Playing Goalie in Girls' Lacrosse
By Anthony Coleman
Pam Edwards has been fortunate to find girls’ lacrosse players who enjoy playing goalie. The head coach of the Hopewell Valley High School girls’ lacrosse team in Hopewell, N.J., realizes the position isn’t always fun.
There’s the helmet, the oversized lacrosse stick, balls whizzing at you at an unbelievable speed and from all types of angles.
“I would say playing goalie is the toughest position,” Edwards says. “I think the goalie has to be a real, true team player, because not everybody wants to play goalie. It is a tough position.
“In the middle schools, (goalie) is one of the harder spots to fill, because not everyone has a concept of what it is to be a lacrosse goalie. You have all of that equipment on. The ball is shot pretty fast. It’s hard as a younger kid trying to learn how to clear the ball (with the oversized head of the lacrosse stick). The toughest part about playing goalie is having a headshot taken at you and having that ball bounce off your helmet. The kids today can shoot the ball pretty fast.”
So in finding the right player for the all-important position, Edwards looks for certain qualities.
Edwards believes the goalie is the most athletic player on the field. So she begins by looking for the lacrosse player who displays the best agility, hand-eye coordination, reaction and footwork.
The championship-winning coach works footwork drills with goalies as well as reaction and clearing lacrosse drills — both with equipment on and off. As an example of reaction drills, the coach uses different color tennis balls and throws it at the player. The player must deflect a certain color while ignoring the others.
In addition, lacrosse drills can focusing on defending specific shooting styles and angles — high shots, snap shots and shots coming around the crease — which aim to improve the goalie.
Girls’ lacrosse is different from boys’ lacrosse in the sense that if a defensive foul is committed in the offensive zone, the offense gets an eight-meter free position shot on the goalie (with no other defender within four meters of the shooter). In boys’ lacrosse, it is similar to ice hockey, where the defense plays a man down with a certain amount of time (depending on the severity of the penalty).
Of all the sports which require a goalie, girls’ lacrosse gives the offensive player a greater advantage. So a goalie is going to give up some goals — in fact, a lot. A player must handle this mentally.
“You definitely have to be mentally tough,” Edwards said. “They need to know they are going to get scored upon. A lacrosse goalie is going to get scored upon more so probably than in a lot of other sports because of the nature of the game.”
Edwards feels the best way to approach it is to continually work with the goalie on lacrosse drills to better herself and attack weaknesses.
“What you want to do is set goals, like increasing the amount of saves each time out,” she says. “If you get scored upon, OK, try to shut down that shot the next time down. But I also want them to know it was the team that was scored upon. We are a team, and everyone has a job to do.”
Edwards also puts onus on the offense by stressing the importance of capitalizing at the offensive end, because at the other end, the opposing team will have a good chance of scoring, too.
Also, girls’ lacrosse defenders should be drilled in the importance of coming up with groundballs as protection for their goalie.