“Back of the net” by 109 goal scorer Austin Stewart
By Austin Stewart
In 2015, I had a magical season with my Lynchburg College team as we went all the way to the D3 National Championship before coming up a little short to a great Tufts team. Along the way, with the help of my great teammates I was able to find the net a D3 season All time record 109 times. It was pretty special, here are a few tips that I think can help you.
Scoring goals at the highest levels can appear easier than it really is, some guys are physically gifted and unbelievable athletes but still struggle to get the ball in the back of the net. Why is that? Because goal scoring in a sense is an art…here are my 5 tips to becoming a better goal scorer:
1. Move Your Feet, develop IQ.
Too often I see younger kids either in a game, practice or even getting extra reps on their own standing still. Lacrosse is known as “the fastest game on 2 feet” yet this idea of standing still is becoming more and more popular. Very seldom in a game do you get the opportunity to stand still in a game and benefit from it. I would say on average, a good player will get 3-5 shots a game, and 1 “time and room” shot if they are lucky. In order to maximize your shot count, you have to move, and move with intelligence! With or without the ball, you will not be successful without constant movement. Just by simply moving around the offensive zone, you will start to find yourself getting a lot more shots in a game. As you progress, you will realize how little, precise movements are all you need to evolve your game. Whether it’s a pop, a cut, a fade, or constant focus/concentration, movement is key to goal scoring.
2 Creativity and fundamentals
Not many great scorers have poor fundamentals. Play with both hands; always release the top hand away from your body to create power and quickness. I feel the best coaches do a great job of letting their players play. There are still team concepts and offenses in place, but they let their players work out of the sets, and don’t give them set rules with how to play offense. Too often kids fear being creative, thinking they could get pulled. I am NOT encouraging players to go rogue just to try and score goals, but think outside the box. Shoot from different planes, with different hand positions, behind the back, with both hands etc. Practice is a great time to work on this to get a feel for whether or not it will be effective. It’s key to remember new is ok, but effectiveness is more important. Don’t put your team in a bad spot just because you want to score goals. Change it up, and don’t get in a routine that becomes predictable and easy to defend. Lastly, as one of my college coaches often said to me, “have an escape plan”, simply meaning don’t make any moves that if they don’t work, it is a quick turnover. Give yourself and your team the ability to keep the possession alive.
3. Have the best stick skills that you possibly can
Unfortunately a lot of players have a misconception that their stick skills are “good enough”. Wrong! No one in the world has still skills good enough to stop working on them, and everyone can always improve their stick skills. Specifically, catching…work very hard on your catching. If you get a bad pass near the goal and you miss it? Scoring chance lost…if you catch it and catch “everything” scoring chances gained every time. Ultimately, if you have a great stick, you can likely guarantee you will catch every ball, shoot from any angle, and you will develop the confidence needed to take risks on the field that put you in the best possible position to score. Don’t make excuses. My point here is mostly technical skill wise, but also make sure your lacrosse stick is completely dialed in to suit your game, the more confidence you have in your stick the better you will play.
4. Have No Fear
There is no truer statement out there than what the Great Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”. As cliché as that line is, it is so applicable to being a great scorer in every sport. Again, I am not encouraging reckless play just to get your shot count up, but often times I see players shy away from a great goal scoring opportunity. Sometimes I feel that they pull away because they don’t realize that they have a great scoring chance, and other times they back away from the chance because they lack the confidence to take a chance. Easy fix to both of those reasons. A) Watch film, of both yourself and others, see what your missing and try and get a better understanding for when exactly to exploit a defense. Also getting back to creativity, figure out new ways to attack the goal even if you aren’t use to doing it. B) Just remember why you’re out there, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You lose? This leads me to my last and most important tip.
5. Have Fun
Lacrosse is the greatest game on the planet.It is easy to get caught up with all the distractions in our sport such as getting recruited, which club team to play for, etc… At the end of the day you are playing the sport you love for a reason, because you love it. So don’t hesitate to go out there and enjoy it with a smile on your face. Play with passion, energy, play with guts, hold yourself accountable, but have fun while doing it.