One of the more difficult decisions for a coach is how to rotate the
goaltenders. If one goalie is far more talented than the other, the
choice is simple. If the goalies are similar in ability, the
decision is very tough. The coach needs a sixth sense to read which
goalie is going to be hot, and which one is not. As any hockey
enthusiast knows, teams, players, and goaltenders do not play the
same every game. Goaltenders and their coaches must accept that it
just isn't possible to post shutouts every night of the season. They
need to understand the realities of the season long playing cycle in
order to keep their expectations realistic.
There is always a friendly, but, very serious competition between
the first and second-string goalies. Each goalie wants to be in the
nets, but, one goalie has to sit it out when the other has been
rewarded with a game. If the first-string goalie gets hot for
several games, the second-string goalie gets left-out and may
second-guess his ability. He may also resent the attention the
starting goalie is receiving. This scenario is extremely common with
goaltenders experiencing good cycles and bad cycles each season.
Usually by mid or late season, the two goalies will reverse roles,
with the hot goalie going cold and the cold goalie getting hot.
A key issue for coaches is how to maintain a good working chemistry
between the goalie who is at the top of his game and the one who is
temporarily out of the limelight. Honesty is the proper way of
dealing with the playing situation. The coach should pull both
goalies aside and explain their roles-short and long term. If one
goalie has been receiving the "tough" games against strong
opponents, discuss why he has deserved these starts. If the other
goalie has only seen action against the "weak" teams, he should
realize that these are serious opportunities to show what he can do.
Too many goalies take assignments with weaker opponents as insults.
This is a terrible mistake! Any game can be that stepping stone to
increased confidence and consistency. As the long season progresses,
the starting assignments tend to even out.
While riding the successful part of the goaltending cycle is easy,
handling the down side is very difficult. If you are a goalie who
has taken a back seat to your partner, you can deal with it two
ways. First, you can mope around and complain about the raw deal you
are receiving thereby alienating you from your fellow teammates. The
correct approach is to support your goaltending partner while
practicing hard and staying mentally ready. You must be in a
positive frame of mind while awaiting an opportunity to prove
If you are enjoying a hot streak, you should not have to apologize
to your goaltending partner about dominating the starting lineup.
Continue to support your partner and maintain a working relationship
free of animosity. Remember that your partner can get hot just as
easily as you, if you kick him while he is down, it will come back
to haunt you. When you are at the top of your game, don't become
cocky, smug, or conceited. Hard work and determination breeds
success and once you begin to go through the motions, the down side
of the goaltending cycle won't be far behind.
Each hockey season has its own cycle. Goalies never know ahead of
time when they will have a slump, an injury, or a hot streak.
Goaltenders must be emotionally strong and learn not to get
overly-excited about the good games, or overly-depressed about poor
ones. Emotional consistency will allow you to stay focused on your
seasonal goals and aspirations. Goaltending is a position which
requires maturity, character, and poise. Without these attributes, a
goaltender would get rattled at the first signs of adversity. Ups
and downs each season are to be expected, but, counteract their
effects by remaining consistent in work ethic and mental approach.
The goaltending cycle is not some abstract concept, but, a natural
frame of mind, physical health, hockey ability, and any concerns
from your personal life that weigh on your mind. The goaltending
cycle has many factors, but, learn to keep the game in perspective.
This article was contributed by
Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training