Top Keepers - I have been asking myself and others what really makes a top goalkeeper.  As I look at why keepers get beat, it is not so much about which one has the fastest hands or best position or even best technique (even though all that helps).  The answer is in why keepers get beat.  In order of impact on getting beat;

  1. watching the player instead of watching the ball,

  2. being only partially ready to go the shot

  3. waiting on the shot instead of stepping directly to the shot.

And even more interesting is that the 1st two dominate the statistics.  So, this year I have been working with keepers to be 9 of 10, 18 of 20, even 27 of 30 shots ON GOAL where they;

Off-the-lip - See the ball in the stick, off-the-lip, in the air all the way to the goalies pocket and off-the-lip is the crucial part.  When the shooter hides the stick before the shot eventually the stick face has to be open toward the goal and at that time the keeper should be able to see the ball (as it come off the lip).  The key part is that the player, even the fakes disappear and the keeper gets an early view of the ball, sustainable throughout it's flight.

Ready to Go - Ready on the balls of the feet, feet pointed directly at the shooter (or a little pigeon-toed, chest in front of the hips, wrists to the back of the shaft and top hand at eye level to the side ot the line-of-sight to the ball with the keeper leaning toward the shooter, antsy to step as the ball is shot.

Go - Hands and feet moving together so the keeper is 1-2 feet closer to the shooter when the save is made than when the shot started.  If you wait, you are late

There is nothing unique in this discussion except getting the keeper to practice being consistent in his/her play by getting all three of these going on 90% of shots and especially on 90% of shots on goal (9 of 10, 18 of 20, 27 of 30)

Practice 9 of 10 - Do 10 shots on goal where after each one the player (mostly) and the coach (somewhat) agree as to whether the keeper got all three working on that shot.  We keep score to see how the player is doing and to teach that this is not easy (if you are honest).  For example, it is harder to Go on low shots until you get committed to reach toward the bounce instead of wait (going directly down to the shot) -- and reaching out while stepping is faster, especially to the low corners.  Similarly, it is much easier to watch the player than the ball, but by concentrating on the ball, the keeper gets a much earlier view of the shot, increasing the chances of making the save.

By keeping count for 10 shots on goal, the keeper builds the discipline and understanding of why shots go in and probably more important begins to be surprised at the shots that he/she gets to when all three things are working together. 

It takes work - I have had goalies over these last months indicate confidently that they could do 9 of 10 easily and then only do 5 of 10.  In a do-over, where they began to actually set up early, use their top hand to track every ball movement and lean into their stance, they might do 7 of 10.  They were so used to being distracted that even when trying to reach the goal concentration was not sustained.  The good news is that as we have used this drill/test more and more every goaltender is getting higher scores and is making more saves - sometimes surprising themselves on saving very good shots that previously they had been beat on regularly.

Use Tape and Score 9 of 10 - You can even use the idea in looking at a game tape and analyzing the shots/goals on this basis.  Recently, from the stands, I did the equivalent of looking at tape by rating a Division I keeper for a whole game on the 9 of 10 and found that he was clearly watching the player more than the ball and that he was not ready early on every shot that went in (in the 6 of 10 range - they lost).  When I shared this with his coach, an old friend, they worked on those points all week and in the next game he was clearly the best player in a key win for their program (17 saves on 19 shots on goal for the win).

Copyright Weston Lacrosse 4/30/09