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Fearless Goalie
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How To Become A Fearless Lacrosse Goalie

Editor’s Note: Over the past few weeks, we’ve provided you with great training tips for midfielders, longsticks and shootersToday, we turn our focus to arguably the most important position on the field, goalie. We asked Trevor Tierney, one of the best goalies of all time, to help us solve a major issue for a lot of young keepers: Overcoming fear of the ball! 

Below you will find Trevor’s incredibly insightful response on goalie padding and how YOU can become a great goalie.  Don’t fear the ball!  Make your opponent fear YOU!

Fearless Goalie

Overcoming Your Fear of the Ball

For younger goalies, overcoming fear of the ball can be a big obstacle.  How can kids get over this fear?  Or is the goalie just a rare creature you must find?  Can a great goalie be created?

Okay, first things first: If you are a young goalie, and you are scared of the ball, then you are a smart man!

It’s a hard rubber ball traveling at an incredibly fast speed, and it is often hitting your body. Speaking from personal experience, I had to retire from a series of concussions, the last of which was suffered on a shot to the dome. Also, last year I had two laser surgeries on my legs because my veins were so damaged due to all the trauma over the years of getting hit by lacrosse balls!

What I am saying is, being scared of the lacrosse ball is a healthy and rational fear. I know this is going to surprise a lot of people, but I think our younger goalies should be wearing more protection out there. It is absolutely insane that we let little guys go out there and get peppered by hard rubber balls. Plus, there is a lot of great sports equipment available now, which was not around when I was a kid. I really think goalies can now protect themselves and still be just as quick in the goal. So, let’s drop the “tough guy” attitude and start being rational.

Here’s a quick run through of all the equipment a young goalie should have:

1. The best helmet money can buy.

You can get concussions from getting hit with shots or getting blind sided around the crease. Trust me, as I had about 12 of them. Protect your head and get a top of the line helmet. And make sure you get a throat guard that covers your entire neck. It is VERY dangerous to play without a throat guard. You do not want to get hit in the larynx.

Lacrosse goalie save dive
Definitely wear a good helmet!

2. A hockey goalie cup.

This should probably be number one on my list, come to think of it. Protect your boys down there and get a real cup! Those plastic cups and jocks that you can buy at Sports Authority do not protect well when you get hit in the pebbles by a lacrosse shot! Get a hockey goalie cup from Bauer, or the ToolBox from Warrior. Hockey goalie cups have some extra hip padding and such that you can cut off to make it a little less bulky. I used to wear a pair of spandex, then the hockey goalie cup and then another pair of spandex over that cup to keep it tight to my body. Works like a charm…

3. Soccer shin pads.

Soccer shin pads are light and you can move around quickly in them. I wish that I had worn some when I was younger because now my shins are covered in calcium deposits that hurt to the slightest touch. If you don’t want people to know you are wearing shin pads, just wear sweats over them! Just don’t wear baseball shin pads or anything too bulky as they will actually slow you down.

4. Some of that new Nike Combat gear with padding.

Nike now makes spandex with padding in it for football players. They have spandex with thigh and hip padding and shirts with rib padding. Wear that for an extra layer of protection without too much additional bulk.

5. A good chest protector that you can move in.

Some of these chest protectors have gotten out of control. All you really need is one that protects your heart and chest well. The ones with shoulder and arm protection are hard to move in. The two body parts it is okay to leave exposed are the shoulder and arms. You can get some nice bruises there, but those are the least painful places to get hit, at least for the most part.

10 year old Maximus lacrosse goalie off hip save
Way to pad up, young man!

6. Good goalie gloves with thumb protection.

Warrior’s new Buzzkills are really nice gloves with a lot of protection for the the thumb. One of the most common injuries for goalies is a broken thumb. Somehow in 24 years of playing goalie, it never happened to me, but I was one of the few lucky ones!

Alright, so now that you are all protected, it’s time to go out there and make saves! The most important part about playing goalie is being completely present in the moment and not “thinking”. To be able to do this, you have to have great stick work and all of your fundamentals down pat. Wall ball, practice, and watching the college guys in action are all great ways to make big fundamental strides.

TrevorTierney Denver Outlaws lacrosse lax
Fundamentals, then fearlessness.

After you have those things down, then it becomes more of a mental game than anything else. When a shooter is winding up on you, your mind has to be completely blank. There can be no fear of the shot going in and no fear of getting hit with the ball. You can not think about where the shooter is trying to place the ball. When you are completely present like this, then you can just react to the ball with your instincts.

One drill that I do to help goalies learn this skill is the “YES” drill.

The “YES” Drill

I was taught this technique by a pro tennis coach and friend. It helped me to develop better reactions when I was facing the hardest shooters in the world in the MLL. It is a pretty simple drill, but very challenging to master at the same time.

In warm-ups, you pretend like there is a big plate of glass about 3 feet in front of you. The plate is the size of the goal. To do this, you have to relax your eyes and not focus on the shooter, his stick, his eyes or the ball in his pocket. Just learn to keep your eyes relaxed on your window. As your coach or teammate shoots on you, you say “YES” as the ball hits that imaginary plane of glass or window. You should be saying “YES” right before the ball hits your pocket.

This drill trains you to be focused on one thing and one thing alone: seeing the ball where you need to save it. This exercise zones out all the fears and other thoughts that you may have as a shooter is winding up at you. It trains you to react to the ball and not to guess, which will make you a more consistent goalie.

Prepare To Be Fearless

So, if you are a young goalie and are scared of the ball, first get yourself the proper equipment and protection. It’s absolutely moronic that we have little goalies out there with very little equipment on. It’s like back in the day when hockey goalies did not wear any face protection… nothing but stupid. Once you’re all padded up and ready to go, then work on the “YES” drill to become a present and focused goalie.

In no time, you will be playing like a fearless goalie who can save anything they throw at you!