Tag Archives: goalie


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I’m not going to lie. One of the main reasons I took to defense was because I did not have to run very much. Every time I cleared the ball across the midfield line I prayed that the offense would hold onto it so I could catch my breath. I was fairly quick and athletic for my age, and I was not a fat-body, for lack of a better term. Quite honestly, I was a perfectly average young player but I neglected working on my endurance to the detriment of my game.

One of the definitions of endurance is: “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.” Endurance is also known as stamina, but I think endurance sounds cooler so I’m sticking with it.

While midfielders are known for needing endurance the most on the lacrosse field, the truth is every player requires better endurance. Attackmen need to be quick and agile, but they need to be able to repeatedly make quick move after quick move. Defenseman must be able to react to fast players while moving backwards. The longer the ball stays in the defensive end, the sooner a good team will target a fatigued defender. Yes, even goalies require endurance, but they require more mental endurance than physical endurance. As the general of the defense, good goalies must beat back the mental fatigue of constantly knowing where the ball is, who is hot, and when to demand a slide.

So how do you build endurance? Simple answer – go for a run. Longer answer – integrate varying agility speed work drills with progressively longer runs. This will both improve your speed on the field, and beat back the beast of fatigue. The question becomes what should players in each age group be doing to build their endurance? Let’s break that down below.

U9 – These kids are perfectly fine doing whatever they are doing. Make sure they get to practice and games and they will do just fine. I do not believe there is much of a need to start a nine year old in any structured workout.

U11 – Awesome time to start jump roping and some short agility cone drills! These help build critical coordination skills necessary for lacrosse. Still not the time for distance running though.

U13 – Continue with jump roping and add in new, more challenging agility drills. Perhaps an agility ladder? Here is a great time to start one mile runs. A one mile run is exactly what it sounds like. Go out, run a mile, then walk back. Eventually the mile will become easier and easier and you’ll start wanting to run back.

U15 – Time to start an actual running program if you are serious about improving your overall cardiovascular strength and endurance.

U17 and beyond – You should definitely be running regularly by now, but if you haven’t started check out Runner’s World for some quality running plans and advice for new runners. I highly recommend their personal trainer running plans, they have gotten me race ready and ready for officiating each spring!

As a runner myself I find it strange that I used to hate running. The truth was, I never gave running a chance until about tenth grade, which coincided with taking my lacrosse game more seriously as well. If you are serious about being a lacrosse player you must also be serious about running. The old maxim, the legs feed the wolf is perfectly apt for just about every sport, but especially true for the fastest game on two feet.

Now, if you need a little bit of inspiration to start running, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Below is a trailer for the 1999 documentary “Running on the Sun.” I’ll let the trailer speak for itself:

Off The Book Rules

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If you run lacrosse league you need to cover all of the rules that will apply to every division. Atlanta Youth Lacrosse uses the USL Boys Lacrosse Rules, which are slightly modified from NFHS rules, as our foundation governing play at all levels. The general AYL rules may be found on the “Complete League Rules” page.

Next, you need to specify the rules in each division. We find it convenient to split the first and second grade rules apart from everyone else since the differences are significant. The third through twelfth grade rules govern play for each of these age groups, because the rule changes are slight for each age level. So it is simpler to keep these rules together and highlight the differences.

We covered the general rules, and the division-specific rules. Now, we can cover what I call “off the book” rules. These are the rules that pertain specifically to Atlanta Youth Lacrosse.

We borrowed some from other leagues, and created a few of our own. These rules help AYL staff and coaches improve player development, and they help create a relaxed atmosphere that promotes good sportsmanship. If you run your own lacrosse league, or are a parent involved in one, I highly suggest finding a way to use these rules in your program. We have used them for years and they always benefit our league. Just remember to apply them consistently if you want them to work.

  • Rule 1 – This is Youth Lacrosse
    • You would be surprised at the amount of people who think a fifth and sixth grade lacrosse game is equivalent to the NFC championship. I officiated a game at a different league years ago, where people were hanging off the stadium guard rails to yell at the coaches, officials, and players.
    • This rule is critical to follow if you want to establish an atmosphere that is about the kids and not the people yelling in row C. All of the following rules are really ways to remind players, coaches, and parents that we are playing a game at the youth level.
You Do Not Talk About Fight Club

You Do Not Talk About Fight Club

  • Rule 2 – This is Still Youth Lacrosse
    • I can’t give up a Fight Club reference, but I want to stress the point that we are playing a game. Coaches, parents, and staff always need to remember that this is about the kids having fun. Keep repeating this mantra, and everyone will join the youth lacrosse train.
  • Rule 3 – No One-Handed Stick Checks
    • This is generally reserved for the first through fourth grade leagues, but it can be applied to any age division if checking gets sloppy. Any and all one-handed stick checks are considered a “slash” if this rule is enforced.
  • Rule 4 – The Uncontrollable Stick
    • Any stick check that the official feels is uncontrollable is a “slash.” Even if the stick does not make contact with the other player. This is a great rule if you are trying to cut down on stick swinging. Inform the players that two hands on the stick, and raised to the shoulder is more than strong enough to dislodge a ball. Baseball bat swings, golf-ball swings, and behind the back checks, can and should be considered uncontrollable if this rule is applied to a game.
  • Rule 5 – No Horns. Mandatory Substitutions
    • This is a new rule for AYL that we are moving to for our first through sixth grade divisions. Every five or six minutes the clock is stopped for mandatory substitutions. Whoever is on the bench goes onto the field, and the players on the field go to the bench. This helps to enforce equal playing time and gets coaches used to the usual substitution flow for lacrosse, which is usually five or six minutes. This rule only applies when the ball is settled or dead. We will not stop the action of a potential shot on goal to get a mandatory substitution. Wait for the shot to be taken, then stop the clock.
    • Teams can still sub on-the-fly at any point during the game. Just no horns.
  • Rule 5 – Goalie Clears the Ball after a Goal
    • We usually apply this rule during Winter Ball because it gives kids less down time after a goal. Generally, a faceoff is set and ready to go after fifteen seconds. If each team scores five goals thats 150 seconds of dead time. By clearing the ball after every goal, the players get roughly two to three minutes of extra playing time.
  • Rule 6 – The No Rake Rule
    • Raking the ball results in a turnover. This is my personal favorite because after two weeks of consistent enforcement, nearly every player, at every level is running through the ball instead of stopping to rake it into their sticks. Players get the hint that they are supposed to run through the ball instead of stopping to pick it up. This speeds up the game and drastically decreases the amount of scrums that can occur at the younger age levels.
    • Atlanta Youth Lacrosse will apply this rule in the fall for all grades under seventh.
  • Rule 7 – Positive Cheering
    • I went into lots of detail with the Positive Cheering Post a while back. The short version of this rule is that whenever spectators get overly excited in a negative way. By which I mean: any type of cursing or “knock him dead” comments. If this happens, the game stops but the clock runs for one minute. If the person/people act up again, the game stops but the clock runs for two minutes. After the third stoppage, we ask the individuals to leave. Nothing calms a sideline down more quickly than messing with every kids’ game time.
  • Rule 8 – No One-Handed Ground Balls
    • I believe this is a coach’s best friend during a team practice, but it should not be implemented during a game. After all, sometimes it is appropriate to pick the ball up with one hand, so long as the player is running through the ball. Enforcing this rule during practice by having everyone do pushups or run a lap when they do a one-handed scoop will condition players to get low and run through the ball with two hands. Which is the method that gets the highest likelihood of success.
  • Rule 9 – The 24 Hour Rule
    • AYL implemented the 24 Hour rule a few years ago when handling concerns, complaints, or issues after a game/practice. Anytime anyone has something they want to say about how a game or practice was handled, they must wait 24 hours before emailing our office. This provides everyone on both sides of the issue time to cool off and gain perspective on the problem. Additionally, we do not allow anyone to accost a coach, official, or staff member in person while at an AYL event. We want anyone who has an issue to contact AYL through appropriate channels, and the 24 Hour rule helps accomplish this.

That covers the off-the-book rules that Atlanta Youth Lacrosse has enforced in the past. Don’t try to use all of these at once at your own league. Pick one or two, but make one of them the no-rake rule (seriously, it does wonders). Then have your officials and staff enforce them consistently. These rules do no good if they are applied every so often. They must be applied with conviction if you want them to work.

If you have any questions about these rules, or have an off-the-book rule to suggest, please comment below.

Featured Image Credit – www.tbloa.org


Goalie Guidelines

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EDIT – The following Goalie Guidelines were incorrectly attributed to the wrong author. Ken Brubaker from Western Michigan details the following guides for goalkeepers.

The day in a life for most goalies is as follows:

1. Show up with the team, suit up, maybe do some stretches or conditioning with the team. If the goalie is lucky, a coach or shooter normally may attempt some type of routine or ball placement warm. 95% of the shots come from topside, with no obstructions of feeds from behind. (We’ll get to that later.)

2. The rest of the day will be spent at the wrong end of shooting drills, 3 v 2’s with numerous shots, 4 v 3’s with numerous shots, or 6v6’s with a time and room to the body. A chorus of “are you OK keep?” or “my bad” will soon follow after. If you have two or three goalies they wait their turns for the same abuse.

3. Next we may have some ride and clears where you may learn how to run for your life and toss a “Gilman” clear. “get his elbows” is routinely the battle cry or “send it”. Of course I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the message.

The good news is that there is a better way.

Here’s the point I’ve been leading up to, and the guidelines I use to create great Goaltenders. I have studied a massive amount of info on this subject over a decade.

I have come up with a solution to create a complete goaltender.

First I divide the position in to five specific segments, each to be focused on daily, and weekly, and throughout the season. The order and frequency is based on how many practices you have, and how much time you can allocate.

I frequently use the terms “to be a great goalie” or “the best goalies” before I explain a technique or suggest a drill or routine. The mindset of a player will change when he hears this prefix to a statement. I also frequently drop names i.e., “Greg Catrano mentioned at his clinic” or “Bill Pilat stresses that on his DVD”. Mention names, know the best teachers, and turn the kids on to them. Today’s kids with Wikipedia and you tube can learn who the great ones are, see demos, and quickly learn more about the position in a day then “geezers” like my self could have learned in a life time back in the day.

Coach B


Goalies must be the first ones on the field every day. Preparing to play the position must be done every day. I teach kids to prepare mentally and physically before they see one shot. Teach your goalies to prep for practice, prep for games, prep for going in to a half when behind, prep for going in to a half with a lead. They also can prep for field surfaces. They will see field turf, astro turf, natural grass, mud, clay, dust, rain, snow and wind. When you don’t prepare you get blindsided.

I ask my goalies to have a pre-game routine. It may involve laying out your gear, going in to seclusion in the corner of the field. A pre-game mix on an ipod is good.

I won’t get into a ton of specifics in this article, but pre-game can include some goalie specific dynamic stretches, walking the line style drills (I have about 5 variations of this classic drill I use). I like yoga, Pilates, tennis ball tosses, and many other non-shooting exercises to happen before a game or practice.

The key is we disconnect from the “real world,” and connect to “goalie world”. It sounds goofy, but it’s a good thing to have time to get school, work, stress, the girlfriend, the last game, and any other clutter out of the mind before we step between those pipes. Focus is as critical as the goalie stick itself.

Preparation leads to great focus.


Great goalies are agile. They called Greg Cattrano “the cat” not only because of his name, but also because of his mind-blowing agility. If a goalie doesn’t work hard on agility training, he will not be agile. Agility must be part of a goalie’s work ethic and workout routine. As the season wears on, most goalies feel that the reps in practice are enough. They could not be more wrong. There are so many great agility courses and instructors that you don’t even need me to get in details. The key is that we find a boatload of agility drills and work on them every day. Here are some I recommend. Jumping rope is high on the list, ski jumpers, and ladder work to name a few. But that is just legs. I use agility drills for hand eye coordination, hand speed, and footwork.

Agility leads to great quickness.


The best on the planet are referred to as “stoppers”. In a typical lacrosse coach conversation you will hear, “how’s your keeper this year” the answer is, on occasion, “I’ve got a stopper this season”. In contrast you will hear “my kid couldn’t stop a beach ball”.

Kids are not born lacrosse goalies. It is human instinct to duck when a projectile is fired towards your head. The notion of attacking the ball is not for everyone. The point is, stoppers are not born, they are created. Standing in front of the cage and shooting 9 yards shots with the stick in plain view is not helping a goalie no matter how many thousand you put on him. To make goalies great we must give them shots from game scenarios. Some of my best improvements come form what I call “blind saves”.

In games they see a ton of feeds from X, from the wings, and from “top side.” Great shooters hide the rock and shoot it through traffic. A ton of garbage gets thrown at you from the crease. Your own guys constantly screen you, not to mention the opponents crease guys. Goalies will see one on crease, two on crease and some times three on crease with stacks, etc.

Everyone is “Canadian” nowadays, so shots such as backhand, one handed, behind the back, and around the world are not only seen at Tom Marachek clinics anymore.

A lot of today’s players practice and execute them.

All that being said, if only shoot at your keepers topside with the head of the stick in full view, that’s all they can save. Drills must include a ton of drills that force the goalie to “find the ball” and then save it. My e-book will over 20 drills specific to teaching these saves.

Drills must include some chaos such as attack reaching around from GLE; making saves across crease on back door feeds, turn and saves, etc.

Drilling Game simulated shots creates stoppers.


Ryan Deane (Middlebury) (NCAA DIII) was on my 2007 U19 summer team (GP Select). He is a field general, and one of the best communicators I ‘d ever had the chance to coach.

During a game I overheard one on my D Poles say “ its so much easier to play defense when he’s in the cage”. That became my mantra for teaching communication from the that day forward. If we can train goalies to run the field, and do it correctly, it makes the defense work. So many kids either do not talk at all, speak way too low or simply scream too loud. Some make repetitive, inaudible moaning sounds that no one can decipher.

The goal of a goalie coach should be to teach the proper voice projection, to practice it, and to communicate it to the defense. I teach calling right in a different tone or voice inflection than the left. The “check” or “check stick” or as recommended by Coach Mike “Lift,” call if used correctly will reduce shots on net significantly. If they don’t get the shot off, they cant put it past a goalie. Defense reacting to a commanding “CHECK” call is extremely useful. Many goalies don’t use it, especially at the youth and HS level.

Goalies must practice communication constantly and perfect a style that in commanding.

Great communication = great defense.


One reason a lot of goalies get cut at the collegiate level is because they cannot clear. Conversely, many get selected because of their clearing and stick skills. In HS many of them play against poor rides, and subsequently learn to throw lazy 10-yard passes to guys who are always open. The next level brings vicious rides, midfielders who run 4.6 40’s, and guys calling for the ball 40 yards away.

Throwing the ball with precision is paramount. We must use drill that incorporate throwing the ball from multiple scenarios. I like to split time doing Up-and-Overs, frozen ropes, touch passes, and re-directs. I also drill a lot of stuff around the crease, again from game situations. Clamps vs. attack, rolling out behind and clearing, and fighting for GB’s are all good situations to drill.

I also teach and drill the face dodge, walk the dog, and roll backs against pressure. If you don’t drill it they can’t execute it. One other important point, a goalie pockets must be stung to hold the ball in a channel, not strung to be a “tennis racquet” or “fish bowl”.

In closing I hope this information has been helpful and helps coaches at every level at least begin to think about the 5 g’s. I am currently working on my e-book that will contain a comprehensive guidebook with over 50 goalie specific drills. It will also include a laminated spreadsheet detailing a daily, weekly and season long work out plan that can be learned and used by goalies themselves who do not have a goalie coach. I can be reached at gpselect@gmail.com.

Thanks for the great guidelines Mr. Brubaker. Hopefully a lot of coaches will pick them up when developing goalies.