Greetings bruise-seekers, we were going through the fan mail and came across the following question: What lacrosse goalie drills for stepping to the ball would you recommend?
Inherent in the question is a great universal truth, that goalies must step towards the ball at all times. Thus we have someone who is well on their way to wisdom. Go on then.
This is a very basic problem, its elementary really, and yet I worked these drills all through my higher level playing days in high school and college and I continue to coach them. They are basic, however timeless.
Put in some time working just these lacrosse goalie drills for stepping to the ball until you have the basics down, then work them into your daily warm-up routine.
Walk The Line
Hopefully Johnny Cash is your jam (and if you don’t get the reference, well that’s just sad.)
For this drill grab your gear and find a line on a field, straddle the line so you have one foot to the left of it and one to the right. Think of a shot in your head, or have a coach yell one out, then make the imaginary save.
For example, “Offside Foot” – I’m right handed, so I’m going to lead with my left foot (my offside) and make a 45 degree step forward and to my left, I’m going to follow that up with my right foot as quickly as I can, to stay square and balanced. While I’m stepping I’m bending my knees slightly and swinging my arms down and out so that the head of my stick will drive into the ground and meet the ball, instead of letting it bounce. So that’s one shot “saved.” You’ll notice that you have taken a step forward (that’s the point!)
Now think of another shot (say…stickside hip) and make that imaginary save, taking another explosive step. Make enough saves so that you have walked down the line one step (or should I say save) at a time. Focus on technique and making the right moves, not getting down the line as quickly as possible (there’s post practice conditioning for that.)
Mix up where the shots come from and be sure to hit every area multiple times.
Let It Go
Cue the Frozen soundtrack and then drop your stick for this drill, you won’t need it. To begin, get in the correct stance with your hands placed just like they would be if you were holding your stick.
Only change is to adjust your top wrist/hand so that you can catch a ball bare-hand or in your glove. Have a coach stand about 5 yards outside of the crease and hand throw either lax or tennis balls at you, moving around to different positions. Have them go through each of the 7 positions in a predictable manner, tossing 3-5 “shots” per area (not very fast.)
For each shot focus on exploding toward where the ball is going, moving your whole body. Focus on moving BOTH your feet, not just your lead foot, and ending in the same position you started in.
Move your hands like you would if your stick was still in them. Catch the ball with your top hand if you can (this adds some nice hand-eye coordination work), but that’s not the point of the drill. The idea is to get your body behind every shot, and to create muscle memory in making these steps.
Start out slow until you get the feel of it, then focus on exploding to that point and attacking the ball. Make sure you are stepping toward the ball, not sideways! The idea is to have every shot hit you, thats why tennis balls are nice, and why the speed of the throw should not be crazy fast.)
This is a great basic drill for creating muscle memory and for getting your feet moving before practice and games.
Bucket’s Got A Hole In It
This is an expanded edition of the drill above. This time use a stick, but one with a head that does not have any mesh in it. This way the only way to save the shot is by stepping to it and having it hit your body.
You always want the ball to line up with your stick, to line up with your body (all in a straight line). Your shooter can use a stick and back up a little bit for this one (10-12 yards), and a tennis ball is recommended. Again, have a slow to medium shot speed and focus on the stepping movement. This drill will get you moving to the ball ASAP!
These are some very helpful physical drills that focus on technique and muscle memory, so that come game-time you don’t have to think about it, the step just happens.
The physical is only half the battle though, practicing stepping into the fast moving hard rubber ball is a mental game as much as physical. Talk yourself through it, repeating things like “step, step, step” or “attack, attack, attack” as you see a shooter winding up.
When you get hit with the ball in live practice or a game try yelling out a victory cry, the expression helps manage some of the pain and makes everyone think you are crazy (that’s the goal!)