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How to Ruin Your Goaltending Career in 10 Easy Lessons

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Years ago I wrote a widely circulated article for coaches titled “How To Ruin Your Goalie In 10 Easy Lessons.” This was a tongue-in-cheek article meant to give coaches food for thought about their influence on their goalies. In fairness to coaches, goalies have a responsibility to help themselves get better. It’s not always about what your coach does or doesn’t do for you, but how you deal with what’s going on around you. If you are inquisitive, open to new ideas and have a strong work ethic, you will keep progressing throughout your career. By the same token, if you have a negative attitude, cannot take constructive criticism and you’re lazy….well, you do the math……

#1: Negative Crease Presence

If you look bored, lazy or indifferent guess what….everyone will assume the worst about you! Your teammates won’t trust that you have their back and opponents will think you are an easy mark. Just like life, perception is reality. What presence do you give off?

#2: Wear Your Frustration on Your Sleeve

Okay, you’re having a bad practice or game so what? If you’re having a meltdown and carrying on just because some things aren’t going your way, what message does that send to your teammates and opponents? You may be furious about the goal you just gave up, but you can’t let on. It’s like the old deodorant commercial that said “Never let them see you sweat!” Stay calm, try to look rationally as to why you aren’t playing well or why the puck went in and then, to quote Jimmy Buffett, “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On!”

#3 The Word “Battle” Is Not In Your Vocabulary

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy largely due to the fact that he never quits on a play. Do you truly battle until the puck actually goes in the net or do you assume you have no chance and quit on plays? If you don’t give 100% when you practice or play, why bother? Baseball Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, set a record for most consecutive games played. He taught people that life is all about showing up and being ready to work.

#4: You Are a Puck Receptacle, Not A Goalie

If you are not a student of the game and constantly trying to learn new options for stopping the puck, then you are merely a “puck receptacle”. What do I mean by that? Well, if all you do is zone out and wait for the obvious clue that a shot is coming, then you are using only a small portion of your talent. Since the time you spend actually making saves in a game is less than a minute, you must learn to use the rest of the time wisely in your movement, positioning, stickwork and communication.

#5: Your Real Estate Giveaways Qualify As a Charitable Deduction

The vast majority of goalies I coach have no idea how much quality real estate they give away to the opposing shooters. They back in too early, retreat from rebounds and glide back into the crease long before the shooter is anywhere near them. What happens when you give away real estate? You give shooters the advantage of time and space. Get comfortable with closer gaps because when you do, you have less distance to cover to make saves, you look quicker since you don’t have to move as far and you force the shooter into mistakes since they don’t have room to make easy choices.

#6: You Call It Quits After One Save

Okay, that was an amazing save you just made. The world will not stop spinning, the President will not invite you to the White House and your favorite supermodel will not be asking you for a date. Even if you made an amazing first save, you still may have to make some more after that. If all of your energy was out of control making the first stop, you won’t be able to get to the rebounds. If you are a top quality goalie, you should be able to flow from one save to the next by keeping your body under control. If your head, hands and back shoulder are always squarely moving into saves, you will have the ability to make multiple stops on the play. If you’re one and done, you won’t be effective at higher levels of play.

#7: Your Stick Is Just an Advertisement for Lumber Companies

Ooh, that’s a beautiful piece of composite wood in your hand….pretty colors, cool logo. Just wondering, but do you use it for more than an advertising statement? Has it crossed your mind that you might be able to pass the puck, pokecheck deking players, corral loose pucks for face-offs or clear away rebounds with it? Very few goalies really have high level stickwork and have no understanding on how having an active stick will maximize all the rest of their skills. Find a stick that is not just cool, but actually feels like an extension of your arms so you can use it well. The stick is not just a crutch to lean on between plays!

#8: Practice Is a 4 Letter Word

Yeah, I know the Bruins coaching staff is hiding out at your mite, high school or adult league rinks just waiting to offer you a million dollar contract. While you are waiting (and waiting and waiting) for them to send you the contract, you might try to learn some new things. I don’t care if you’re 6 years old or 60. If you’re strapping on the pads, there is something new to learn. You can always tweak your game, learn new options to counteract the shooters and make yourself unpredictable. If do the same thing game in and game out and you never expand your horizons, you will never get better…period!

#9: You’re Afraid of Failure

Failure is a wonderful thing…embrace it….love it! If you screw up and learn from it, guess what? You’ll get better!! You’ll recognize what to do or not to do because failure at anything in life gives experience. If you’re afraid to look bad, afraid to try new things, afraid to compete…..you’re playing the wrong position! Listen to constructive criticism. You don’t have to take the advice, but you can learn by other people’s opinions. Repeating the same mistakes over and over means you’re not learning!

#10: You’re a One-Trick Pony

Okay, you’ve got a great butterfly. That’s nice. What else can you do? If you rely on one move to carry your career, you’re in trouble. Be unpredictable. Know how to position yourself so shooters mess up. Be good with your stick. Develop an amazing glove hand. Learn how to effectively communicate with your teammates. All these things make for a multi-faceted style of goaltending.

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

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