Goalie may be the most unique and challenging position in sports. The combination of special equipment, unique skills to learn and the influence they have on the outcome of each game is unparalleled.
This should mean goaltenders receive the most support and coaching of any player on the team, but that’s not always how it works out.
Minnesota Hockey Goaltending Development Coordinator Steve Carroll is on a mission to change that and prepare every coach can to be a goalie coach. Today, he shares the following tips for coaches who want to provide a better development experience to their goalies each day at practice.
First and Foremost
“It’s important that when coaches design their practice plans they include time in that practice hour for goalie development,” said Carroll, who also serves as the goaltending coach for the Gustavus Adolphus women’s hockey team.
Carroll emphasized this as the first and most important step for all coaches who want to develop and support their goalies. While goalies benefit from seeing shots during practice, it’s critical they receive time and instruction devoted to the numerous skills unique to their position.
“During that dedicated goalie time is when they work on their individual skills and for me, a lot of that has to do with skating and movement,” said Carroll. “They will see pucks during other parts of practice so they need to fine tune and get comfortable with their various skating and crease movement skills.”
The Goalie Coach
The next biggest priority for each team is determine a goalie coach. Carroll is quick to challenge any notion that only parents or coaches who have played the position can serve as a goalie coach, insisting every team needs to have someone who is consistently focusing on the goaltenders and the goalies know they can go to with any questions.
“The trendy thing for hockey associations right now is to hire private coaches to come in on any given night to train their goalies,” said Carroll. “I think those have the potential of being positive experiences for goalie development. Where I see a [potential] negative is if the coaches view that as the only opportunity kids will get any sort of goalie training during the course of a week.”
The best possible situation occurs when team coaches view goalie training nights as an opportunity for them to learn as well.
“The team coaches have more opportunities to work with the kids during the week than the private goalie coaches do on any given day,” said Carroll. “If it’s truly going to be a successful program, there needs to be buy-in from the coaches so they’re coming to those goalie nights and either helping on the ice or watching from the stands and learning what is being taught so they can take the drills and incorporate them into their team practices moving forward.”
Once goaltenders have a foundation of skating and movement skills and coaches begin adding shots, there are a couple of key points to keep in mind.
“I always encourage coaches to shoot to challenge, not shoot to impress or overwhelm,” said Carroll. “Shoot to challenge the goalies so they develop confidence and improve their skills during that period of time.”
“Mix up the presentation as to where the shots come from for the goalies because that’s game like. They come from all areas of the rink. It could be the top of the faceoff circles, below the hash marks, the goal line or out near the blue line. They come from all over the place so when you develop your practice plans, either during the individual time or during the team drills, make sure there is a variety of shots the goalies see because that’s what they will face in a game.”
One Puck Practice
Another simple way to make drills more game like and build better habits for goaltenders, as well as skaters, is to play one puck until it’s frozen by the goalie, knocked out of the zone or a goal is scored.
“Too often, even with the forwards, they’re like one shot wonders,” said Carroll. “They shoot the puck and peel off into the corner. They either don’t think about it or don’t have the time to play the rebound as if they’re in the game. I encourage coaches to control the tempo of the drill so the goalies and the other players have time to finish the play.”
“There are so many resources out there for coaches, whether they played the position or not, that to me there’s really no excuse for coaches to not have basic knowledge of how to develop a goalie during a practice session,” concluded Carroll.
In addition to participating in goalie development sessions hosted by your association, USA Hockey has a host of resources for goaltending development including goalie specific practice plans with skill progressions, videos of skating skills, and more. Get started today at usahockeygoaltending.com.