“At the end of the day, a couple of things stick out to me. The first is that you have to want it for yourself. You can’t want it for the glory. You’ve got to want it because you love the game and you love being out there; because you want it…”
When I asked Liz Hogan about her new venture, 2Lacrosse, she said she wanted to spread the world of lacrosse to everyone who wanted to learn. Not just her own team, but her rivals too. And that mission resonated with me. Liz is a natural competitor—she’s got the work ethic and the fighting spirit—but when you’re talking to her, it’s obvious that she loves the game for the sake of the game and that she analyzes the game very intelligently, breaking down skills and techniques for both goalies and field players. That approach has worked for her. Liz played on the US National Team for the 2015-2016 season and just this spring, she was drafted by Boston Storm—one of four professional lacrosse leagues in the UWLX. She started in goal for four years at Syracuse, where she led the Big East conference in save percentage her senior year and was named IWLCA All-America First Team.
When I was younger, I would have been terrified to talk to Liz. She’s a lacrosse icon! But Liz is also one of the friendliest, down to earth people, with big, inspiring ideas about the game and growing up, and, as she said about her own former opponents, she’s just a human. Liz has been working with Tenacity to run the Shooters and Stoppers Clinic, which gives our players yet another incredible opportunity to train with the very best. I got a chance to catch up with Liz while she was grocery shopping—juggling a phone and a cart and trying to check out without losing the phone connection. That convinced me that she was pretty awesome from the very beginning of our conversation.
Whenever I interview our goalies, I always ask how they became goalies. It’s not the default position. You really have to choose it, you know what I mean?
Or it chooses you!
Yes! So why did you start playing in goal?
Despite living in upstate New York, we didn’t have girls lacrosse when I was a kid, so I played with the boys from 2nd through 6th grade. Then once I hit 7th grade, I had to play girls lacrosse because it was offered, and I was like, “No way, not a chance.” I thought it was sissy sport, so I decided to play softball, which doesn’t make any sense. I was a catcher. I made Varsity as a freshmen, but after that year I decided to play lacrosse again. I tried defense and I decked the first two girls I came up against. So the coaches said, “Maybe you should be playing goalie.” I had a blast doing it and ever since then it’s been really natural for me. I stuck with it. Nothing better than stuffing someone on the doorstep.
You recently started up 2Lacrosse. What kind of training do you put your goalies through? Do you incorporate what you learned from your foundation in boys lacrosse?
Goalies are a unique position in that no matter if you’re playing boys or girls lacrosse, it’s pretty similar. The only thing that changes is the stick someone’s using to shoot on you.
That said, I really try to break it down and focus on a specific aspect each week. So one week we’ll be focused on legs, another week on arms, another on clears. We’re trying to build up each week so the player doesn’t get overwhelmed by thinking about what she should or shouldn’t be doing. And then when I’m coaching field players, I definitely have more of a men’s background—just from having male coaches and playing boys lacrosse when I was young.
What are the big challenges for a goalie mentally? My mom always worried that one of my sisters would become goalie because she didn’t know if we could handle the pressure. She thought it would be too hard to watch us let goals in.
You know, it’s just like any other skill on the field. It’s something that you have to practice constantly and I won’t lie, there are some days, even now with the national team, if I let myself I could get into that dark hole. I was once told, put it down the toilet. It’s done, so you gotta let it go and focus on the next thing.
My advice for both players and coaches is that a lot of coaches tend to overcoach and a lot of players tend to overthink. I think the best attribute anyone can have is the ability to coach themselves and be self-aware. That’s a big thing I’m really into recently and something I’ve been reading a lot about. Being self-aware and realizing that it’s not just about whether something is right or wrong. It’s about how it feels. It doesn’t matter if a coach sees that you’re stepping slightly off if you don’t feel it. You can’t make an adjustment to something you don’t know about. Your job as a coach is more about helping them figure out what they need to do. And as a player, it’s not so much overthinking the results—“I missed that shot”—but thinking about what you did do correctly and what could be better, and what you felt. It’s more of an analytical approach to the “how” and the “why” rather than focused on results.
It’s understanding that our experience is more subjective than objective. You can only experience the world as you experience it.
Totally. I’ve really bought into this recently and I’ve found a lot of positive results in my own game and in coaching as well. Whether it’s doing something with your eyes closed so that you have to feel that balance or just trying different things to trigger yourself to become more aware of your body.
Here’s a golf example from a book I read recently. The premise is that you’re on your first hole and you have a really bad shot. Your first instinct is to think, I blew the first hole and I’m going to have a really bad day out here on the course. But the author says, “What if I were to tell you that after your first hole you were going to have the best day of golf in your life?” Well, then your mentality would probably be “Oh my gosh I can’t wait to play!”
You have power over your future. Just because you let in one goal doesn’t mean you’ll let in the next nineteen. You could have a shut out for the next nineteen shots, but if my mentality is that I’m going to have a bad day, I probably will have a bad day.
I always tell my girls that if they tell themselves, “Don’t miss this ball,” the last words in their heads are “Miss this ball.” And that’s negative energy.
Plus your visualization while you’re saying that is an image of missing it the last time around. That last miss has nothing to do with what happens next. The reality is that you don’t lose your lacrosse skill that fast. The great athletes are the ones who can tune out the expectations and the other people around them, and instead focus on the present moment.
What does the season for Boston Storm look like? You guys are spread out so far. You’re living all the way across the country. How does that work?
The league gives us a travel stipend and basically, the model this past year was to bring the games to the tournaments. You know, we could bring them to Long Island, but if there’s a high school tournament going on in Richmond it wouldn’t really matter. So they basically flew all four teams to places and we would play games there. I think we played each team two or three times. And then we went into the championship weekend based on our wins and losses.
Are there practices as well?
You know, each team’s a little bit different. Boston has a lot of people from out of town. We had one or two practices when we could, but it was really difficult to get everyone in for them. Baltimore, though, has a lot of players who live right around Baltimore so they had a lot more practices.
How does that experience compare to playing on the US team or at Syracuse? When you’re in school, you’re playing together all the time and this feels more like a pick up league but with the best players you can imagine.
Honestly, that’s how we describe it to people—as the most intense game of pick-up you’ve ever played. We do have the best athletes, the best lacrosse players and in my opinion, the best rules too, but we don’t see each other as often. That makes it more fun because you come into the weekend excited to see your friends and there’s not too much on the line. You’re all really competitive, so you have a good time with it but it’s also really intense. I had a blast playing this summer. As long as I don’t have any conflicts, I definitely want to keep playing.
When you were at Syracuse, you played against a lot of the girls you’re now playing with, either on Boston Storm or the US team. How do those relationships change?
It’s interesting because as a competitive player, you only see your opponents as they are on the field. You forget that they’re also human and nice people too. So it’s been an awesome experience to be a part of a team with these people and actually get to know them. It’s been so fun to form these new friendships.
Last question. A lot of younger girls look up to you as a hero. You’ve played for the US team, you’ve played for Syracuse. You’re playing for the first professional women’s league now. Is there any piece of advice you received from a coach or mentor that really helped you in your career? Or any advice of your own that you’d like to share with our Tenacity girls?
At the end of the day, a couple of things stick out to me. The first is that you have to want it for yourself. You can’t want it for the glory. You’ve got to want it because you love the game and you love being out there; because you want it, not your parents. And then one coach gave me this advice: Failure is a bruise not a tattoo. I think that’s really important. A lot of kids look up to us as US players and they see the great plays on the field, whether it’s a great save or Michelle Tumolo doing a behind the back. But what they don’t see are the thousands of practice hours where we make fools of ourselves. I can’t even tell you how many goals I’ve let in. You have to understand that you’re going to fail and you’re going to mess up, but it’s not the end of the world and it’s only making you a better player because you’re learning from it. And the second thing that goes along with that, that Reggie taught me at Syracuse, is that you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you don’t ever push your limits and you don’t ever use your left hand or you don’t try to come out of cage and make an interception, you’re never going to grow or acquire that skill. You’ve got to be able to fail and if you’re pushing your limits, you’re probably going fail. You’ll get burned and you’ll fall down. You’ll miss a pass and you’ll let a goal in, but it’s definitely not going to be the last time you touch a ball.
Written By: Courtney Bird
October 20th, 2016