Fear of the lacrosse ball is a common trait that every goalie goes through. I don't care what experienced goalies say. They may have forgotten the times they had fear of the ball if they haven't experienced it in a while. Or they are just trying to act tough. It doesn't matter. We all go through it, and today I want to give you two quick tactics for eliminating fear, or at least reduce it.
As a young goalie I experienced fear of the ball every time I moved up a level. Whether it was Junior High School to High School, or High School to college level, the increased speed of the ball caused me to be a bit afraid.
I wasn't afraid of the balls going in the net. For some reason I was OK with the fact that I was young, these guys were older, and I wasn't expected to stop those balls just yet. No, it was the fear of getting hit with the ball.
But the number one way to get over fear of getting hit with the ball was to pad up. And that is my recommendation to you today. The number one way to prevent fear of the ball is...
#1) Put on more protective equipment.
Here's the number one reason why you won't do this... Peer pressure. That's it. You see the college goalies online wearing next to nothing and you think. "That's what I'm supposed to look like. That's what a great goalie looks like." Well, that's not true.
Elite goalies are getting shot on, most often, by elite shooters. These shooters can pick a corner from twenty yards. The odds of them rifling the ball of the goalies thigh is small. But for you, the young developing goalie, that's not the case. I always say that as a lacrosse goalie you are one bad shot away from developing fear of the ball.
As a fifth grader, my school had a rule that I had to wear equipment from head to toe. As goofy as that may sound, and as heavy and slow as I felt in the cage, I had no fear of the ball. That's because there wasn't a spot on my that wasn't protected. What it allowed me to do was focus on only stopping the ball. I just had to worry about seeing it, and getting something in front of it. A perfect learning environment.
So put away your fear of looking odd to your friends who are NOT in the cage and put on some football pants and some shin guards. Put on some shoulder pads if you don't have shoulder caps on your chest protector and see how much better you feel in the cage.
#2) Have the shooters back up in practice.
Now I know you can't have shooters back up in games. But you can have them back up in practice to give you more time to react to the ball. Fear of the ball goes away the further the shooter is from the cage. It's that simple. So have your coach move players back in practice. Throw down some cones so that they know where to shoot from.
If the distance you can safely see a ball from is fifteen yards then throw down a stick or a set of gloves and tell the shooters to get their shots off before that line. If it's twelve yards or ten yards, move it in a bit. Either way, the shooters will know, and you will feel confident knowing that the shots are coming from a distance you can handle.
On game day, feel free to strip down to what an elite goalie should look like, if you must. But I'll bet you, you'll feel so confident in the cage with some extra padding on that you won't want to take it off.