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Dealing with Non-Goalie Educated Coaches

Disclaimer: The opinions and feelings expressed in this blog are those of the author and the author only, however if you feel the same you will understand that these feelings are COMMON and very much TRUE in the goalie world. Most of what is expressed is true based on the experiences the author had as a player, coach, mentor, and parent. If you would like to agree to disagree, please contact the author. Thank you!!

Let me set the scene……Spring Lacrosse HS tryouts, a goalie that has had some quality goalie training from a certified goalie coach, a goalie that has only played for a year or less with no goalie training at all, a non-goalie educated Head Coach, and some sort of expectations. The trained goalie saw all of his shots from the returning offensive players most being on 1st & 2nd strings with 2nd string defense. The un-trained goalie was in goal with the 1st string defense and 3rd & 4th string offenses shooting on, most of who are trying to make the team.

Tryouts have completed and selections have been made

Goalie 1 (Trained) Goalie 2 (Untrained)

Goalie 1: Coach I noticed you took Goalie 2 for Varsity this year. I am just curious to know why or what was the difference between he and I?

Coach: Well he looked better and played better, he stopped more shots.

Goalie 1: Coach he was also playing behind the 1st string defense and going against the new players and 4th string offense

Coach: You need to perform no matter who is front of you, your job is to stop the ball.

Goalie 1: Okay I get that, so what is it that I need to improve on, is there anything you can do to help me?

Coach: Stopping the ball, but I’ll be honest I don’t know much about goaltending…don’t you have a goalie coach, or just go on You Tube.

Goalie 1: Wellll, ok, what do I need to do specifically so I know what to work on with my goalie coach?

Coach: Stop the ball, I don’t know I am not a goalie expert, figure it out.

Goalie 1: Coach, what do I need to tell him so that we can work on the areas I need improving?

Coach: Well he’s the goalie coach I am sure he can tell you what you need to work on.

Goalie 1: That doesn’t help me

Goalie 1: Goalie 2 what did you do to prepare for tryouts

Goalie 2: I am just getting out of hockey, I haven’t picked up my stick since last spring

Goalie 1: Did you not do anything in the summer or fall?

Goalie 2: No, I had hockey camp and then we went on vacation.


Okay, before I go start bashing the non-goalie educated coaches, let me play devil’s advocate, because I have been in this position before and I need to know both sides of the story before I start assuming the truth that most coaches know absolutely NOTHING about goaltending.

In order to FULLY understand the situation, from a goalie coaches perspective/parent’s side, is to make sure you get the other side of the story…. the coaches’ side. The situation from above is similar to stories I have heard in the past. Some of the reasons I have heard from coaches include the goalie didn’t react properly after giving up goals, in fact he went into “Blow Up” mode, when he/she shows up they are just not mentally there, the goalie was not moving at all (did he/she actually see a goalie instructor), the goalie literally gave up every single shot. As an experienced goalie coach, I can tell if coaches are being truthful or not and if they mean what they say. Sometimes I can sympathize and understand completely with the coaches, which lead me to write the blog last week about tryouts. Don’t assume you have the position, you still have to show up and perform, your performance will dictate your destiny……if you don’t show up mentally, you performance will decline and leave you off the team, but if you train in the off season, and you work hard, your performance will shine and coaches will notice. Either way it can be frustrating especially when you have been training for a long time, but in the end when its time to shine you need be prepared. Just like a job interview, you can’t assume you have the position you need to prepare yourself for the interview, research the company you are interviewing with, figuring out how you can contribute to the success of the company…..tryouts in sports is very much like landing a job after HS or college.

What DOESN’T make sense is when you get placed on a lower team or placed behind an inexperienced goalie and you wonder, Why? When EVERYONE can clearly tell from a distance whose the better goalie and has been trained, but when one questions the coach, the reasons given are as simple as “you didn’t stop ball” or “the other kid looked better”……and when you ask “what do I need to improve on?” and the coach responds with “stopping the ball or you need to get better.”……..UHHHHHH These are unacceptable answers and you have every right to challenge the coaches and notify the proper personnel i.e. athletic directors, club directors, organizers etc. if necessary. This is not good feedback.

So now what????????

First and Foremost, it’s time for me to be honest, and what I am hoping to get out of being honest is that other goalies who are experiencing the same thing will feel some relief to know they are not alone. I honestly feel that the lack of goalie knowledge in the coaching world does not help kids suffering with mental health issues….in fact they are actually adding on to the stress that goalies already face on a daily basis. Let me be honest I don’t know the EXACT percentages but if I was to give a rough estimate of coaches who know ABSOLUTETLY NOTHING about goaltending I would say that numbers falls somewhere around 90+%. The remaining 10% are either former goalies, experienced coaches, took the initiative to become goalie educated, etc. but at least I can trust those 10% in caring for their goalies and giving them the proper feedback and training. The rest of this blog will not be about bashing the 90% but rather how can WE,parents and goalies, influence change.

This past week, I have had to face the daunting task of answering texts and phone calls regarding tryouts. Goalies struggling to understand the ‘Why’, but really I think we can all agree the ‘Why’ is because we have coaches who know nothing about goaltending or how to handle goalies. In fact many coaches have never stepped between the pipes to face a shot to even understand what we face. The uneducated are giving feedback and criticism to goalies without ever knowing how to stop a shot, as if they went to Syracuse or Maryland and were some expert goalie coach when in actuality they don’t even know the dimensions of a lacrosse net. So the question I have is WHY?? Why do we have these coaches who can’t empathize with goalies but feel confident enough to give BAD feedback. The answer is simple, they’re adults and entitled to the position…no one has ever challenged them, parents and goalies believe that since the’re older and were hired into the position they just know everything…….unfortunately this is unacceptable. In the scene listed above, the Coach should have given very specific details regarding why Goalie 1 was not selected, not “just stop the ball” or “be better”. The expectation of answers should be discrete, “stepping more aggressively, and on a 45 degree angle” or “your hands are in too close and you’re giving up too many rebounds”, or “your hands aren’t quick enough”….this is quality feedback that any kid can work on or at least research and figure out how to improve. Generalizing just confuses the kid and leaves them baffled about what to work on.

By now you figured out that many coaches struggle with trying to understand the importance of goalies or the fact that they are uneducated and don’t want to fix it, but how can we fix this. First things first, we need to take control of what we CAN control……we can control how we train, how we cope with stress, how we react, our emotions, who we train from or learn from, and most importantly how we influence others. As parents we need to educate ourselves, reach out to the goalie experts in the lacrosse community, there are many of us and we are willing to help you better understand the position. The BEST resource to educate yourself is to sign up for my dear friend’s, Damon Wilson (aka LaxGoalieRat), Virtual Goalie Summit. His next summit is March 28-April 1 where he will have a number of goalie experts sharing their knowledge of the game from the goalie perspective to help those who want to better understand the position. If you REALLY want to know more, invest in the VIP pass and listen to the past 5 Virtual Summits….I was part of the 1st Summit and have listened to every one since, I have been coaching goalies for 20+ years and I continue to learn something new every time. Another way to learn is to visit the US Lacrosse Coaches Convention and attend one of the goalie presentations among other great presentations. I have presented here twice during my career. Lastly, another easy method is to listen into a goalie clinic, take notes, and maybe get some video of technique training or drills. All simple ways to become better educated, and if you are a parent, you could also suggest these opportunities to your coaches as well.

Is the entire process of trying to educate your coaches easy….Hell NO!!! Is it frustrating having to deal with a coach that lacks goalie knowledge…100% YES!!! Unfortunately, this is an epidemic in the lacrosse world and will never go away, so we need to focus on the solution(s). Two years ago I had a D2 College coach tell their HS Club goalie that she wanted her to play out on her ARC, like all the time, and when I asked the young goalie why she asked you to play that way, she said “Because all her college goalies do that and it works.” Hey Coach, NEWS FLASH every goalie is different and not all goalies will play the same way, because it’s not a one size fits all solution. The position is NOT black and white, it’s colorful with many perspectives and ways of playing the position. What works for one, may not work for another. So what’s the solution? Get educated, reach out to goalie coaches, pick their brains, ask coaches to have an open mind….if you don’t know an answer don’t fake it, because you won’t make it, reach out to the web, it’s full of goalie resources. Some of the BEST resources aren’t professional goalies at all, I have met plenty of great goalie coaches who weren’t necessarily professional goalies. We are a tight knit community made up of goalie coaches and goalies. Reach out, we are here for you, and most importantly we have ALL been there and we can empathize.

Remember this, sure at the end of the day you won’t be able to change the minds of your coach, but you can influence them by your performance, your emotions, and your character, after all we are natural born leaders and if we can’t lead from the front, we will lead from behind….we are always Ready and Resilient!!

Why do Goalies Matter? Because they do. Stay strong, and remember we are GoalieStrong for a reason.

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