Taking Stock of Your Game
It’s that time of year (late Spring) where thoughts turn from goals
against averages or save percentages to beaches and barbecues. Its a
great time to reflect on this past season’s successes and setbacks.
You must learn to objectively assess where your game is at and where
you aspire to be. Note that I said OBJECTIVELY not SUBJECTIVELY.
Whether we look at our hockey game or life, we look through filters
clouded by our own biases. We tend to be creatures of habit who take
comfort in having things “stay as they are”. The reality is that we
must adapt to a changing world, hockey or otherwise. So, here are
four areas where you can try to objectively critique yourself:
1) What Types Of Patterns Emerged From The Goals You Gave Up
During The Season?
Hopefully you kept a training log from the season, but even if you
didn’t you must have at least some anecdotal evidence as to the
goals you gave up. Were the goals rebounds? How about dekes near the
crease? Were the goals off-angled ones? Were they “soft”? Be honest
with yourself and track the situations that affected you the most.
Once you have identified the types of situations that gave you
difficulty, you can take it to step number two….. Ignorance is not
always bliss. If you are not instinctively aware of the types of
goals you give up, you cannot go about creating a plan to take your
game to a higher level.
2) Can You Break Down Your Game Step By Step?
Most goalies know the type of goal that they have difficulty with,
but don’t know how to go about changing their game to better handle
the scoring situation. For example, if rebound goals are a problem
and you view yourself on tape you might see that you take a backward
step after making a save. That innocent step backwards opens up 2
feet of scoring space and that is what the shooter takes advantage
of. Maybe you have trouble with wide angle shots. Did you know that
your backwards gliding opens up the long side every time and that
gliding puts your weight on your heels where you can’t react to turn
your body to the puck in time? Do you give up a lot of 5 Hole slot
shots? Did you know that dropping your hands behind your body
prevents your knees from staying together? Is a short side goal a
problem? Well, if you drive with the foot next to the goal post, you
may be pushing yourself too much into the middle angle and giving
the shooter too much short side space. These “little things” are
details that you must learn to pay attention to. If you can break
your game down beyond the obvious elements into minute detail it’s
easier to develop a strategy for self-improvement.
3) How Fit Are You?
Just because you have exceptional goaltending skills does not mean
that you are an exceptional athlete. A sailboat can’t leave the
shore with its anchor in the sand and a goalie can’t make
transitions to elite levels of play if they get too tired to get out
of their own way. Take stock of your eating habits and the exercise
you get away from the rink. Hockey practice is exercise, but it is
not consistent enough to develop your conditioning and strength.
Does your butterfly or paddle-down moves get stuck in the mud? You
need to incorporate plyometrics, squats and lunges into your fitness
routines. Get fatigued from being in your stance for a long practice
or game? Increase your abdominal workouts because a strong stomach
supports your back. You lose effectiveness when you are fatigued and
can’t keep a good ready position. If you do have a great fitness
workout, but eat the wrong foods at the wrong times in the wrong
portions, you will not achieve your fitness potential. What subtle
changes in your diet and exercise can you make to maximize your
4) How Tough Is Your Mental Game?
Many goalies have built in excuses as to why things “happen” to
them. There are reasons goals go in and goalies need to be
responsible for what they can control. I know practicing and playing
all season is demanding and hard to be at 100% mentally. However,
that doesn’t give you the right to sleepwalk your way through the
season. You must learn to be accountable at practice. Have you ever
made a practice plan for yourself that mirrors your coach’s practice
plan? In other words, during long-shot warm-ups do you care where
the rebounds go? In one-on-one or two-on-one drills do you know what
your responsibilities are and are you adding new moves to your game
so you are not predictable? Do you just hang out or do you actively
try to play with your teammates heads when they come in to shoot at
you? Are you easily distracted if things don’ t go your way? Do you
pass blame to others when pucks go in? Have you ever considered
practicing your mental game in practice the way you practice your
physical skills? Mental toughness is the top goaltending skill yet
it is rarely practiced. Why?
I hope these categories give you some food for thought as you assess
the state of your game. Mark Twain once wrote that people are as
happy as they set their minds to be. Goalies are as effective as
they choose to be. Don’t limit your personal growth with sloppy
habits, poor preparation or false perceptions on your talents. Be
honest with yourself, set short and long-term goals for your hockey
journey and enjoy your progress as you make yourself better each
year. Good Luck!
This article was contributed by
Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training.