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Q&A with Kevin Lerg of Pipe to Pipe Goalie School

Kevin Lerg

Pipe to Pipe Goalie School was founded by former NCAA goalie and current NCAA coach Kevin Lerg. Kevin grew up in Michigan and began playing goalie in 5th grade. He continued to play goalie through middle school and high school and was named a 2010 US High School All American while helping lead his team to two final four’s. After high school, he moved onto compete at NCAA Division III Adrian College. At Adrian, he was a three-time all conference athlete, two-time team captain, and helped lead the Bulldogs to four NCAA tournament appearances. Upon graduation, Kevin took his first coaching opportunity at NCAA Division I program the Virginia Military Institute. At VMI, he worked year round with the Keydet goalies in individual and group sessions as well as practice. After VMI, Kevin was named an Assistant Coach at Division III Hiram College. At Hiram, he worked year round with the Terrier goalies and also worked with Force Lacrosse Club instructing weekly goalie clinics and ran private lessons for local youth-high school boy and girl goalies. Kevin is currently in his second year coaching at Hartwick College, also working with the Hartwick goalies year round. He has continued to teach goalies during winter and summer camps throughout the United States.

GG: What are some attributes and abilities that a youth lacrosse coach should look for in players to recruit as goalies?

KL: There are various attributes and abilities that a coach can look for when trying to find a goalie for their team. Courage is something that most if not all goalies have. It takes courage to step into the cage with little padding and lacrosse balls coming at high speed towards you. Identifying players that have great attention to detail translates well to goalie. It is a position that can be broken down into many different parts. Goalies who can digest and understand all the moving parts give themselves the best chance at success in the cage. Often overlooked, stick skills are important for goalies as well. Too many times I see a goalie make a great save then throw an outlet pass out of bounds or to the other team resulting in playing more defense. Communication and a high level IQ is important as a goalie. As goalies get older, defenses add more moving parts and a goalie has to be the eyes and voice of the defense. Size is an attribute that many coaches may look at. It helps to be bigger but size is not everything when it comes to the position. There are many high level goalies who are average sized. Some bigger goalies lack the quickness that smaller goalies may have. Any goalie at any size can be successful.

GG: Tell us a little about your own path to becoming a goalie?

KL: My start as a goalie began in 5th grade. I got a short stick and all player equipment for tryouts and participated as an attackman during the first day. I did not notice it but we went through the first day without a goalie. At the beginning of the second day of tryouts, our coach brought everyone in and asked if anyone wanted to try goalie for the day. After no hands went up, I raised mine. I remember briefly thinking I did not like running that much on the field and figured if I was the only goalie I would play a lot of games. Without any proper goalie equipment, I grabbed a goalie stick and played goalie the whole tryout. There was some nerves and fear to start but I settled in and continued at the position through college.

GG: Who were the biggest influences for you in developing as a goalie?

KL: When I was growing up lacrosse in Michigan was not very popular. The popular sport in my family was hockey. My cousin Jeff, six years older than me, was an accomplished hockey goalie who has since played professionally in the United States and overseas. He was always someone I looked up to at the goalie position. Attending some of his games, I saw how he would stand in front of pucks moving quickly towards him and how athletic he was moving in the crease. Growing up we did some off ice training together to work on reaction speed and quick hands. My dad was also very involved in helping me develop as goalie. We had a goal in the backyard and he would always take time to shoot on me. My youth coach, John Van Antwerp, was great as well. He played his college lacrosse at UPENN and came back to run our CYO program. He made sure the goalies were given the proper attention at practice in order to improve.

Kevin Lerg in Action at Adrian College

GG: What are your top recommendations for things a goalie can do to develop their skills and abilities on their own? How about recommendations for a high school coach in working with his/her goalies?

KL: There are many skills and attributes that goalies can work on that do not require a coach, parent, or teammate to be present. Footwork is an important aspect of the goalie position that can be developed without wearing any pads or holding a stick. Drills to improve this include jump rope, ladders, hurdles, shuttles, and line jumps. These drills do not take long either. Goalies who can move quickly and under control are most successful. These drills help build leg strength while improving quickness. Wall ball is another area goalies can improve. Use both hands and work on hitting the same spot on the wall consistently. Use proper throwing mechanics while throwing overhand. Throw different types of passes including hard, soft, and arc passes. Hand eye coordination is another area goalies can improve while working by themselves. Juggling, throwing a tennis or racquetball off the wall and catching it are a few drills. For coaches, working with a goalie on their fundamentals is very important. Goalies may have multiple weaknesses. Focusing on improving one weakness first before moving onto another. Be consistent in how the goalies prepare for practice and games. Make sure they are properly warmed up before going into drills. If you find a drill that works, continue doing that drill while adding a variation or two. Allow the goalie to have a voice in what they feel they need to improve on.

GG: How important are on field communication skills in becoming a successful goalie?

KL: On field communication from a goalie is very important. It becomes more important as a goalie grows older. As many people say goalies are a different breed. Some are the loud obnoxious guys while some are quiet and reserved. Personally, I am more of a reserved person but I knew that had to change when I stepped onto the field with my teammates. Doing so gave our defense the best chance to be successful. Goalies who have a high IQ and communicate well can be difference makers without even saving a shot. The best defenses sometimes do not have the best players but they operate very well as a seven man unit with the goalie being the eyes and voice. Communicating in a tone that teammates respect and respond to is what the best goalies do. It is easier said than done. This is something that will take time to develop. Goalies should communicate essential parts of the defense including who is sliding, who is next to slide, what defensive package the team is in, when to slide, check calls, and clearing.

GG: What are your thoughts on the impact that the new NCAA Men’s Lacrosse rules, including the shot clock and shortened substitution box, will have on goalie play?

KL: The new rules will be interesting across all NCAA lacrosse. They are designed to increase the pace of play and scoring opportunities. I think goalies will see more action in general. That could be off a turnover or save from the other teams goalie and the ball is coming to your end quickly. Most goalies will probably enjoy this instead of standing in their defensive end for extended periods of time. Goalies will have to be prepared for odd man situations coming at them such as 6v5’s or 5v4’s. It will be important to communicate effectively to stop transition and force teams to make as many passes as possible while trying to force a poor shot. Clearing will be another new element goalies will have to adjust to. Off a save, goalies who can get the ball out of their stick quickly will beat the 20 second count and not let the opposing team set up in their ride.

GG: You played high school and college lacrosse in Michigan, and are now coaching in New York, so you have plenty of experience with playing in cold weather. What tips do you have for goalies on staying warm and loose in those conditions?

KL: It seems like every year more of the season is played in cold temperatures. The biggest thing for a goalie is being comfortable. You have to be able to move while also staying warm. Some goalies are superstitious and will wear shorts and a t-shirt in 30 degree temperatures. Some will wear sweatpants in 80 degree temperatures. Personally, I would always try to bundle up as much as possible with layers. I would keep the layers thin. Wearing a full sweatshirt was difficult to move in. 3-5 thin long sleeve shirts designed to be worn in cold weather and a pair of sweatpants was comfortable to play in. Another aspect of playing in the cold is losing feeling in your hands. Many games I would have the other goalies on the bench hold a pair of hand warmers. They would use them during the game and then would pass them to me at any timeout, end of quarter, or halftime. Finding something that is comfortable is the first step in playing in cold weather.

GG: Tell us a little about Pipe to Pipe Goalie School, and what participants can expect from your upcoming Albany area clinic.

KL: Pipe to Pipe Goalie School was founded to help boys and girls of all ages improve as goalies. We offer camps, clinics, and private lessons year round. Specifically we focus on developing and improving the basic fundamentals of the goalie position while providing a small learning environment which allows the staff to provide feedback to the goalies. Our events will have very little standing around for goalies aside from teaching points and other instructional opportunities. Goalies will always be involved in a drill whether that is in the cage, passing a ball to a shooter, or working on small drills on the side. Our drills are designed to challenge goalies while allowing them to learn and have fun. Goalies will be split into groups based on age and will receive a Pipe to Pipe Goalie School jersey.

Pipe to Pipe Goalie School Albany, NY Clinic

Date: Wednesday November 21, 2018

Time: 4:00-6:00 PM (Girl’s) 6:00-8:00 PM (Boy’s)

Location: Afrim’s Sports Dome – Latham

Cost: Early registration (must be registered by October 31st) $130.00

           Late registration (after October 31st) $150.00

           There is a non-refundable deposit of $80.00 due at time of registration if not paid in full

Staff:

Kevin Lerg (Adrian College)

       2010 High School All American

       3x All conference NCAA goalie

       4x Conference champion

       4x NCAA tournament team member

       10+ years coaching youth-college goalies

Joe Scalise (Cortland State)

        2014 Section V 1st team

        2014 All Greater Rochester

        3x SUNYAC Champion

        4x NCAA tournament team member

        2x All conference NCAA goalie

        10+ years coaching youth-college goalies

For more info, or to register visit: Pipe to Pipe Goalie School

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Gary Govel
Gary has been involved in lacrosse in the Capital District for over 35 years as a player, youth coach, program administrator, parent, and fan. Gary launched www.capitaldistrictlax.com in November 2015 to report on lacrosse news and information of interest to the region, and to share his passion for the game. In addition to operating this site and associated social media, Gary is also a contributor to Inside Lacrosse.
http://www.capitaldistrictlax.com

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