Coaching a goaltender when you have never played the position is a
problem for many coaches. You want to give your goalie the same
amount of instruction as the skaters, but, you don't want to screw
him up with misinformation or bad advice. What happens then is that
you don't communicate your thoughts to your goalie and he or she
feels neglected. While it definitely helps to have played goal, you
teach the position if you were a forward or defenseman. To coach
goalies effectively, you must treat them correctly in practice by
giving them responsibilities in drills and by observing three key
areas: stance, positioning, and movement.
If your goalies are to improve, you must give them practices which
encourage them to be more than a target for shooting drills. Don't
leave goalies out of "non-goalie" drills and don't limit "goalie
work" to shots, shots, nothing, but, shots. First of all, be careful
not to consider some areas as "non-goalie" subjects, namely
face-offs, forechecking, breakouts, etc. The goalie should
understand all of these concepts because he will be faced with shots
when the team's systems break down.
Too many coaches think that all the goalie is there for is to stop
shots. Granted, stopping shots is the goalie's main responsibility,
but, the game has changed and requires him to be active in other
areas as well. This brings us to the next problem. When you think of
your goalie at practice, how many times is it in the form of, "Oh
yeah, my goalie. Hey, everyone get a puck. Line up and shoot on the
goalies"? This type of shooting is not game related. Does the
referee blow the whistle, stop the game, and put all the players in
an arc to see how many goals go in? The goalie must stop the puck,
but, he must also skate, handle a puck, leave pucks for the
defensemen, tie up rebounds, communicate, and position himself
properly. If you're doing breakouts, let the goalie handle the puck.
If you are talking about face-off alignments, address the goalie
with his duties.
Remember that the goalie's game is one of confusion and uncertainty.
There are screens, deflections, puckcarriers with multiple options
and defensive breakdowns. Your drills should reflect this
uncertainty. Look at your typical drills. Does your goalie see the
puck clearly all the way? Does he know who will shoot...and from
what area...and when? Build the reality of games into your drills.
Don't put up with a goalie who claims that he is not a practice
goalie, but, will be okay in games. That is a selfish attitude.
Remind him in no uncertain terms, that his full presence in practice
is for the team's benefit as well as his own. If he isn't pushing
them at practice, they won't be game ready.
The goalie's stance is the foundation that good saves are built
upon. If the stance is not correct, a good save will be harder to
achieve. No matter what style your goalie plays, the fundamentals
remain the same. The weight should be balanced on the balls of the
feet so he can move quickly to the slot. If your goalie winds up on
the seat of his pants an awful lot, his weight may be balanced too
far back on the heels. This explains why he over-splits. The hands
should be held out in front of the knees so he can cushion the puck
and keep all movements in front of the body where mistakes are less
costly. The pocket of the glove must always face the puck. The blade
of the stick should be a foot or two in front of the skates to
cushion the puck. Keeping the stick in front of the skates will also
keep the hands in front of the body. Be a troubleshooter and let
your goalie know when he is getting sloppy.
Positioning is your next concern. Does your goalie challenge each
puckcarrier or does he sit back and let the shooter have the
advantage? He doesn't need to move thirty feet out of the net to
challenge someone. Challenging a puckcarrier means positioning
yourself in a way that eliminates some of the shooter's main
options. If the goalie sits deep in the crease, the shooter has
access to all of his options. The goalie should play a few feet
outside the crease whenever possible to cut down the angle to the
corners and to take away passing and skating lanes that the shooter
wants to take advantage of.
The stance and positioning are stationary elements of goaltending. A
goalie can look like an all-star in his stance, but, all-sieve when
he has to move. Does his stance fall apart as he moves? Does his
stick come off the ice with each stride? Is there enough space
between his legs to drive a truck through? Is he able to move out
quickly to cut down the angles and still be able to back in with the
deking puckcarrier without losing his balance? Is the goalie's body
moving in the same direction as the save? Is every shot an
adventure? If the goalie is stationary, in practice, he will play
the same way in a game. Make the drills the goalie faces in practice
full of movement. Even if the goalie has difficulty, it will develop
Finally, let's go over dealing with goalies in games. Is it best to
split games or let each goalie play a full game when they are
younger? At the young ages, split them down the middle. With older
goalies, have them play a full game to develop their concentration.
When deciding who will start a game, there is no need to tell the
goalie in advance. If a kid complains, "I didn't know I was playing.
I need more time to mentally prepare myself." Nonsense! Respond in
this way: "That's good to know. If the other guy gets hurt in the
middle of a game, I'll know not to put you in because you won't be
prepared. I guess that also means that you won't be seeing much
icetime since the other goalie seems ready all the time.
Design a pre-game warm-up that gets the goalie moving. You don't
always have a lot of time, but, you don't want the goalie warming up
from a stationary position. During games and between periods, the
goalie should be able to receive constructive criticism as long as
you don't distract him with too many items to focus on. If there are
issues that require a lot of thought, save it for the next practice.
Don't yank a goalie after a bad goal. If the goalie is struggling,
pull him for the team's benefit, but, don't do it if it was just a
fluke goal. A goalie must learn how to put a bad goal behind him and
focus on winning the full game. The power of the spoken word is
tremendous. If your goalie plays well, a subtle praise will do
wonders for his confidence. If the goalie is struggling, talk with
him about habits that have developed that limit his ability. Work
with him to get his confidence back. Do not ignore him because that
will add to the problem.
If you are able to consistently run meaningful practices and you
monitor your goalies progress, they will show improvement. You must
communicate your interest to your goalies so they know you care.
Brainstorm with the goalies about ways to make them better. They
will be encouraged to take pride in themselves and their role with
This article was contributed by
Fred Quistgard of
Quistgard Goalie Training