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GOALTENDING CYCLE

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 yourself.

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

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