The Evolution of the Most Important Position on the Field: The Goalie

By Mary Schwartz, Head Coach, Roanoke College  @RoanokeWLax

In the summer time I spend my days training middle school and high school girl’s lacrosse goalies across the United States. On the first day when we are all together, I share the history of this amazing position. I start off talking about the equipment that goalies had in the 70’s and 80’s (It was not the best for a goalie that wanted to come out of the cage like today). The goalies had a one-piece chest protector/thigh protector with metal clips in the back securing it on (not very safe)!

Courtesy of Roanoke Athletics.

I decided to wear an ice hockey chest protector that allowed me to clear better and move around outside the cage better (it was half the size of the full-length protector). The shin pads were full length white canvas field hockey goalie pads, they were big and bulky. I decided to wear modified catcher shin guards, I cut off the clips and taped them on with athletic tape. This made me more mobile out of the cage. There were goalie gloves once again they were big and bulky, I wore baseball batting gloves. I had the choice of using a wooden stick that was a little bit wider than a field players’ stick or use the NEW STX molded head with an aluminum shaft (that bent like crazy…) stick, the same size stick a field player would use. The helmet was big, heavy, and you couldn’t see that well out of it. I decided to wear an ice hockey goalie helmet, this helmet was lighter and allowed me to see. I definitely brag to the goalies that I was the one who changed the way goalies played!

The goalie stick that is used today was introduced in 1986! I remember they were doing a study to see if the larger stick head would save more balls! Like they had to do a study for that… The first time I used the stick was at the USWLA National Tournament in the club division in the early 90’s. I struggled to clear with the stick due to the pocket size but quickly adjusted to what I needed to do to release the ball.

      Schwartz in cage for Maryland in 1985.

Goalies now need to have great stick skills, comfortable coming out of the cage, good right and left stick work, speed and don’t forget the most important thing… they need to be able to save the ball! I tell my goalies they are field players that have the privilege to save the ball. I have my goalies do most of the stick skills that field players do and most of the drills. I get them outside the cage as much as possible, so they feel comfortable. I give my goalies a lot of attention, they need it! Make sure you spend time with your goalies daily to develop the muscle memory they need to save the ball. Build them up, they need that too! Be sensitive with drills, make sure the attack does not shoot on top of the crease if they are not warmed up. Get to know your goalie and her needs!

The gear they have on may have changed over the years, but I believe it still is the most important position on the field!

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