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If you aren't fortunate enough to have an experienced goalie coach to analyze your game on a daily basis, then you may not always be aware when parts of your game start to falter. Life is all details and so is goaltending. How well you pay attention to the "little things" that make up your total package will determine how consistently well you play. Many of these "little things" may seem insignificant, but they really aren't. Just like a dieter who searches for the magic pill that will keep the weight off while one hand is on the TV clicker and the other in a basket of chips, goalies tend to focus on gimmicks or hot trends that they just "know" will turn them into Patrick Roy. Unfortunately, one size trend does not fit all and you have to be true to yourself. So, to help you avoid gimmicks and to focus on what is real, read through the following areas and take a self-evaluation. If you become aware of your personal "little things", you will be able to raise your play to a new level.

ATTITUDE

This one word says a lot about you. Attitude can make up for shortcomings in skill or technique. Are you extremely set in your ways and refuse to evolve with the game of hockey? There still are many goalie coaches who refuse to teach paddle down or other modern trends that clearly work in the correct situations because they did not play that way in the 70s or 80s. There are many of you goalies out there who remain in your personal comfort zone because the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. You're holding yourself back! Goaltending gives you a wonderful opportunity to be creative. Wouldn't it be exciting to have four or five different save options to handle a breakaway deke or slot shot? Do you like being boring and predictable? Wouldn't you prefer practice and games to be like your personal hockey canvas where you can create a goaltending work of art because you let your imagination go?

Experiment with different save techniques until you get them down. Once you get through the learning stage, the move will move to the sub-conscious mind and just happen when you need to react under pressure. Be a student of the game in how you see what is in front of you. Are you always criticizing your defensemen or are you in a partnership with them to help them make better choices in front of you? If you take a positive leadership role, you will be surprised how loyal your teammates are to you. If you are an obnoxious blamer who quickly criticizes every little mistake a teammate makes, you won't have players who will go the extra mile for you. Take a look at yourself, or better yet, ask your teammates what they think of you as a leader on the ice. Ask them what you can do to better communicate with them.

Attitude really is everything with a goalie and says volumes about your character. Take an honest look at yourself and have the courage to become a true leader with real character. Did you ever notice how certain people stand out during the course of a day because of their character and convictions? Notice that you come across many more people during the day that you either don't notice or don't respect?

How do you react after a goal has been scored against you? Are you scared or excited to be in a 0-0 game with 10 seconds left and an opposing forward skating in on a breakaway towards you? Are you easily distracted by trash talk or loud "fans"? Does your on-ice presence exude confidence or fear? These are all aspects of your attitude and persona. Look at video of yourself and honestly assess whether you look intimidating or scared out of your mind. Would you have confidence in you if you were one of your defenseman? If you were the coach, what would you think of you as a goalie and as a person?

Athleticism

Okay, so you have some great goaltending skills--is that enough to make you successful? You will always maximize your goaltending skills by being the best athlete you can be. If your only exercise each week is your game or practice, it simply is not enough. You need to have a strong athletic base to build your goaltending foundation on. Do you lift weights, do some endurance cardio, work your core abdominals and get some explosive sprint or polymeric training in at least a few times a week? If you don't work out away from the arena you simply won't be as good as you could be if you were a serious athlete. What about your nutrition? Do you constantly snack late at night? Is your idea of the four food groups potato chips, pizza, chicken wings and ice cream? Are you on a first-name basis with Ronald McDonald? Nutrition will have a major impact on your playing ability. Food is fuel. If you are working out properly, but put watered down gas in your engine, you will get the knocks. Simply put, you truly are what you eat. Sure, you can have your favorite junk food once in a while, but you must consistently be aware of what fuel you are putting into your tank if you expect to play to the best of your ability. Write down a food log for a week which lists every single thing you eat and drink. See a nutritionist with your log and have them make suggestions in how to eat for better athletic performance.

Goaltending Technique

How well do you know yourself? Ask your teammates what habits they observe about you. Do they always shoot to one spot because they know you can't stop it? There is a reason every puck goes in. Obviously you can't stop everything, but that doesn't mean that there isn't something you can learn from each scoring opportunity you face. What might be better options when handling a 1 v 1, 2 v 1 or 3 v 2? Can I be more aggressive with my positioning to force a player to pass instead of shoot? Why am I so lazy in giving out rebounds on long shots? How come pucks don't stay in my catching glove? Why do I give so much gap on paddle downs near the crease? Why do breakaway shooters deke so easily around me? How come wide shots always rebound into the slot? These are all questions that, when answered, provide important information to you to make yourself a better goalie. Most goalies are clueless about these tendencies and play or practice on automatic pilot, never questioning why these mistakes keep happening. Repeated habits are symptoms of a problem--pay attention to them!!! Goalie coaching is not rocket science. Even if you don't have a goalie coach, you simply must learn to pay attention to details. Start a training log and record your thoughts after each practice and game. You will likely see trends in your strengths and weaknesses and that will allow you to break through your comfort zone and become a well-rounded goalie.

Attitude, athleticism and techniques are three areas where you need to be honest with yourself. For those of you who may think twice about what you have been doing--great! It is far easier to muddle along in blissful ignorance than to courageously look inward and see your weaknesses for what they are--a wonderful chance to grow as a player and a person. Good luck as you take the exciting journey to be the best player you can be. Be true to your own goals and standards so you can make the progress you deserve.

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training

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