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John Galloway Rochester Rattlers MLL Goalie Photo: Major League Lacrosse
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Veteran MLL Goalie Longevity – Galloway, Phipps, Fullerton Weigh In

One aspect of the game that has always fascinated me is the MLL goalie. For one, it is because I consider this position as one of the most difficult ones to play in sports. The goal is big, the ball is small, it is fast, and the padding is minimal. Half-joking, the lacrosse world just accepts that goalies are all a little bit crazy. To step between those pipes means you will be hit with that rubber ball traveling at excessive velocities (often).

When you add the MLL element to this, it means that ball will be traveling faster, more often, and more accurately. More of the shots you see will be on goal, from better position, and from stronger shooters. The two point line means someone will stop in transition to unleash an 100+ MPH shot if they can get their hands free.

Not Why, But How?

Within the game, the difficulty level is high and we can accept that. Where I really become fascinated is how do these players come back year after year and improve? Everyone else on the field can train hard to become bigger, faster, stronger. They can take hundreds of reps on cage, run miles on the track, or do agility drills until they drop. When it comes to being a goalie, jumping into a weeknight pickup game just is not going to offer MLL level training.

When I first approached a team with the question of “How do your goalies stay sharp in the offseason?” They just laughed and said, “they don’t do anything. I’m sure you’ll find some that do, but seeing live shots is not something they want all offseason.”

So I asked around and found a few goalies that have seen sustained success in the league. They’ve managed to stay sharp year to year, so can offer the best insight for how to keep their level high. It is not too surprising, but they all have very different approaches. And no. None of them like seeing 100 mph shots all offseason.

Veteran MLL Goalie Q+A

Adam Fullerton – 10 Year Veteran

Adam Fullerton Denver Outlaws MLL Goalie Photo: Major League Lacrosse
Photo: Major League Lacrosse

Adam Fullerton was the first guy I checked in with. The former Team USA goalie has been a bit of a journeyman backup in the league, but has still managed to be a part of a team year after year. He started last season in Ohio, before being traded out to Denver to help guide Jack Kelly through his rookie season on the way to an MLL championship.

Adam, how long have you been playing in the MLL?

This is my 10th year.

Impressive! So you went to college at West Point, and have since transitioned from Military life to civilian life. How has that affected your lacrosse?

My training has significantly decreased, both lacrosse training and physical, as I transitioned from the military to a normal civilian job. In college, I was playing 6 days a week and watching film for hours. Now I’m lucky to catch a game on LSN and play about one day a week. It is hard to find quality training time given my regular profession, but still just as important as it was in college.

I imagine that’s really tough. What is the most difficult thing for you to adjust to as the season approaches?

Speed of shots is always most difficult thing to adjust each year, especially as I get older, and the shooters get stronger. It is not easy to find skilled shooters to shoot on me in the off season.

Timing for goalies is everything. Everything else I can practice on my own. Training camp becomes essential in order to knock the rust off and see quality shots again.

How difficult was it to adjust back into competitive lacrosse after deploying overseas in the Army?

I was so excited to play lacrosse again after my deployment. So excited that I tore me ACL 4 months later playing in a pick-up indoor game. I thought it would be good for me to play offense and run the field, turned out to not be a great decision as I ended up missing the entire upcoming MLL season.

Although it did not end up as I had envisioned, it was so nice to get back to “normal” life after the deployment.

Adam Fullerton Ohio Machine MLL Goalie Photo: Major League Lacrosse
Photo: Major League Lacrosse
In your “normal” life, you’re on your own to stay sharp. What is your “go to” drill for goalies?

My favorite goalie drill these days is a soft toss drill. I learned this in Ohio last year with Scotty Rogers. Nothing complicated at all.

The drill is done with no stick. Have a partner toss a ball to each shot location and make the save focusing on footwork/hand eye. If the drill is done at a fast pace, it serves as a pretty good start to a warm up, and prevents you from getting banged up with shots.

How much as the league changed since your rookie year?

The change in athlete from my first year in the league to now is unbelievable. We are on the cusp of having a league full of full time professional athletes.

The level of preparation, and subsequently the level of play, increases each year. Our sport is primed and ready for the next step. It is a great time to be a lacrosse player.

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Brian Phipps – 7 Year Veteran

Brian Phipps Chesapeake Bayhawks MLL Goalie Photo: Major League Lacrosse
Photo: Major League Lacrosse

Next I checked with Brian Phipps of the Chesapeake Bayhawks. He bounced between Chesapeake and Ohio through his career, but had an outstanding 2016 that earned him a spot on the Team USA training roster.

Brian, how long have you been in the MLL now?

This will be my 7th year in the MLL.

After six seasons, how has your training changed over time?

I am probably the wrong person to ask about training and workouts. The years right after college, I spent the most time working out and taking shots during the season.

Recently, I have gone with the approach that I will use training camp to get back into the swing of things. I treat it like riding a bike. I haven’t taken shots outside of practices in a couple years. Ironically, I have played better without it. This year I have been more into working out to keep up and improve on my quickness. I am more devoted to that than seeing shots. Since I will be turning 30 this year, I see the importance of working on the quickness factor.

Chesapeake v Charlotte - MLL Week 15My biggest training advantage the last couple years is the ability to watch more film. Now that I am a high school coach, I do not have to travel around the country recruiting during the summer, which allows me to devote more attention to watching film. Also, with the increase in technology and accessibility of games has helped as well. I train my brain more than I train my body.

How does that type of training for the MLL compare to what you did during college?

In college, I saw a lot of shots during my career. But my senior year, I was coming off ACL surgery and was trying to be fresh for game days rather than going all out at practices. I am trying to do the same approach in the MLL to stay fresh for the games.

The goalie position is a huge mental position. If you’re feeling right mentally, that allows you to play at your best.

What is the toughest part when the season comes around?

Getting acclimated to live 6v6 playing. This comes with the intensity of training camp. I do think that it is easier for a goalie to get acclimated back to playing than field players. It is tough for attackmen and defensemen to simulate live action on their own when they are training. For me, I feel it is like riding a bike since I am comfortable in the cage.

What do you do to make the 6v6 easier?

I think getting to know your teammates and develop a bond with them is the best way to feel comfortable with the team. I am big on learning tendencies with my teammates and building trust. Teams that hang out together and have a fun locker room, I feel those teams are the most successful.

What is your favorite goalie drill?

For me, it’s all about foot speed and hand speed. The ball toss drill is a staple of mine that I use with young goalies. It helps focus on the footwork, as well as hand-eye coordination.

Simple enough. Anything else you’d like to add?

Being a goalie in this league, I think the biggest advantage is experience. Knowing how the game is played and understanding offenses is the best advantage for me. I study hours of film on the other team prior to games. I watch their offensive movement, their tendencies, as well as their shooters and their tendencies. I think that is the biggest thing I have learned throughout the league.

I think studying film is my best training tool that I can do. I think there are several times a game that I can say I knew that they were going to do this or that because of the film study.

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John Galloway – 7 Year Veteran

John Galloway Rochester Rattlers MLL Goalie Photo: Major League Lacrosse
Photo: Major League Lacrosse

Finally, John Galloway of the Rochester Rattlers weighed in. The two-time Goaltender of the Year in the MLL and former Team USA back-stopper has figured out how to keep performing at a high level after graduation.

Hey John, how long have you been in the MLL?

I have been in the MLL since the summer of 2011. This upcoming summer will be my 7th summer.

How does your training in the MLL compare to what you did during college?

I have adapted my training based on my needs. Coming out of college, I needed a lot of live shots. Now, I focus more on keeping my fundamentals sharp. I may see live shots only 1 or 2 times a week, with a greater emphasis on footwork and fundamental speed in between.

My training now is very independent. I have to find ways to train myself because I don’t always have someone to help. It just makes training more creative.

What is the toughest part when the season comes around?

The toughest part when the season comes around is reacting to the movement of players. When taking live shots, it is impossible to mimic real ball movement. It usually takes 2 or 3 games to be up to full speed.

John Galloway Rochester Rattlers MLL Goalie Photo: Major League Lacrosse
Photo: Major League Lacrosse
What do you do to make adjusting to game speed easier?

I try to put myself in disadvantage situations as often as possible. I will look away from the shooters or create unsettling situations in the goal before seeing a shot to mimic the speed. Nothing makes up for game experience though.

How much do you practice with a short stick versus a full goalie stick?

I use a weighted short stick 2 or 3 times a week. Beyond that, I prefer having my goalie stick in hand to master the feel of it.

What is your favorite goalie drill?

My favorite goalie drill is “Footie.” Blaze helps me get ready for this drill every game. It is a simple footwork drill focused on stepping to the ball and gathering your weight.

It is my #1 drill!

Awesome! Anything else you want to add about the experience?

I am so lucky to be competitive still in the MLL. Playing for the Rochester Rattlers motivates me throughout the year and I consider myself a lucky man for being able to still be a part of it.

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Thanks to these three seasoned vets for taking the time. Who do you want to hear from next and what do you want us to talk about? Let us know in the comments below!