The Quickest Way to Improving - The "Next One" Mentality

Having spent this weekend watching a ton of high-level High School/Club lacrosse, it's never been more apparent to me that for many goalies, there is a quick way to DRASTICALLY improve their play in the cage just by tweaking their mental approach. The nature of the position is that we will inevitably give up goals; this isn't other sports where goalies had an off game if they give up three goals. If you know that even in great games, you'll generally give up a few goals, it is clear that how you react and respond to being scored on (or any mistakes) is going to be a big part of your play on a given day.

I've seen too many goalies, good ones at that, that struggle and play below their capabilities as a game goes on and they give up goals, especially a weak one or two. As their frustration grows (sometimes in a hurry), you see some hanging their head, complaining to their defense, and even slamming their stick. These are just a few of the reactions I never want to see from my goalies, and aside from being a bad look in general, it gets in the way of what should really be your reaction.

One of the real problems with these behaviors, aside from letting your opponent know you are shaken, is that none of this helps to prepare you for the next save or play you need to make. If you are struggling, mental cues like "Drive to the ball", "communicate" and "be patient in the clear" need to be your concern. These are simple, actionable cues that will help you get dialed in mentally and get back to basics physically. If you are engaging in any of the negative reactions I see in some goalies, these cues are taking a back seat and issues go unfixed. 

More subtle than some of the more obvious behavior, I even would prefer goalies NOT get hung up on a single technical mistake after a goal. I see goalies give up a 5-hole shot and spend the next 2 minutes in the crease repeating the proper technique. While the thought process makes sense, getting hung up on one particular shot is a mistake. Chances are the next shot won't be a 5-hole take, and too often a goalie will give up a saveable high shot because they are too concerned that they didn't get down to the last shot.

If you notice that you are often thinking about the last goal you gave up, try to switch from what happened in the past for what you need to do next. You aren't going to change the goalie you are mid-game, so focus instead on getting back to the basic foundation that has gotten you where you are. Keep you cues short and simple, and focus on the next shot. This "Next One" mentality is something many goalies possess already but if you notice this is a struggle for you, make it a priority! This one change will be the difference maker you are looking for.


Dave Page