January 14, 2012

Top Goalies Take Stage at US Lacrosse National Convention

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Convention Live Blog

Long Island Lizards goalkeeper Drew Adams, who will play for the U.S. men's national team at Champion Challenge in Florida, said coaches need to do more to promote the position and educate players on it. "I like the responsibility of being the last line of defense," he said. "It's a position that can really make or break a game."

PHILADELPHIA -- In a dim-lit corner of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a metallic orange cage and portable crease let US Lacrosse members know they've entered the Goalie Room, a new twist to the US Lacrosse National Convention this year in Philadelphia.

An impressive lineup Saturday included elite goalkeepers Devon Wills and Drew Adams, who will suit up for the U.S. women's and men's national teams Jan. 27-29 at Champion Challenge in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Both goalies referred to the people who play their position as "game changers" and recognized the need for specialized training between the pipes.

"It's a position that gives your defense confidence and gives your offense confidence, knowing who's back there," said Wills, the All-World goalie featured in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine. "If they've got coaches who are willing to put the time in and work with them, they're going to be successful."

"The position has changed. It's not necessarily the kid that couldn't play middie that is now a goalie," said Adams, an MLL All-Star goalie for the Long Island Lizards. "As more kids want to play goalie, we have more need for instruction."

In response to that increased demand for resources dedicated to goalkeeping, specifically for women's lacrosse, US Lacrosse recently established a goalie education task force spearheaded by Monmouth University head coach Denise Wescott. The popular Coaching Education Program will also be revamped in 2012 to feature goalie-only programming.

"Goaltending has become such a redheaded stepchild in programming. Everyone thinks about offense and defense first," said Chris Snyder, manager of coaching education and training for US Lacrosse. "Through our Coaching Education Program and subcommittees, it has become a hot topic of how to actually teach this the right way."

The Goalie Room, sponsored by Bownet, marks the first step US Lacrosse has taken in its newfound dedication to goalie skill training. In addition to Wills and Adams, the speaker lineup includes Winthrop University women's lacrosse coach John Sung, Jupiter Christian (Fla.) School boys' lacrosse coach Justin Moe, Johns Hopkins University women's lacrosse assistant coach Michael Molster, Jacksonville University women's lacrosse assistant coach Adam Norton, Uncaged Lacrosse's Sean Murphy and Woodstown (N.J.) High School girls' lacrosse coach Dianna Eberl.

"But we can't just do this once a year at one location," Snyder said. "We need to do it year-round across the country."

Adams drew a captivated audience for his tips and drills, which included one recommendation that young goalies be introduced to the position using soft lacrosse balls to help them get over the potential fear of getting hit by the harder, rubberized regulation ball. He also encouraged coaches to show first-time players YouTube clips of great goalie highlights to get them excited about the position.

"I started off as an attackman and played goalie in hockey," he said afterward. "I had so much fun with that, I started to do it in lacrosse. I like being goalie because I like the responsibility of being the last line of defense, the leader of the defense. It's a position that can really make or break a game. Whether you're a good goalie or a bad goalie, you'll stick out during the game."

With resources like the Goalie Room and the Coaching Education Program, it's clear US Lacrosse would prefer that more goalkeepers stick out for the right reasons.

News and Notes

Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event established in 2006, will pit Maryland and Northwestern -- who have combined to win the last seven NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championships -- against the U.S. senior national team. Northwestern defeated Team USA 19-13 in 2006, the Americans' lone loss in Champion Challenge competition. "For us, it's not just that Northwestern beat us the first time, but they're the best. Other teams are trying to be like them. It's going to be a great game no matter what," Wills said. On the men's side, the Team USA roster includes a mix of veteran U.S. players like Casey Powell, Doug Shanahan and Matt Striebel, and first-timers like Adams. All players have their eyes on the 2014 FIL world championship that will be hosted by US Lacrosse in Denver. "It's the pinnacle playing on Team USA in any sport," Adams said. "To be able to play on a U.S. team with Casey Powell and Doug Shanahan is kind of surreal." Team USA will play the University of Denver Jan. 29 at 1 p.m... Adams was a three-time All-American at Penn State, which has become a factory for great goalies, including his mentor and former U.S. team goalkeeper Chris Garrity and current Nittany Lions sophomore Austin Kaut, who led the nation in save percentage in 2011. Adams and Kaut both played high school lacrosse for Springfield-Delco in Pennsylvania before playing at Penn State, as did Kevin Keenan, an All-American goalkeeper for the Nittany Lions in 1998.

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