Improving Reaction Time for Lacrosse Goalies

I’ve been getting some questions on improving reaction time, and I’m happy to share what I know and some drills that can help!! Of course, with reaction time, as with anything else, there will be those who are naturally gifted at it and others that will have to work very hard to have what coaches refer to as “quick hands”.

A lot of times the reaction speed I see change when a goalie’s mindset shifts. I always tell goalies that I work with they must have an attacking mindset. Whatever you need to use mentally to get you to change your mindset to want to go crush the ball, do it. When I was younger (and still today), my little sister annoyed me so I would imagine the ball was her head and I’d use my hand to punch out to it. I don’t condone violence in any way, but you know sometimes if a little visual aid works, it works. Many times, I’ll tell goalies to channel their inner ninja or something along those lines. I find these methods to be helpful in shifting their thinking. However, this explosive mindset is one of the hardest things to coach, in my opinion, so if you're goalie isn't getting it right away be patient.

So after we have shifted our mindset, what else can we do?

  • Use a reaction ball (search this in amazon/google) and toss against a wall underhand and then explode to it as it comes off the ball. This is great for balancing patience and explosion (exactly what you need in the cage). If you want a challenge, have someone stand behind you and toss underhand. The closer you stand to the ball the harder it will be, so make it a progression to start closer and closer to the ball. You can do this with a normal ball too before progressing to the reaction ball, and with or without pads. Here’s a variation with pads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7GHHJcVf58.
  • Tennis Fire Drill. Just made that name up, but essentially you need someone else and a huge pile of tennis balls and a tennis racquet in front of the goal. The person with the racquet will pepper the goalie with shots. The difficulty here depends on the gap between each shot and the speed. The goalie can start with their stick and work their way down to using their hands or work their way up from only top hand to their full stick. Everyone works differently so try it out and see which you like more!
  • Another tennis ball drill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R42rz4DlYDA
  • Turn drill. This is a classic go-to for me in my lessons. With a shooter in the middle of 8m, and the goalie turned the opposite direction (facing the cage), the shooter yells “shot!” and the goalie turns to make the save. The shooter can play around with shot speed and quickness on the release. Obviously, the faster and sooner the ball is shot, the harder the save for the goalie. To up this one, you can move after you yell shot to simulate a player catching the ball in 8m and going to cage, fakes and all. Again, the difficulty can be changed in the fakes/speed of movement and shooting.
  • Use a small stick. Not only does this improve your movement but because you’re dealing with a smaller stick you must react that much faster. You can use in warm up or even some live drills!
  • Juggling. Good for hand-eye coordination, which will help you know where the ball is and get there faster.
  • I’ve heard of girls using reaction time apps. If anyone wants to comment if they have a favorite, let me know! I’ve never used them so I’m curious how they are.

Also, if anyone has other drills, feel free to comment!!!