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Taking Stock of your game

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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 hockey skills?

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.

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