The older a goalie gets and the more advanced the competition
becomes, the more set in his ways the goalie becomes. The old cliché
of "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is taken quite seriously
by many athletes. Rather than developing new strategies to
counteract the more difficult save situations, goalies retreat back
into an old comfort zone of what felt good at lower levels of
competition. Often times, the goalie will not be receptive to new
ideas until they have hit rock bottom in a major slump. At this
time, the goalie is desperate for anything that will get them out of
the funk that he or she is in.
To avoid putting yourself in this situation, try to have an open
mind when a qualified coach or observer offers some constructive
criticism. The key to accepting criticism is to accept it from only
someone who has a strong background in goalie instruction and to
then listen well enough to understand what points are being
stressed. The criticism you can blow off is unintelligent comments
that are too general like, "You must stay on your feet all the
time". While you may be going down too much, you need an intelligent
criticism that explains to you why you are committing too soon.
Blanket criticism is not usually taken very well and the goalie will
normally react defensively.
The first step to getting out of a slump or to raise your game to a
higher level is to realize what techniques or concepts will give you
a better presence on the ice. I can't stress enough how a game's
outcome often is a direct result of a goalie's on-ice presence. If
the goalie looks hesitant and allows the opposition to have access to plenty of shooting and deking space, the
opponents will attack unmercilessly and really put the pressure on
the goalie to make big saves early and often. Your performance in
net is largely reflected by how much confidence you display.
Any hesitance or shakiness will be exploited not only by the other
team, but also the fans who will ride the goalie in a nasty way.
The goalies with the best on-ice presence usually have the best
grasp on the importance of knowing all the options necessary to
counteract an approaching play. If a goalie only feels comfortable
playing a deke across the crease one way, it will be easy to learn
how to beat the goalie. If the goalie can not only attack with good
lateral mobility, but can also execute a quick, aggressive pokecheck,
the opposing forwards must protect the puck or have it knocked away
from him. As a shooter approaches, he doesn't know whether he has to
avoid a pokecheck or have to accelerate to get around an aggressive
lateral shuffle or to avoid a well-timed pad save. The more doubt a
goalie can put in a shooter's mind because of the different moves
the goalie can use, the better the chance of a save.
In order to feel comfortable learning new moves stop being defensive
and realize that new moves, once learned, will make you a better
goalie. Too many goalies have a mental block that prevents them from
learning. Goalies are nervous about looking stupid while trying to
learn a new move so they are reluctant to make changes with their
game. The game of hockey is always changing so the goalies must
adapt to the different styles of play. If you tell yourself that you
can't make a half-butterfly to your stick side, you won't. If you
don't mind screwing up the half-butterfly in practice while you are
learning how to use it, you will develop a new aspect to your game.
No matter what the move is: pokechecking, stacking the pads, laying
the paddle down, aggressive angles, puckhandling, or kick saves,
when you aren't afraid to fail in practice, you will improve. Mental
blocks are created by you the goalie and no one else. You will be as
successful with the new moves as when you use your "comfort zone"
saves if you have an open mind. Once you get through the short term
failure from learning the timing of the moves in practice, the moves
will suddenly happen in a game situation without even thinking about
it. You will be a more well-rounded goalie now that you have added
something new to your game. When you aren't predictable, the
shooters will always have doubt in their minds as they approach to
try and score.
Finally, the last key aspect is to look for opportunities to deny
scoring chances, not waiting to make a save. When you are always
stepping out on the angle before a player is in shooting position,
you put pressure on the opponents to make a good decision with the
puck. An aggressive angle can prevent a scoring chance much like
pokechecking a pass to an open player can. These save situations
don't count in the shots on goal column, but they are a hidden
statistic. There should be a category for offensive plays denied. A
denied offensive play can be a tough angle that forced the shooter
to go wide or a pokecheck of a player cutting in wide so the shot
can't be taken or even a clear out of a dumped in puck so the
opponents couldn't get an attack going. When you look for ways to
screw up the opposition and don't hang out flat-footed waiting for a
save, you truly have the presence to be successful at any level from
mite to pro.
This article was contributed by
Fred Quistgard of
Quistgard Goalie Training