This one is for all of the coaches out there. All too often when it gets to this time of the year, I see coaches just throw anyone into the goal. Let me be upfront by saying, I understand that not everyone has the luxury of even having a choice for who they want in goal. But, if you’re starting fresh and have an opportunity to lead someone to the cage, here are some characteristics you should look for when evaluating a potential goalie.
- Fearlessness- Ok, this may seem obvious, but you would be surprised at how many goalies are thrown in the goal, only to step BACKWARDS when the shot is taken. Rubber is going to be flying at the goalie. If they need more protection, that is fine, but the first trait that any goalie must have is fearlessness of the ball. Find the player blasting through double teams, aggressively checking or otherwise displaying traits that may seem like overkill for their age. Harness their energy and try them in goal.
- Quick Reaction- Many goalies are able to master the fundamentals of lacrosse, but what they lack is basic quick reaction and recognition- both physically and mentally. A goalie leads the defense and must see what is coming next before the offense even knows, and likewise must be able to read a shot at blazing speeds. Having the mental and physical skills to react in pressure situations is key. Find that player who understands not just the what, but the why. Bonus points if they can do a Hart Chart quickly.
- Quickness- I’m not just talking about fast feet, but also fast hands- Mr. Miyagi style. It is the first thing that should move towards the ball and the main thing getting behind it. Your body is there for back-up, and while you need to have quick feet, quick hands are hard to come by. Someone who plays ping-pong, video games, etc may actually fit this role quite nicely.
- Individuality- Often overlooked, but you need to find someone who is wise beyond their years. A player who doesn’t mind what the rest of the crowd thinks, beats to their own drum and one that won’t be phased by letting a goal in. That’s not to say you don’t want a competitive person in cage, you most certainly do, but even the best goalies let in 40-50% of the shots on cage. There will be heart breaks, last second goals, and missed opportunities, but the true goalie bounces back quicker than his counterparts.
Outside of that, the most important thing is to look for a goalie who will fit your system. If you expect your goalie to be an extra defender, you might be looking for someone different than a team that expects their goalie to stand tall in cage. Each team is built differently, but the four points above will apply to ANY great goalie.
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