below, you will notice how the goalie brings his trail leg in right away. Young goalies might leave their trail leg behind. However, this opens up the five-hole and can make them off balance, especially on low shots. By bringing that trail leg, you create a “leg, stick, leg” wall.
Tips for Making Saves Down Low
When it comes to making saves down low, one of the biggest things that goaltenders do wrong is trying to catch the ball. This is not a habit you want your goalies to get accustomed to as a lot of bad things can happen.
For instance, the bottom hand often moves back behind the player and forces the shoulders to turn. Since the goalie is now sideways, it’s really easy for the ball to go in the goal in this position. Plus, if you try to “catch” the ball high, the stick gets particularly small. The biggest surface area is when the hands are out front and the shoulders are back.
On low saves, make sure the feet follow and be in the biggest possible position. It’s also important to get a proper angle with the stick on low shots so that the ball hits the stick and comes right back down. A bad angle could lead to shots rolling up on you and ultimately into the cage.
Looking to be a difference-maker at the face-off X this season? Follow along with Syracuse assistant men’s lacrosse coach Kevin Donahue as he breaks down proper hand and foot placement when it comes to face-offs. These must-have tips and techniques will go a long way towards improving your fundamentals as you look to make strides in your face-off play.
First, your top hand should be as high as the rules allow you to get. The further up you can get, the better (and obviously playing within the rules of the game). This is where the force is going to come from. If you are down lower, you will lose a lot of leverage.
Eventually you have to make a decision about which grip to use. Do you go with a regular grip or a reverse/motorcycle grip? Well, both have advantages. For instance, the reverse grip can be quite effective, but it limits what other moves you can use. Meanwhile, the regular grip allows you to have more counters and helps disguise what you are doing a little more.
All the while, your left hand is really important and don’t use it effectively enough. Where you place your left hand depends on which move you are going to do.
*Now follow closely as Coach Donahue provides some examples of proper hand placement during face-offs.
Tip #1 – If your hand is close to your other hand, with a very short movement, your handle can go a long way. While it can be quick, the problem with this is that with your hands that close, you lose power. If the opponent is using a power move on you, you won’t have any strength.
Tip #2 — If you bring your hand all the way down to the end of the stick, your hand has to move farther and it’s much slower. But you have power.
When it comes to your feet, they MUST be able to support what you are doing with your hands. For example, most kids in lacrosse camps have their feet back too far on face-offs. In this position, they simply won’t be able to move their hands very well.
Therefore, keep the right foot close to the hands. This will allow a player to get his weight off of his hands, also allowing the athlete to get their right shoulder over the ball, which is where you want to be anyway.
Meanwhile, the placement of the left leg is a bit trickier. It can actually take a while for a player to figure out where he wants it and what works best. Many times it often depends on the size of the player. For instance, taller guys may have to stick their leg out a little because otherwise it’s just not comfortable any other way.
Also, try turning in a little bit, especially if clamping. This will really help you get to where you want to go.
Syracuse men’s lacrosse coach John Desko reveals one of his favorite team drills covering unsettled situations. Follow along as Coach Desko reviews each drill segment using helpful diagrams before heading to the field for live action with his squad. 3-on-2 shooting is a drill frequently used in practice by the Orangemen.
Offensively, this is a terrific lacrosse drill for working on how to finish unsettled situations and maintain your offensive spacing. On the defensive side, it’s an ideal practice for defenders to work on taking on two players at the same time.
Start with three lines of offensive players and two defensive lines. Look to use middies in this drill offensively. Later on, we will tweak it a bit and implement attackers. You can have as many players in each line and try to rotate players through quickly.
First, the player with the ball is trying to draw a defensive player and force that player to make a big commitment. Next, the ball handler wants to read the defense and see where the 2-on-1 advantage is, aiming to beat the defensive players’ slides.
According to Coach Desko, space is important. Don’t let your players get too close to the goal. This would be unrealistic in a game situation. Also, when carrying the ball in our spike, we don’t want to let the defensive player get between you and the teammate we are trying to throw the ball to. It’s not as important to cut in towards the goal, but it’s definitely key to carry the ball left or right and not into the passing lane where the defender is.
Remember, if the defender is playing aggressively, you may have to roll to get out of it and pass to the next player. 45:07
Now we will work with attackmen and close defenseman for this segment. Like before, get three lines of offensive players and two lines of defensive players. The drill is exactly the same as before but now we are reversing it and starting behind the goal. This is obviously where the attackers are playing more often.
This is a perfect drill defensively for unsettled situations. Offensively, it’s great for odd-man scenarios or working against slides in 6-on-6 package where you have numbers somewhere. On the field, take particular notice of players trying to cover passing lines.
There are a number of ways to change up the drill as well. For instance, you can run your offense if you want. Or you can run a three-man offense with attackers in triangles or middies in a three-man group.
You can also run a 3-on-2 combo with midfielders and defensive midfielders up top and attackmen and close defenders behind. Just simply alternate sides of the field. Start with one group with the ball (let’s say middies). After that first group makes a run, the attackers and defenders will come out and run it. Just go back and forth.
Notice that we don’t want attackers getting too far up the field. We also don’t want midfielders getting too far down the field and close to the goal. It becomes unrealistic and too hard for the defense to cover. The spacing is so important. Therefore, look to bring out two of the close defenders. They are not live, but standing like cones to stop offensive players from getting too close to the goal.
Remember, constant communication and proper stick positioning are essential. Also, play the passing lanes to force the offense to play further out.
Bonus: Watch the video clip below to check out 3-on-2 shooting in the 2009 NCAA men’s national title game.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “The Syracuse Way: Building a Championship Lacrosse Program.” Check out additional program development videos by clicking here.
In this week’s Lacrosse Insider series, Syracuse head men’s lacrosse coach John Desko reveals his yearly scheduling plan. From Fall Ball to the postseason, learn exactly how one of the game’s top coaches organizes and prepares for the season. Coach Desko also demonstrates two effective drills that are staples for his lacrosse program. Look to pick up overall tips, insights, and drills and see how you can implement them with your own program this season.
According to Coach Desko, the players come back the first two weeks on campus and start their fall season. They go five or six weeks and do quite a bit, perhaps more than most programs, especially considering Syracuse’s long winter. The players get a lot of clears and rides in and do the things they might not be able to do on a full field in the early spring.
For post-fall activities, the team focuses on a lot of individual instruction. Then the last two weeks on campus is mostly about strength and conditioning. Winter break is about three weeks long and the players go home with winter workouts and runs.
When the players return in the spring for preseason, the team arrives three or four days before school starts and immediately gets into two-a-days (in the AM and then PM). In the AM practices, the team focuses on explanation and reviewing things we learned in the fall. It’s more of a mental practice and reviewing set plays, rides, special defenses, etc. The afternoon session is more of a regular practice and the players are really getting up and down the field, perhaps implementing some 1-on-1’s, scrimmaging, 6-on-6, and more. It’s all about putting to use the concepts learned in the AM session and then physically going out and practicing it.
It’s also a good time to test the players in strength and conditioning to see exactly where they’re at and use that as a baseline. We go for three weeks with regular practice while putting in some new elements or schemes — so more of a “re-do” of the fall.
After three weeks, the team gets into their first scrimmages and then that leads into the regular season. The regular season is a lot of scouting and preparing players for specific opponents. Since Syracuse now features one or two games a week, the team is still doing some strength and conditioning, but not quite as much as it did in the fall or preseason. The team is also doing more of a maintenance workout in the weight room. Overall, your week looks quite different. You have regular workouts on Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday you are lightening up a bit and doing a lot more scouting and walking through offenses and defenses plus match-ups.
The program has three mid-week games this year as well. Then there’s the postseason followed by summer break. The coaches let the players go for the summer but want them to relax and enjoy the summer and then gear up for the following year.
These drills can be applied at many different levels. Coaches, don’t just do these drills for five minutes and get frustrated. Put them to use and give your players some time. Coach your players through them. The more you do them the better you will get at them and you’ll see the benefits.
This is a line drill but not in a traditional way. We are starting with five lines (all X’s). In this case, we only have two players in each line. The lines are almost in a star formation and the ball starts at the top. This player will run out and throw the ball to the left line. In this drill, you are catching and receiving the ball with your left hand and you will throw it across the front of your body with your left hand. Do not switch hands. You can do this drill with three or four lines and can add to this. Here we are using one ball to start, but you can use two or three if you want, depending on how you want to modify it. Then reverse direction and do the drill with the right hand. It can also be turned into a ground ball drill as well.
Tips: Timing is crucial in this drill. We like to break out 10-12 yards to catch the ball. You can shorten or lengthen this distance. We do this drill to help beat defensive slides. Often you will get a slide or double team to the ball and you want to pass the ball to the next player as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it gives the defense time to recover. So the quicker the movement, the tougher it is on defenses recovering to the find the open man.
We do this drill with four players at a time. You want 2, 3 or 4 players in each line. A player will start with the ball and start by passing. The adjacent player will break to the center and then back out towards the ball with his left hand (like a V-cut). Unlike the Spike Drill, here you will catch with your left hand, roll, and then throw to the next player in line with you right hand. We are changing hands. Timing is involved like before. You want the next player to receive the ball and come out and catch it at a distance that you appropriate (10-12 yards). When you do catch the ball, don’t switch your hands too quickly. Roll before you switch hands to protect the stick.
Tips: The ball bucket placement represents how far we want the players to break in. You can switch, for instance, by catching right, rolling, and throwing left. You can get a lot of reps with this drill and spice it up by denying the other player the ball. So you have the defensive players trying to shut off the offensive player and really pressure them. Offensive players must work really hard to catch and throw while being shut off. It’s a great practice drill for under two-minute scenarios (to practice stalling) like at the end of a quarter or game. Timing and effective cutting is key because you need that space to operate. Remember, don’t V-cut away. This only makes it easier for the defensive player.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “The Syracuse Way: Building a Championship Lacrosse Program.” Check out more program development videos by clicking here.