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Goalies Should Not be Shut Out from Coaching

By Steve Carroll, Minnesota Hockey Goalie Development Coordinator, 01/11/23, 1:00PM CST


Another winter hockey season is underway.

It’s also the time of the year 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 during scheduled practice times.

Some coaches believe that as long as their goalies are seeing pucks during practices they are getting better. That’s not necessarily the case.

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

Sometimes coaches think that somehow the goalies will magically improve during the course of a season and become that much-needed difference-maker in big games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way.

Some hockey association’s hire outside coaches to work with their goalies. This is certainly a step in a right direction. However, the fact your association provides goalie training periodically during a season is not an acceptable reason for ignoring your goalies during team practices.

The reality is, goalies spend considerably more time on the ice with their team than they do at any association goalie clinic. Constructive/productive use of a team’s practice time, in addition to any goalie clinic, is the key to developing goalies.

Figuring out how to coach goalies can sometimes 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:

  • A child who plays goalie should be treated like any other player on the team. Pay attention to your goalies; make them feel like an important members of the team.
  • Assign someone 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 hour for the 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 the goalie coach time and space to work on the ice. The individual skill development can take place any time during practice.
  • 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 see very few shots from this area during games.
  • Coaches should shoot the puck at appropriate speed/locations to properly challenge to the goalie.  There is no need to relive the "glory days". 
  • No one likes being a back-up goalie. Kids sign up and or try-out to play, not to sit on the bench. Look at a rotation where the goalies split games or split periods. Develop all of your players in practice and games. 
  • Set your goalie up for success. Control pace of team drills so they have time to get ready 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.
  • Encourage your goalies to participate in drills and games that improve skating, challenge them to get better on their edges and become stronger skaters. 
  • Teach goalies to treat every shot like it means something in practices and games and to be accountable for their effort and performance.
  • Encourage your goalies to work on their puck handling and shooting skills.
  • Teach your goalies to talk to their teammates and to understand referee signals. For example, they should be able to let their teammates know when it’s icing, a screen shot, there’s a player in front or when they should head to the bench on a delayed penalty, 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 the team is doing drills at the other end of the ice. You want goalies to make the most of 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 goalies a chance to recover from each breakaway so they have time to move into proper position and get set to face each attempt.
  • Make sure your goalie gets a good pre-game warm-up with plenty of quality, stoppable shots. Which means re-think the loop and shoot warm-up drill.
  • 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.
  • Have goalie coach review game performance prior to next ice time, not immediately after a contest. Be they sure to point out good saves and others things the goalie did well during the game along areas that need improvement. Avoid just focusing on the goals allowed.

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 the Minnesota Hockey goalie page.

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