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What is a goalie coach?

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As ice hockey moves along the 21st Century, goalies still find themselves in the Dark Ages. Most head coaches still are not comfortable coaching their own goalies and assign that task to a goalie coach. The sad part about this arrangement is when a head coach pays no attention to what the goalie coach is teaching the goalies. Simply being a former goalie may not be enough of a credential if that coach has not been paying attention to the changing needs of today's goaltenders.

What exactly does the goalie coach do?
He or she not only teaches techniques to the netminders, but also mentors them in other aspects of their lives. The goalie coach helps them deal with frustration, periods of insecurity, personal problems, or advice about relationships with their peers. The goalie coach is a psychologist, teacher, friend, and taskmaster. A bond must be formed between the goalie coach and goalies for this relationship to be successful. A head coach directs the lives of twenty or so players in a practice with minimal interaction. The goalie coach deals in a one-on-one situation where communication skills are essential.

How exactly does the bond of respect and friendship begin?
When first dealing with the goalies, the goalie coach should sit down with them and go over his or her philosophy on goaltending. Ask the goalies how they position themselves to handle different game situations. Ask the goalies what they expect of their goalie coach. Establish lines of communication and let them know that they can talk to you confidentially without the fear of you running to the head coach and ratting on them.

Once you begin on-ice practice, don't be heavy-handed in your coaching. Observe the goalies before you try to implement your system. Your job is to troubleshoot and fine tune their game, not make them into a new version of you. Always compliment them on their save attempt and offer another way of handling the same play. If you become combative and force the goalies to do things they don't want to do, you will alienate them. Your job is to let them see the ramifications of their actions and to open their minds to other ideas. Increased knowledge will always lead to improved goaltending.

By mid-season, you should have a pretty good rapport with the goalies. If someone watched you at practice, they might think all you do is stand around. What that person doesn't see is the eye contact and the body language between you and your goalies. Paragraphs of dialogue can be exchanged with a nod, look, or hand gesture. They instinctively know what you expect from them and don't need you hovering over them.

In the late season, the goalie coach puts the goalies on a maintenance plan. Focus on one or two key areas of their game that needs work and correct them with drills that reinforce the correct techniques. Don't make any drastic changes in their game unless absolutely necessary. You want to keep things simple so they can be confident and ready for the post-season.

Communication and respect for their individual personalities are two essential ingredients to being a good goalie coach. Your goalies should always have objectives in the drills they do at practice. Simply blasting pucks at the goalie is not acceptable. They should always control rebounds, be in position with the body under control, force shooters to make mistakes, and learn to instinctively read the plays that approach the net. Being a goalie coach is demanding and you must be with them on a regular basis. Once a month is not enough. You must make the commitment to them if you expect them to commit to you. Take pride in being a goalie coach because the rewards of mentoring young athletes so they mature into solid young men and women are many.

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

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