You stand in front of a gaping 6 foot by 6 foot cage, defending against a shot that ranges from 20 feet to point blank, with a 5 ½ ounce hard rubber ball. Protection is minimal, consisting of a helmet, throat guard, a chest protector that is thinner than a catcher’s mitt, a cup, and an oversized lacrosse stick. Welcome to the world of the lacrosse goalie!
Let’s take out of the equation the shear pain induced when a high velocity shot hits muscle, bone and skin for a moment and focus on the reaction time necessary to save a shot. According to the reaction time calculator at LaxPower.com, a 20 foot shot travelling at 85 miles per hour (a shot speed that many 12 year olds reach) requires a reaction time of 0.16 seconds. Cut that shot distance in half to 10 feet and the reaction time necessary to save it drops to 0.08 seconds!
In a sport where it is not uncommon for shots to exceed 100 miles per hour, the courage and athletic ability necessary to be a good goalie is off the charts. Honestly, I cannot imagine why anyone would ever choose to be a lacrosse goalie, but I have the utmost respect and admiration to the select few who choose to specialize in this crazy position.
In my lacrosse travels playing and coaching at all levels, I have found that all goalies have a couple traits in common. First, they are great athletes. Successful goalies are usually one of the best athletes on the lacrosse field and commonly excel at other sports outside of lacrosse. Case in point, my childhood buddy and trusted goalie through the duration of my middle school and high school playing career, Jake Doran, was one of the best goalies in the state of New Jersey our senior year of high school. He went on to be an All American wide receiver for Fairleigh Dickenson University Football.
Second, they are adrenaline junkies that have no regard for their own personal safety. A few years ago while coaching a U11 boys division, I lost my star goalie to a broken wrist…not from lacrosse, but because he was testing a zip line he constructed from his two story bedroom window to his backyard fence. One of my current high school tournament team goalies gets excited when he receives new bruises after particularly hard impacts, at the prospect of how large and hideous they are going to get as they mature.
So often, it is the prolific scorers, face-off specialists, and fancy stick artists that get most of the attention in lacrosse, and heck they deserve it. But for this post, I give a shout out to the guys and girls that I admire most on the lacrosse field: the goalies! To all of the courageous, fearless, and athletic goalies of all ages male and female, this one’s for you!
Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.