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Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi has a famous quote that talks about how champions are made inch by inch. His point was that if his offensive line could move the opponents line an inch better each time they play, eventually those inches will lead to more space for first downs and bigger holes for his running backs. Rather than look at the ultimate larger goal at hand, he liked to break things down into smaller, manageable goals. This philosophy really comes into play when it comes to improving your goaltending skills.

As a goalie progresses through his or her career, there are transitions to be made at each and every level of play. If the goalie relies on what he or she did as a mite to be successful at the high school level, the results will not be very good. Knowing that we must change our habits and be aware of the little things in our game doesnt mean that change is easy to do or easy to accept. Many promising goalies fall by the wayside as they move up levels because they are too stubborn in their habits to change to faster, stronger and smarter shooters.

There are some stages each goalie must go through when they are making adjustments to their style of play. The first stage is awareness. You must become aware of the weaknesses in your game. Lets say youre getting beat top shelf glove a lot. Rather than just getting mad and frustrated over it, you need to be more aware of the type of shot thats beating you and seeking ways to address the failure. Failure is a good thing. You can learn and grow from it. If you dont learn from your mistakes, you are doomed to keep repeating them. Instead of having a tantrum over the high glove shots that are beating you, look at the problem logically. Is your glove wrist turned forward enough so the puck will go into your pocket instead of over your glove? Do you reach behind your body to try and catch the puck when its easier to meet it ahead of your body with a forward diagonal from your nose to your thumb?

Once youve identified the correction to your weakness, dont expect to change overnight. Patience is the next stage. If you get beat in the same areas while you are consciously trying to change your technique it is perfectly normal. The more you consciously tweak your game, the sooner it moves to your sub-conscious so the new technique becomes a part of your new muscle memory. Remember, old bad habits and old muscle memory do not change overnight. These habits are ingrained in your psyche. However, having the knowledge and patience to be aware that you have a problem and then addressing it in a logical way without letting your emotions get the best of you will allow you to move your game to higher levels. You have the ability to choose how you want to stop the puck . Champion goaltending truly is built and inch at a time. If your positioning is better by an inch, a shooter may miss the net. If you give up an inch the shooter doesnt deserve, the puck may go in. Pay attention to details, dont get frustrated and have an open mind to learn new skills. These positive habits will keep you successful as you move up the hockey ladder!

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training.

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