Goalie Guru: Bill Pilat's 4 Keys to Developing Sound Netminders

This article appears in the “Game Ready” section of our May/June edition. Join USA Lacrosse to start your subscription.

The Goalie School celebrates 30 years of hosting camps this summer. I enjoy working with goalies at all levels. I’ve had goalies who were in their first week playing the position and others who would go on to become college All-Americans. I conservatively estimate that I have seen more than 15,000 goalies (boys and girls) over the past three decades.

Here are some observations that may prove beneficial to current goalies in their development.


Many goalies have quick hands. Far fewer have quick feet. Every goalie can benefit from improving footwork and foot speed. Agility ladders, jump ropes and just plain working on moving in the goal are all necessary of goalie training.  We always have an agility station at The Goalie School to show some great footwork drills.


Goalies often overlook their stickhandling ability. They need to work on ground balls outside the crease. Most goalies never do this. If a ball is loose and the goalie can get it, that’s one fewer offensive chance for the opponent. Also, if a goalie can make a good clearing pass, the ball won’t come right back.

Rarely mentioned is the goalie’s ability to make a good pass back to the coach when warming up. A goalie that serves quick, accurate returns, will see more shots and get a more efficient warmup.


Even a goalie who saves 60 percent of shots is miserable 40 percent of the time. How we deal with the 40-percent failure separates good goalies from great ones.

We train goalies to acknowledge bad things will happen. Goals will go in. It’s part of the position. Next, we teach the short memory technique. The most important shot a goalie faces is the next one. Goalies must learn to stay in the present rather than focus on the past or future. Embrace the mental aspect of training.


A great goalie coach does not necessarily need to know or have played the position. They just need to be able to throw the ball accurately, listen to the goalie and help with drills the goalie needs. If a goalie wants to work on off-hip shots, a great goalie coach can shoot 15 straight shots to the off hip — at the speed the goalie wants. A friend, a parent or, in the absence of another person, a reliable wall can be a great goalie coach.

Bill Pilat is the director of The Goalie School and head men’s lacrosse coach at Roanoke College. Go to goalieschool.org to find a TGS goalie camp near you.


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