This 7th Grade Goalie Hurt in 8th Grade Practice


 00:17 – Scott asks Coach Edwards for advice on how to talk with his son and coaches about changing the speed of shots during practice.

01:22 – A good goalie is hard to find, so they are sometimes forced to move up too quickly.

02:00 – What happens to lacrosse goalies when they are taken from their comfort zone and not well protected.

02:31 – Protecting the younger goalie is strongly emphasized, along with other tips on dealing with the age and strength difference.

03:13 – How practice can be improved by replacing lacrosse balls with tennis balls. It helps the whole team.

04:13 – How telling shooters to only shoot to a certain space will help protect goalies and hone the skills of the offensive players.

06:30 – Coach Edwards explains that when fear goes up, learning goes down.

09:50 – The concept of “pain with a purpose” on game day is explained.

 Intro:  Hey, Coach Edwards of and, and I’ve got some great questions here from a gentleman named Scott. And he says:

Question:  “Hey Coach, My son and I love your website and your blog posts. I had a question and a possible request. The practices have just started and my son has just moved up to the level of 7th and 8th grade. He is in 7th grade, and on the first day he took a pretty good shot off his shin. He is now pretty intimidated by the increased speed of the shots from last year. After practice he asked me to talk to the coach and ask him to have the other kids not shoot at full speed during practice, but I’m not sure how to handle this because I know that the kids need to be able to shoot as they would in the game. Obviously it is not okay to just do an open firing squad on him, but when they are scrimmaging it is at full speed. During the games he doesn’t have any issues, it is just during practice. I was wondering if you could give me any suggestions in talking with him and the coach. He’s slotted to be the starter on the higher level team. Also, if you could email him directly and give him some words of encouragement I’m sure it would go a long way. Thank you very much.


Answer:  This is a great question and one that I’m pretty passionate about. I wrote Scott a pretty big, long email back because one of the things at the younger levels from a goaltending perspective is, having a decent goalie is rare. What a lot of people want to do is they want to move them up quickly. That happened to me. When I was in 5th grade I was playing with 8th graders. When I was in 8th grade, I was playing with our high school varsity team. The first year of high school I was at we had a varsity program in that went to 11th grade. So I was an 8th grader playing with 11th graders. That’s a 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, that’s a 4 year swing.

I took shots too that really stung. What happens is that when you build all this momentum up in a goalie, and the goalies get excited and go, “Hey, this is cool,” then all of a sudden you bump them up a level and they’re not protected, then these things happen. I have a hard time with shooters that shoot at goalie’s heads or hit them on purpose or because it’s fun. I’ll put kids in the cage, I’ll take a middy whose an idiot and I’ll make it so that kid goes in the cage someday so they have a better respect.

This is not an uncommon question that I get. I get it quite a lot. First and foremost thing, Scott, is you’ve got to protect your goalie. There are only a number of things that we can do. We can protect the goalie, we can move the shooters back, or we can slow down the shots. One, I don’t ever want to slow down the shots because basically what we’re trying to do here is that saying of “A rising tide raises all ships.” If the goalie’s better, the shooters have to be better. And if the shooters are better, the goalie has to be better. And then the team gets better.

We can’t just all of a sudden dumb it down, especially from a goalie’s perspective. Now, in practice there are a bunch of things in a lacrosse practice that I recommend to help protect your goalies.

If I do 1 on 0s or 1 on 1s with a goalie, I put tennis balls in the kid’s sticks instead of lacrosse balls. It helps the shooters, the attackmen from their perspective because they have to have better sensitivity to the ball in their stick, and to be honest it doesn’t matter if they’ve got a real ball or a tennis ball in their stick. Usually it’s just an ego thing if a coach or an athlete doesn’t want to do it. Just take them out of practice, put the tennis balls in there.

Now your goalie’s getting better because your goalie doesn’t have fear of the ball. Now your attackman’s getting better because they’re getting used to a lighter ball in the stick. They’ve got to have more sensitive hands. And the defenseman’s getting better because he needs more reps, right, and he’s getting more reps with the goalie in the cage. If we take the goalie out of the cage, now we don’t learn any goalie communication like I talk about in my lacrosse goalie communication DVDs, the defenseman doesn’t get used to having the goalie behind him. Goalie with the defenseman, all sorts of stuff like that. So get the tennis balls in play on shots like that.

Number two, no 1 on 0s. If you’re going to do 1 on 0s, you do them with tennis balls. 1 on 0s are a disaster and they rarely happen in a lacrosse game if your defense is any good. Secondly, if you’re working on shooting drills, I encourage the coach to tell their shooters to shoot to a certain space. I’ll tell, if we’re running a mid-field shooting drill and middys are shooting on the run, I’ll put a pylon down or a stick and say, “Gotta get the shot off from there, and all the shots are going stick-side high.”

When you just tell the shooters to shoot wherever, how do you know they’re getting any better? Arnold Palmer, the greatest golfer in the world, or one of the greatest golfers of all time, I should say that, he always said he never took a golf shot where he didn’t know where he was trying to put it. That way he had feedback. Most high school lacrosse players and jr. high school lacrosse players have no idea what their feedback is. They’re just firing away at the cage. So as a coach, tell the kids to shoot for a space, and if they miss it, yell at them right? Just go, “Come on!”

The bottom line is from a shooting perspective, if you want to win a game and the ball is in that kid’s stick, and he’s coming down with three seconds left and all he’s got is off-stick hip, he’s got to hit it. If he can’t hit it, he’s not learning. Make the shooters shoot to a space. Put some sort of marker on the field to let them get off the shot before then. That way it creates that distance for the goalie. Again, protect the goalie.

I went to the Syracuse Lacrosse Camp in high school and got a chance to get shot on by Gary Gate. Gary Gate took a shot on me from here, full speed. So this is a Division 1 All-American lacrosse player, one of the greatest players in history, took a shot on me, full speed, from here. How do you think I did? No problem. Why? I had no fear, because the ball was far away and I had plenty of time to react to the ball.

Now you move Gary Gate in further on a high school kid, and he’s shooting 20 yards, what happens? A little bit of pucker factor. Butt clenches up. You’re getting a little scared because why? This ball may hurt you if it hits you. There’s a point where the focus on the ball goes down while fear goes up. And when fear goes up, there’s no learning. So when there’s no fear, and there’s focus on the ball, we’re in a good position. So that’s what we’re trying to maintain, especially with a young kid who is a seventh grader who has potential. Sometimes the move up at 7th grade can just kill all sorts of progress. Let me see what else I wrote here to Scott.

Coaches can move players back, rising tide raises all ships. So in terms of equipment, lacrosse goalies are stuck in a peer pressure society where goalies aren’t supposed to wear stuff. Why? Because the college goalies and the MLL goalies don’t because the shooters are more accurate and they don’t get hit as much. You’ve got college goalies and MLL goalies wearing next to nothing because the shooters pick the smallest space to shoot the ball and get it by them, so they’re not getting hit. When they do get hit, it really hurts, and I can speak to that 100%.

So with the young goalies, no question, you’ve got to pad them up. Shin guards, football pants, hockey,goalie cup, chest protector, gloves. Elbow pads are a little tough, just because they only protect the front of the arm, and of course helmet, throat guard, the whole thing.

When I grew up, I started playing lacrosse goalie in 5th grade. The school I went to had a rule where goalies had to wear hockey shin guards, hockey pants, arm guards, you name it. It was like an oven in that stuff. But what happened was I started playing with no fear of the ball because I could focus on moving to the ball, and that totally changed my learning curve.

Now, when I got into positions where I felt a little bit awkward, maybe, just because of peer pressure, I had sweatpants on, shin guards underneath them. No one knew. Hockey goalie cup, nobody knew. Later, when I hit my 30s and started playing against guys who weren’t as accurate, I put on football pants again. Put them under some sweatpants. No one cares.

What matters is when that lacrosse goalie gets hit in the leg and their learning goes down. We’ve now wasted all this time, energy, money on equipment, it’s just not worth it. And then the team totally suffers.

Scott, great question. For anybody watching this, leave me a question or comment below. Tell me your thoughts about equipment and how you feel about peer pressure, things like that, because these types of stories make me sad. This could be a really good lacrosse goalie someday, but he’s thrown in a position where he’s got fear now in his head, it’s like a little black cloud, and that could ruin his development for a number of years where he doesn’t get any better because he just always operates in fear. Don’t let that happen, Scott. Pad him up, get him out there. Coaches, get tennis balls, move the shooters back in practice.

One last thing. There’s a thing called pain with a purpose. Pain with a purpose. I learned that one when my wife was pregnant with our kids. The body can withstand a lot. I was just like this. I hated practice. I hated getting hit in practice. But in a game, getting hit was something special because you knew you made a good save. But even then, sometimes pain is unnecessary, you don’t need it. So game day, not a problem. Practice is a whole other deal. So pad him up, keep him safe. A happy goalie is a productive goalie. Hope that helps.

Thanks Scott. I’m Coach Edwards from Leave me a comment below, share this, like this, tweet it, do whatever. It really helps the site and I really appreciate it. Talk to you soon. 



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