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Caylee Waters

Game Ready: Caylee Waters' Tips for Backup Goalies to Warmup Quickly

March 10, 2023
Beth Ann Mayer
Kait Devir

This article appears in the March edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

Caylee Waters’ career includes a world championship, an NCAA championship and two IWLCA National Goalie of the Year honors — the second of which came in 2016 when she shared it with her North Carolina teammate Megan Ward.

It was a rare arrangement, but it worked. The Tar Heels rode the hot hand and won the national title. Ward started the last eight games of the season, but Waters had to be ready for anything.

That was again the case last summer when Waters played backup to Liz Hogan with the U.S. women’s national team. In the final 70 seconds of the world championship win over Canada, Hogan got whistled for a foul, and Waters entered. She had no time to prepare.

“I just had to put my mouth guard in and go in,” Waters said.

Waters appeared in seven games during the world championship, making 17 saves and compiling a 53-percent save percentage.

Like a quarterback in football, only one person can start, making it essential for the rest of the goalie corps to be physically and mentally prepared to go into the game whenever a starter gets the hook.

“It can really swing the game,” Waters said. “If a goalie is not hot and you are a backup goalie not ready to take on that role when you are put in, that’s going to hurt the team. A lot of times, coaches put in a new goalie for a momentum change.”

Here’s how to warm up in a flash.


Stretching and drills can help you get physically ready. But that’s secondary to mental preparation.

“Maybe the starter sees the majority of shots, and you go in for the last two minutes of sevens,” Waters said. “You may think, ‘Oh, I’m not the starter, so these last two minutes don’t matter,’ but to be the best for yourself and your team, you have to go into that like, ‘These last two minutes mean everything.’ You need that competitive edge.”


Waters stretches her back throughout the game by doing single leg lifts — bringing her knees up toward her chest, holding for a second, releasing and repeating on the opposite side. Hamstrings are also a cinch.

“You can be stationary and bend down and touch your toes and then kind of walk out and stretch,” Waters said.

She also stretches her hips by holding a wide squat for a second.


When a coach tells her to get ready, Waters asks a coach or teammate to shoot at her at 75-percent of game speed.

“It’s hard to get that 100-percent rep, and it’s distracting,” she said. “You want to pay attention to the game and not have a rebound go on the field.”

Waters usually tries to see four to six high shots, four to six mid shots and four to six low shots. The key is to get the body ready for game movement.

““I’m working on seeing the ball and feeling loose,” Waters said. “The way I am on the sidelines seeing the ball, that’s how I want to see it in the game.”


Roster sizes vary by level and budget. It’s possible for a goalie to warm themselves up, too. Waters recommends the walk-the-line drill.

Why it works: “Visually envisioning sometime can be just as beneficial,” Waters said. “Envision yourself at your best play, how that looks and feels.”

1. Get into a ready stance.

2. Step laterally at a 45-degree angle.

3. Drive your hands, and pretend to make the save.

4. Return to ready position.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 in opposite direction.

Establish a start and end point and do this until you reach the end. Vary stick side/offside and high/hip/low.

“The key is not to just go through the motions,” Waters said. “Take your time and think about what you are trying to get out of it.”


Being a backup goalie can be a physical and emotional rollercoaster, including the need to be game ready at a moment’s notice. Embrace it.

“You might get put in without a warmup,” Waters said. “Don’t feel like you have to have a perfect routine. It’s never going to be that way.”

You may feel like you should’ve started or been put in sooner, or that maybe after a tough warmup you’re not ready after all — that’s all noise.

“That’s where mindset is so important,” Waters said. “Have fun and find the joy in it.”