Communication is key to nearly every aspect of life. In lacrosse, this is no different. In today’s blog, I’m going to discuss communication as a goalie, but regarding every person the goalie interacts with from players to coaches to parents. I looked into what’s out there right now about goalie communication and SHOCKER, there’s little help for female goalies. The terminology and how girls react to things are totally different than boys and I’m going to address that here. A lot of what I’ll discuss is situational, and you’ll see that from the organization of the blog.
Goalie to Defense
1. You must be LOUD. I always tell people that I am a quiet person, but never a quiet goalie. There is seriously no such thing as a quiet goalie. If there is, I haven’t met one yet. Use your stomach to get louder, it helps!
2. Invest in a good mouthpiece, it will make your life MUCH easier.
3. Be specific when you communicate – use directions, names, numbers, etc.
4. Change the volume of your voice. If you speak at the same tone defenders will start to drown you out. When something urgent happens, you need to heighten your volume to get their attention.
5. KNOW your defenders. Just like coaches must know how to effectively communicate to their players to make them play at their best, you should do so with your defenders. No one is the same, and when there’s a breakdown you need to be able to convey your message in a way that is productive to your teammate’s success.
What to communicate to defenders?
- Ball position (Top left, top right, side left, side right, X, back left, back right) Some teams like to keep the lefts/rights all on one side. I’m used to switching it when the ball goes behind because the girls that will be the slide should be facing ball and girl.
- When the ball goes down (“BALL DOWN”)
- When an attacker enters the 8M with the ball - should yell "CRASH" if looking to go or simply, "BALLS IN"
- As you get older you'll need to know your defensive sets more and communicate who the first and second slides are
- If a girl looks like she's about to drive, I'd yell "see it" to indicate to the defenders to see the ball
- When there are cutters open (I usually say, “SEE CUTTER MIDDLE” can say their number & middle, whatever indicates to your defense that they’re open) Really if it was me I’d come out to mark the girl and help out the defense (but that’s me).
- During transition – let them know where the ball is as soon as it’s coming down the field.
- During the clear – yell “CLEAR” when you have the ball or the ball is turned over. Also, don’t be afraid to yell “TRAIL” and move with the defender as she moves up the field to indicate you are there if she needs help behind her.
FAQ: Can I talk too much?
No. In fact, this past weekend during my game (I play for a club team called “One Love” in Baltimore), one of the goalies I work with came to watch. After the game, she was like you move around a lot and talk a ton! We especially needed it this weekend, playing with only 7 girls. When you come out of the cage like I do with my style of play you have to be over communicating. However, you avoid the lull by changing your tone of voice as I mentioned before. When your team is working hard, they need encouragement and it’s not always the technical terms above. If your defender is playing good defense, let them know. If the unit is playing well, let them know. If your attack is doing well, yell all the way down there. You are the team’s energy source. Many times you’ll see in games teams live and die by the presence of their goalie. Again, this is where you must be a leader out there. On Sunday, there was one defender with me to guard 4 girls as the other team was transitioning. Through communicating where to go and where I was, we could slow down their clear enough to get them to mess up or our players to get back. It didn’t work every time, believe me, but it was effective. There were also many times where I messed up, I came out too far, or threw a bad pass, you have to acknowledge this and own it. Being a part of the unit requires that you own your mistakes and defenders own theirs so as a team you can work through issues and correct throughout the game.
Coach To Goalie
1. Know your keeper. Just like you have to know each member of the team, and know how they need to be coached. This is especially true of the goalie. Personally, I have never responded well to your typical “screamer”. Until recently, I didn’t realize this was because I’m considered a highly sensitive person. Yep, it’s a thing, and yes, it’s me.
2. You MUST know the position in order to coach it. I highly suggest trying to play goalie in a practice. A lot of times this the problem with coaches trying to communicate with goalies, they just don’t fully understand what it’s like in there. Learn whatever and however you can, just like you would for the other positions. Having a successful goalie will put you in a VERY good position come game time, so it’s worth the time investment.
3. Especially with new goalies, stay as positive as possible. It takes a lot of guts to jump in there for the first time. Focus on encouragement at first, and when critiquing end with a positive reinforcement.
I have two really good goalies that I want to play, how do I deal with that?
Honesty. It’s as simple as that. If you’re honest about the situation, they will understand. Don’t try to make up excuses or reasons for the decision. Telling the kids they’re both good isn’t a bad thing, they will understand. Same goes when you decide on a starter for the season. The back up is always going to want to know what they can do to play, and you should be honest. Tell them the skills they need to work on, what you need to see from them to earn more time. It’s just like you do with the other players.
AH! My goalie is having a terrible game and we need her to step up.
Option 1: pull her out of the game. This is can be okay, as long as you talk with her after. Tell her honestly, you know she can play better and you wanted to give her some time to recover. Let her know you believe in her and when she’s ready to go back in, just let you know and she’ll go in.
Option 2: call a timeout. Give the same message, but leave the coming out to the goalie. If she needs time she can take it and she can go back in when she’s ready.
Build this relationship with your goalie, where eventually you won’t need to prompt the discussion, she’ll be able to go up to you and say, “Coach I need a minute”. This will be MUCH more productive than pulling her out and either not addressing and putting her back in later or leaving her out the rest of the game. Again, if you do this because the game gets crazy, make sure to have a conversation after the game.
Again, it comes down to knowing your player. Some kids love to be yelled at, some you can just say “Sally, get it together” and they’re good. The point is, every player is different. Find out what makes them tick.
Why is goalie so different? This is because I’d say 80% of a goalie’s performance is mental. A lot of times, when a goalie is down all she needs is a coach to say “hey, I know you’re good, I got your back” to rebound.
Parent to Goalie
I am TRULY blessed to have the parents I did. No matter the score, my parents were always there after every game with a hug. They never brought up the score of the game or how I played unless I did. Since I’m a perfectionist, of course, I brought it up. Even if I thought I played terribly, they were always supportive or rationally discussed the goals and I’d conclude that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Too many times parents only put fuel to the fire by tracking stats at tournaments, breaking down plays right after the game going on and on about missed shots or goals let in. Goalies and players in general, need to breathe after a game, and they need support. It’s the coach’s job to make them a better player, it’s your job as a parent to give them unconditional love and support. I’m not a parent, so I’m not going to pretend to know what I’m talking about. However, from things I’ve seen in the club scene and from friends and teammates, my parents were amazing. I look forward to the day where this is the norm in youth athletics, where all kids feel uplifted not torn down.
Goalies, just like you need to be pumped up in different ways, so do your teammates. Recognize this and adjust your communication style accordingly. Talk constantly as you are the energy for the team, but also make sure to change your tone of voice so yours doesn’t get lost in the noise of the game.
Coaches, be honest with your goalies and take a couple shots yourself during practice. You’ll finally get it, and you’ll earn respect from your goalies.
Parents, love your kids no matter how they play on the lacrosse field.
As always, feel free to comment below with your thoughts or questions or you can email me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. Love hearing from you guys and what are curious about! If you're shy, submit a message on my homepage anonymously!
Happy Talking! :)