I recently received an email from a young goalie who was struggling with saving low shots.
Most goalies who struggle with low shots have a flaw in their stance that prevents them from quickly reaching a shot to the feet. But in addition to stance, there are also several other tactics and tips to consider to improve your ability to save low shots. Let's dig into all of them.
If you've read any number of my posts you know that I like to think of every save the same way - low shots are no exception.
An extremely important part of making a save is getting setup in the right stance. Many goalie problems are caused by a bad stance and low shots are no exception.
Goalies struggling with low shots are often standing too upright in their stance. Not in an athletic position.
If you’re setup in the proper goalie stance you’ll have a slight bend forward at the hips, ready to pounce forwards towards any shot especially a low one.
If you draw a vertical line from the shoulders downwards while in your stance, the line should pass through your knees and down through the balls of your feet.
A good test - can you take off on a sprint forward directly from your stance?
If you have to make some kind of adjustment before sprinting forwards you're not setup in the right stance. A goalie who is too upright will have a hard time athletically reacting to a low shot.
There are a set of guidelines that all goalies should follow when setting up in a good goalie stance. However there's also a lot of flexibility within those guidelines.
Some goalies are taller and like to setup in a higher stance like Drew Adams (left), other goalies like Adam Ghitelman (right) are shorter and like to get really low.
There are many styles of lacrosse goaltending and different styles work for different goalies.
However if you're struggling with low shots while having no problems with high shots, I suggest lowering your stance.
Being lower to the ground will make that low save easier, as both the stick and your body have less distance to travel to reach the low shot.
Incidentally, by setting up in a lower stance you'll start seeing more high shots as shooters see more open net upstairs.
For those goalies struggling with low shots, baiting the shooter high could be an effective tactic.
Even if you prefer to setup in your stance a little higher you can still improve your ability to reach low shots by ensuring that your hands are setup a little lower.
Smaller goalies can get away with having their thumb at the same level as their eye, however by lowering your top hand you're still in good position.
So if you're having trouble reaching low shots consider lowering your top hand in your stance.
In games, many goalies tend to get nervous. This causes their body and their grip to tighten.
Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what an elite goalie wants.
We want our body to be extremely relaxed, ready to react. We want our grip on the stick, especially the top hand, to be loose.
If you’re “choking” the stick with a tight grip, you’re going to be slow to get to the lower shots.
So when you’re practicing saving low shots be sure to relax your hands a little. This will allow for the proper stick rotation to get that head down low in time to make the save.
The only way to lose those nerves that result in a tight grip and a tight body is to get that real game or real practice experience.
So if you’re nervous and tight at first, don’t worry with time and experience that will go away.
One of the first things I learned from our goalie coach in college was to completely rotate the stick on the low shots.
If you're going to rotate the stick on a save, when you finish the stick should be vertical, not an angle. Like this:
Having this mentality of always ending with a vertical stick on low shots will quicken your stick rotation and ensure that you're getting your body in the right position to be best suited to make the low save.
It will also ensure you're positioning the goalie head to occupy maximum surface area.
As lacrosse goalies we should never guess where the shooter is going to shoot. We always want to see the ball and then react to the shot.
We can however anticipate low shots in some situations.
Many lacrosse players do not have the ability to shoot low to high with accuracy. It's a difficult shot that you usually only see executed starting at the high school level.
Shooting low to high with accuracy and power is even more difficult if a player is on the run.
It takes strength and it also takes a deep lacrosse pocket, meaning female players are even less likely to shoot low to high. Therefore, as a goalie, when you see a player's hands and stick head drop before a shot, you can anticipate a low to low shot.
When you're anticipating a low shot, you can cheat lower in your stance and lower your hands to be better prepared to react to a shot that goes low to low.
Getting your hands and body low before the shot will help you be in great position to make that low save.
As you raise through the levels of lacrosse you’ll see that shooters can now accurately place that low to high shot.
However you can still use this tip because a low to high shot is difficult.
If a player rips top cheddar with a low to high shot on the run, there's no shame in giving up that kind of goal. Regroup and focus on the next one.
When making a low save, there's a certain way lacrosse goalies should end up to ensure that any rebound or ricochet ends up in front of the goalie and not in the goal.
It all has to with both the angle of your stick and the angle of your chest when making this save. Your chest should be over top of the stick on low saves.
Here's an example of good positioning with the stick angled forward, chest over the head of the stick, and the head right there concentrating on the ball.
For low saves (or any save for that matter) we drive our top hand directly to the ball.
With our bottom hand we want to punch out.
This will do a number of things: 1.) Help accelerate the stick's rotation. 2.) Allow the goalie's stick to finish angled forward. Having your stick angled forward will cause ricochets to fall in front of you and not find their way into the back of the net.
Punching your bottom hand forward on the low save will also keep your shoulder square to the shot so your body occupies maximum surface area.
One thing I say to goalies when we're working on low shots - "What time is it?" If you've properly punched your bottom hand out you should be able to see an imaginary watch on the wrist of your bottom hand.
When your bottom hand is behind you - you can't see your wrist - and you're not in the right position to make a low save.
What time is it? Time for some low saves.
As I've discussed before, I'm not a fan of goalies dropping to their knees to save low shots.
I believe goalies make more saves over time by staying on their feet.
That said, there are many respectable goalie coaches and top goalies who swear by dropping to their knees as the most effective method of making saves down low.
So see what works for you. However on my teams and with the goalies I coach, we preach staying on your feet for low shots.
Here are a series of lacrosse goalie drills that you can use to improve your ability to save low shots:
Many attackman and middies love to aim down low.
That's because it can be a tough save for a goalie. Goalies always setup with their stick up high so there's more movement required to make a low save.
However if you practice the tactics I've given in this article you'll find that the number of saves you make down low will start to increase.
Here are the tips to improve your saves on low shots:
Now get out there and work on your low saves and soon they'll be a strength rather than a weakness.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any questions or comments about making low saves? Leave me a comment here - Help with low shots