Success with 8 Meter Free Position Shots

Cherry Creek Blair Sisk (11) takes a shot on goal against Centaurus during their lacrosse state championship game. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post)

In girl’s and women’s lacrosse, a major foul by a defensive player which occurs in the 8 meter arc results in a direct free position from one of the seven hash marks equally spaced along the 8 meter arc. This means an offensive player gets a chance to shoot on goal with all other players, except the goalie, placed outside the 8 meter arc. This “free shot” is an ideal opportunity to score, but the scoring percentage – or conversion – of 8 meter free position shots is surprisingly low. There are a number of reasons why this is the case and there are some really basic techniques or steps a player can take to maximize the opportunity.

First, it helps to understand some statistical facts about goal keeper save percentages. Stopping a small lacrosse ball traveling very fast or at close range is not a very easy thing for a goal keeper to do. A really good goal keeper only saves a little better than 50% of shots on goal. This is in the shooter’s favor. Conversely, getting a shot past a goal keeper is also not an easy thing to do considering the body and crosse pocket of the goal keeper is blocking at least 1/3 and possibly up to 50% of the available scoring area. ** This varies significantly of course by the size, posture (position), and location (positioning) of the goal keeper. But, generally speaking, both the shooter and the goal tender square off with shooter having a slight advantage. The point here is the shooter should be confident with the edge, but also needs to be calculated and purposeful.

So what are some things a shooter can do can increase her odds of scoring on an 8 meter free position shot? The positioning of the shooter on the specified hash mark varies by the nature of the foul the location of the ball at the time. This diagram illustrates the shooting angles and degree of difficulty from the various spots. For the sake of simplicity, this article applies to shots from the green hashes and maximizing odds of scoring from those spaces since positioned at other locations (red areas) may not always be a wise shot considering the space between the pipes from the red hash locations, is reduced to about 25 inches.

There are three basic steps or components to success with 8 meter free position shots. All three sound really simple and obvious, yet often players either ignore or poorly execute some (or all) of these basic steps.

1. Get Ready

This is the most obvious step and the one that often gets overlooked. The referee will spend at least 5 and as many as 20 seconds arranging players for the restart. Often, the shooter just stands there like all the other players watching and waiting. The shooter needs to use this time. Get the ball and get to the assigned spot. Get ready while everyone else is still wandering around.

2. Plan the Shot

This is the mental aspect of getting ready and is done both simultaneously and following the first step of physically getting ready. The shooter needs to make a plan for her shot. Here are some things to think about. Is there a teammate behind the goal? Is there a shooting angle? Do I have a defender adjacent that will crash? If so, from what side, or both? Is the goal keeper right or left-handed? Does one of my teammates have a better shot? Also the shooter should consider her strengths and skills. Does she have a good high velocity shot or a great bounce shot, or both? Is she quick on the whistle? From this “planning process” a shooter can determine the ideal release and placement for her shot.

3. Use Good Technique

A shot needs to be purposeful and employ good technique. Just tossing the ball at the cage is not usually going to score a goal. Scoring lacrosse goals requires at least one of two components; velocity or placement (and most often a combination of both) and these require technique.

A common mistake many players make is shooting with their hands out in front of their body limiting the muscle groups that can propel the ball resulting in a weak shot. We call this the “T-Rex shot” and, from about 34 feet out, it is not difficult for a goal keeper to see and stop. Sometimes, a shooter can run in a few steps for a closer shot if no defenders are adjacent making velocity less important. However, often times, under the pressure of the crashing defenders the shot is disrupted, blocked, or poorly placed.

Good technique using a power shot includes hands back (with the rear hand slightly behind the shoulder and elbows off the ribs) and legs crouched in an athletic position. After the whistle the shooter should advance to the goal “loading up” the legs and hands to shoot as hard as possible to a location she selected during the planning step. If a shooter has an opportunity to run in and place a shot from a closer distance, she needs to adjust her grip with hands closer together for maximum stick control and get in a good athletic position to launch forward quickly on the whistle and out run the crashing defenders. She should finish with a quick release and / or stick fake that is difficult for the goal keeper to adjust to at such close range.

As simple as it sounds, players often fail to maximize the advantage of the “free shot” by failing to utilize these basic steps and techniques. This three-step process is an effective approach that a player can practice at home or with her team to make the most of her chances at 8 meter free position shots.

Although this explanation took lots of words to describe, this whole process sequence is really quite quick. The game video example below shows everything outlined above taking about 10 seconds.