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Angus Goodleaf Rochester Knighthawks NLL box lacrosse goalie Photo: Khoi Ton
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Building a Box Goalie: 5 Steps to Protect the Net

Building a box goalie can be a tough task if you aren’t well versed in the trade. It’s a different animal from field goalie, and there’s a lot to keep track of when you’re the last line of defense in box lacrosse.

If you’ve never played box goalie before, it can be daunting. What should you expect? How can you get better? Where are your opportunities? There are a number of answers to each of those questions, and we’ll do our best to give them to you with these five steps.

If you’re also looking to put together a box team, we partnered with PrimeTime Lacrosse to bring you the five steps you’ll need to make that happen. Can’t have a box goalie without a box team!

5 Steps to Building a Box Goalie

1. Get Geared Up

It might sound obvious, but this is the first, true step.

For building a box goalie, you’ll need everything it takes. Collect a box lacrosse goal, all the goalie pads, a bag of tennis balls, and a 2.5-foot wide by 3.5-foot tall piece of plywood (you’ll out why later). Learn how to strap all of your equipment on properly (you don’t want any mistakes leading to injury) and mentally prepare yourself to get pelted with lacrosse balls often.

box lacrosse goalie
Photo: Micheline V

2. Watch Box Lacrosse Games

Playing box goalie is a relatively unique position. You see a ton of shots, defend a small net with huge pads, and yet somehow, the other team almost always still scores a bunch of goals. It’s unlike hockey, soccer, or almost any other sport with a goaltender in this way, so it can be very difficult for a new player to really figure it out. Like with so many other things in life, watch others do, take notes, and follow their footsteps.

If you’re a coach, a great first step is to watch a game with your box goalie first. Let the game play and allow the player to ask questions. Then, watch the same game again, only this time watch the goalies. Do this a couple times, and you and your player will start to see the game and position a little clearer.

3. Break Bad Habits

Defending a box goal is about patience more than anything. A goalie who makes big moves early will often put themselves out of position and allow easy goals. But a patient goalie keeps breathing, doesn’t fall for the fakes, and defends that near-side pipe dearly right up until the last possible second.

Marty O’Neill has an amazing drill with a piece of plywood that teaches this skill fantastically. In fact, all of his drills are fantastic. But this one is truly suburb and hammers home the patience/near pipe idea perfectly.

4. Play a LOT

If there’s a box league in your area, figure out how to join it! This likely entails finding a local club that’s playing real box lacrosse like the Penguins Select Lacrosse Club in New England. Sign up and play as much as you can.

This should be obvious, but it has to be included. The more you play, the more experience you’ll have, and the better equipped you’ll be moving forward. But what if you don’t live near a league? Most people aren’t. The answer to that is simpler than you think.

Play in the side yard or backyard more. Find a 3×3/Speed Lacrosse goal and hop in net. Throw on a helmet and cup, toss out some tennis balls, and let your friends play 2-on-2 as you defend the net. If you do this over and over, when you get back out onto the box floor with all those pads, your form will be solid, you’ll see the game better, and then those big pads can do a lot of the work for you.

Also be sure to check out events offered by PrimeTime Lacrosse, which offers a range of boy’s box lacrosse opportunities on the east coast.

If you’re looking for a box experience in the coming months, don’t miss the Galactic Games in Hampton, New Hampshire, set for January 23-24, 2021.

5. Be an Athlete

You won’t be sprinting up and down the floor a lot as box goalie (unless your team goes into extra-man offense often), but you will be crouching and moving side-to-side in heavy gear for extended periods of time. This can be very hard on your legs and back, so having a strong lower body and core are big advantages. Some great box goalies are bigger guys, while others are skinny like a stick. But the good ones are all strong, agile, and quick like a cat.