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Goalies should not be shutout from coaching

By Steve Carroll, Minnesota Hockey's goalie development coordinator, 11/27/18, 11:15AM CST


Coach Carroll working with goalies at Minnesota Hockey skills development session.

It’s that time of year when teams have been selected and practices and games have started.

It’s also when people begin to realize what the coaches are or are not doing to improve the skill development of the goalies on their team. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, nothing is being done.

I believe more coaches need to change the way they currently do business and improve on how they work with their goalies. They need to break out of their comfort zone, so goalie development becomes a priority and not an after thought.

I often wonder why is it that goalies – arguably the most important players on a team – receive the least amount of coaching.

I have heard a variety of reasons for this including: coaches knowing little about the goalie position or perhaps more importantly, taking the time to get up to speed on what they can do to assist in the development of their goalies.

Common reasons given for this are the coach never played the position, they don’t understand the latest goalie techniques, they have to worry about 15 other players, they don’t want to mess up a goalie who is working with a private goalie coach, or they assume their goalies get all the position-specific coaching they need at in-season goalie clinics or summer goalie schools they may or may not attend.

Therefore, adults often coach in their comfort zone, spending countless hours on Russian circles, breakouts, systems and power plays while basically ignoring the development of their goalies. They feel as long as they are seeing pucks they are getting better.

Coaches hope that somehow the goalies magically improve during the season and become that much-needed difference-maker in big games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way.

Some hockey associations hire outside coaches to work with their goalies. This is certainly a step in a right direction. However, this should not be an acceptable reason for coaches to ignore their goalies during team practices because they will get all the individual skill work they need during the goalie clinics.

The reality is, goalies spend considerably more time during the season at their team practices than they do at any association goalie clinics. Constructive/productive use of a team’s practice time, in addition to any goalie clinic, is a key part of development.

Figuring out how to coach goalies can be a challenging and intimidating aspect of the job for many coaches. However, it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some goalie coaching tips that can help:

  • Assign some to be your team’s goalie coach and encourage them to learn as much as they can about the position.
  • Schedule 15-20 minutes of each practice for your goalie coach to work with your goalies on individual skill development. Make sure to write this down on your plan so you don’t forget about it. Give your goalie coach time and space to work on the ice. Goalie development time can take place at one time or in block throughout the hour.
  • Set up your goalie for success. Control pace of team drills so they have time to get set for each shot and into position to play rebounds.
  • If your association holds goalie clinics, make sure your goalies attend and strongly recommend that your goalie coach also go – taking notes and/or helping out on the ice. Coaches should build on what’s being taught at the clinics during team practices.
  • Successful goalies compete, are consistent and play with confidence; build your goalies confidence, improve their play, improve your team’s win-loss record.
  • Mix-up location of where the coach shoots pucks at the goalies during practices. Most of the time they shoot multiple shots from the slot area when in fact goalies actually sees very few shots from this area during games.
  • Encourage your goalies to be leaders and not followers. For example, move them to front of the line during team skating drills like Russian circles and not at end of the line because they skate slower than others.
  • Teach goalies to treat every shot like it means something in practices and games and to be accountable for their effort and performance.
  • Goalies are not shooting targets for players or coaches. They should be treated with respect. Coaches need to stop reliving their glory days as a player by blasting shots past their goalies to show everyone who is watching that “they still have it."
  • Coaches should shoot the puck at appropriate speed/locations to properly challenge to the goalie.
  • Encourage your goalies to work on their puckhandling and shooting skills.
  • Teach your goalie to talk it up and give helpful tips to their teammates. They should let them know when it’s icing, a screen shot, there’s a player in front or need to get the puck out of the zone, etc.
  • Think carefully about removing your goalie during a game for poor play, if possible make any change between periods.
  • Coaches need to control their reactions/emotions on bench when goalie gives up a goal. Goalies typically feel bad enough when they get scored on and it doesn’t help the situation when they look at bench and see coach upset and/or screaming at them.
  • Stick to the basics, most goalies need to improve fundamental skills. Successful goalie development includes quality repetitions.
  • Encourage goalies to work on their individual skills while team is doing drills at the other end of the ice. You want them to make the most each practice session, so they improve every time they are on the ice.
  • If you do shootouts at the end of practice, control the pace of the skaters. Give your goalies a chance to recover from each breakaway so they have time to move into proper position and get set to face each attempt.
  • Pay attention to your goalies; make them feel like an important members of the team.
  • Make sure your goalie gets a good pre-game warm-up with plenty of quality, stoppable shots.
  • It’s always about stopping the next shot a goalie faces.
  • Incorporate goalies into team drills— for example have them stop the puck behind net on breakouts and leave it for a teammate to pick it up or have them shoot puck ahead to teammate.
  • Teach your goalie to understand referee signals so they know when to head to bench on a delayed penalty.
  • Encourage your goalies to develop a post-goal routine so they do the same thing after every goal. They need to quickly analyze what just happened and refocus on what’s about to happen. This needs to be done before the puck is dropped at center ice. For NHL goalies, their post-goal routine often revolves around the water bottle.
  • Be good to your goalies, and chances are, your goalies will be good to you and your team.

There is a lot of good goalie development information available, including age appropriate practice plans, at There are also videos of drills and other information on this page