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Puck Dummy

Goaltending is regarded as one of the toughest positions in all of sports. The impact of goaltender is right along with pitchers and quarterbacks . The whole game is on your shoulders. You hear it all the time - "you cannot win without great goaltending". Go ask anyone who has played hockey at a high level - you gotta have great goaltending to even have a chance.

Recently, at my USA Coaching course, one of the main instructors speaking on hockey said - "if you really want to win the game, make sure you have the better goalie on your bus".

Yet when it comes to the coaching staff helping, supporting or instructing goaltenders - the most common feedback goaltenders get is - " Just make a save", "how did you let that in?!" , "Quit dropping so much" , "Why are you always sliding" , "Challenge more"....

I could go on... I get pretty fired about most of these sayings from coaches. These responses are ignorant and unhelpful 99% of the time. I have a hard team believing that QuarterBacks and pitchers get feedback like this. If a Quarterback throws an interception - do coaches actually just yell at them - make a pass! Or to a pitcher who gives up a hit - why dont you just strike him out?

Practice Time

In football- you don't hit the Quarterback - he wears a red jersey in practice. He is regarded as untouchable. I never played competitive football but I get the impression that much of the practice revolves around the QB and their relationship and performance with the team. The entire offensive scheme revolves around him and his decision making and execution.

In baseball the pitchers live in their own world. They have their own locker room and are completely separate from the rest of the team.

The baseball pitcher's performance and game preparation is fundamentally different from the rest of the team. They pitch. They stand on the mound and work on their delivery, different pitches, different grips of the ball. They study film on hitters and strategize their approach for the game.

The rest of the team works on hitting and fielding skills involved for their positions of the game.

Imagine this: in baseball all you had your pitchers do is throw batting practice for the rest of the team and throw the ground balls or pop flies to work on everyone else's game.

I think most parents/coaches right away would realize this is completely ridiculous and detrimental to the pitchers development and performance and not productive for the team.

Why do we allow this in ice hockey goaltending ?

When most goalies go to their team practice - It is completely for the benefit of the rest of players. Players want to shoot on a goalie at practice. It's boring if they have to shoot on an empty net. The goalie should make sure to show up early and work extra hard because we wouldn't want the forwards and D be bored during practice. Not 1 drill revolves around helping the goalies on specific situations. Would it be such a shame if the players have to do a drill for the goalies? They might get worse at skating and shooting during a goalie drill ?

I do not believe goaltending is or should be identical to pitching or quarterbacking. They are different sports and many elements are different. There is value in getting shots during normal practice drills. However, time needs to be taken to focus on actual goalie training and coaching.

I think many coaches struggle with the idea of making the whole team do drills revolving around 1 player but this cannot be the case. They need to understand its their most important position. Think of your team in terms of the 3 fundamental positions - Forwards, Defense, Goalie. Goalies deserve at least 33% of the drills. Why not allocate of 33% of your practice time to them.

Other Ideas & problems on goalie training:

- "The goalies get a lot of shots on this drill " - this does not make me feel good or think the drill will help the goalies. When you want to help the goalies have an actual focus and strategy for them. For example- "Goalies, we are working on point shots with traffic. Try to find a lane to see the puck and not back up" or "Goalies, your gonna see a walk from behind the goal line and then a 2 on 1. Be sure your sealing the post and not cheating off the short side. On the 2 on 1 don't let the puck carrier score. If their is a pass try to beat it across as fast as you can on your feet.

- Dont blame your goaltending for losing games or giving up bad goals when you have less than 5% of your drills and time allocated to coaching them.

"Just stop the puck" this is a horrible, ridiculous, terrible saying that is often thrown at goalies when asking questions or performing badly - next time you see someone strike out at the bottom of the 9th and lose the game be sure to yell this at the batter and say - just hit the ball!

- Just having a goalie coach on the ice is not enough. This is a good thing and a step in the right direction but do not expect huge gains from this. Many drills/ situations for goaltenders in practice are less than ideal and put you in unrealistic situations. The goalie coach can only offer so much feedback and valuable input during a "flyby" hoping not to get hit by pucks between shots .

My message to goalies :have a good attitude and always find a way to get better - Many drills are not for you and they don't need to be. Dont be a prima-donna and throw your hands in the air every time you do a 3 on 0. I've done plenty in my career and if you have the right approach and right attitude you will always find a way to get better. Thats the point- no matter how ridiculous and stupid the drill may be - focus on one thing or element to try and make yourself better. Any other approaching and you will only hurt yourself.

Goalie's Skating out at practice- Yes! I completely support this. At 12U and younger I think goalies regularly skating out is a good thing. Especially, if all they do in practice is "Get Shots". If you do not have a regular goalie coach or drills built around helping the goalies develop and learn - dont be afraid to skate out at practices.

Much more can be said on this topic - but the point is this: The hockey community from the NHL to Mites needs to change its attitude and approach toward goalies if we want them to develop, learn and perform better. We need to change the culture and perception towards practice and development of our goaltenders in this game if we are going to put that much pressure on them.

See more articles from Conway Goaltending here

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