Dealing With Bounce Shots

I get asked a lot, How to I get better at bounce shots?  There are two levels of answers.  First, the fundamentals.  There are three keys to bounce shots; 1) your stance, 2) your hands and 3) concentration.

Stance - In the stance area, the most important part is to bend your knees, a lot.  If you have to guess about whether or not it's a bounce shot, guess that it is and get your butt low with your knees bent a lot. Your muscles will always help you rise back up (quickly) to the high shot, but there are no muscles that can help you speedily get low.

Stand with your legs more than shoulder width apart with your right foot a bit forward of the left (if you are right handed) and with both feet pointed in a bit (a little bit pigeon toed facilitates taking a step with either foot without first replanting the back foot). With the left foot back a bit, you can still take a step with either foot, but the left knee is out of the way when you rotate the stick down for the off-stick side save.  Your shoulders should be in front of your hips a little so that they will turn with you when you rotate your stick for the save.

Hands - Your hands need to be out from your body with the bottom hand out a bit farther than the top hand (this helps in rotating the stick head down to the ground). The hands need to be a foot apart -- between the gloves (if not you will miss shots under your stick in both low corners). This is true for all shots, since we do not want to change grip or hand position on the stick during Bounce Shot Savethe save.   And most important that top hand needs to start at eye level and reach out to the bounce.

Save - When the shot comes drive both hands out, take a step (always) directly at the ball and rotate the stick so the stick head goes down and out to the shot.   The picture at the right shows the correct body and hand position for a bounce shot that comes directly at you and bounces just outside the crease line. Since your hands started up high, you can see that this rotation of the stick was caused by both moving the top hand (closest to the head) down (in a tomahawk chop to the ball) and the bottom hand in front over top of the ball. Once learned this is quick and effective.  

Don't worry about catching the bounce shot, first stop it. If the stick head is closer to your body than the shaft, the ball will stop just in front of your stick on the ground where you can pick it up (if not you will give up rebounds galore).  Having the stick head hand closer to your body, just a little closer, helps on high saves too since the ball will bounce up a little instead of bouncing out (back to the other team, boo!).

Concentration - Your concentration has to be good. If you blink when the ball bounces you will miss it. So watch (only) the ball until after the save is made. This means don't look at the shooter, his/her eyes, his/her hands, his/her fake, nothing but the ball. If you draw a line between your eyes, the side of your top hand and the ball and they are in line then, with this concentration, your body will follow your eyes and hand to the ball for the save.

Likewise, if the shot is on either hip just rotate the stick (like a propeller) and take a step toward the shooter and you can save shots that are off each hip, too.  

Advanced Discussion.  There are a lot of basic save mechanics in this column that are not necessarily the only way to make saves.  Some excellent goalies do not rotate the stick to vertical but only to about 45 degrees.  I believe that this leaves them vulnerable to shots right at their feet going under the stick.  But, there are some goalies that only come that far in their rotation. One thing is nearly universal, if the bottom hand goes around the side toward the back of the keeper during any save (off-stick side hip or off-stick side low/bounce) then that keeper is very vulnerable to rebounds and generally will be much slower to that side than a keeper that uses a propeller rotation.  Coach Glen Theil (Head Coach at Penn State) teaches that your hands and elbows need to be in front of your chest for all saves. His advise really works.

Weston Lacrosse 10-29-08