Coaching goaltenders – Head coaches perspective

Coaching goaltenders – Head coaches perspective
08/02/2010 Juha Halmesvaara

In this article I am trying to address some important issues that are often asked from us. These issues that head coaches often wrestle with are along the lines of the following examples:

  • How do I make sure I give my goaltenders the attention they need?
  • How do I guarantee that my goalies do get the right kind of instruction they need in order to develop?
  • Do my team practices take the goalies into account and guarantee that they are in good enough shape physically?

If the team has a goalie coach it’s another story, but in this article we are looking at the situation where team has the normal 2 coaches and no-one is focused on goaltenders. Because the head coach has the overall responsibility of the team he is also responsible for the goaltenders and their development. So what can he do if suitable help is not available?

Principles & ideas

First of all we can say that the younger the team is the easier this task is for the coach. Let’s scope this article to the age groups where the team already has dedicated goalies (vs. everyone rotating in the net as younger beginner teams often do) who know that this will be their position.

What options does the coach have? Let’s look at a few different possibilities and ideas. From these each coach can develop their own methods to guarantee that they have also taken their most important players in the team into account when planning practices.

  • Skating drills – Goaltenders don’t benefit from the long skating drills around the rink like players do as they skating patterns are different in the game situations. Sometimes it may be beneficial for goalies to participate for conditioning sake, but in general I would recommend that other coach focuses on the team skating drills and the other one works with goaltenders and runs them more goalie like skating drills at the same time. It’s fairly easy to develop a set of goalie skating drills. For this purpose one does not even need a lot of space. make these drills similar to the moves goalies have to execute at the games by using components like diving pokes, butterfly slides, shuffles… etc. These drills should be done in the goal area, but can also be executed in one of the circles etc. Never let your goalies just stretch in the middle of the ice while the rest of the team is skating. Goalies should skate more than the team and they should be the best skaters in their team.
  • Goalie drills – Coach should plan for specific drills for his goaltenders to be included in each practice session. Even if you are not a goalie specialist it is quite simple to do if you just take these 2 things into account: A) Pace B) Game likeness. What I mean by these 2 things is that first of all the pace in goalie drills is set by the goalie the way that he can be 100% focused on each repetition/situation. I usually tell the players that the next one does not start until the goalie shows that he is ready for the new one. Goalie can show this by putting his stick on the ice to the ready position and turning towards the player that will start the drill. This very simple timing thing will turn most of the drills to goalie drills. The other matter in planning is to think that what ever drills we throw at our goalies must serve the needs of the game. Create those drills to match issues that your goalies should be working on or where they have had problems. Biggest mistake I see a lot of coaches doing is letting players take too much time or come at too slow pace on drills when they turn into something that goalies really don’t face at the games. With timing and drill planning you can make normal 2-on-1’s etc to be goalie drills easily. I also recommend that you create combination drills where goalies have to execute a set of moves in sequence and then they can set themselves up 100% before the next one starts. An example could be drills where players start from the corner and cut to the front of the net close to the post and try to score directly. As soon as the player has tried to score he will turn to screen the goalie and another player takes the shot from the opposite site defence position. If there is a rebound the players try to score on that. This is one set and then goalie will signal to the other corner when he is ready and get the next set started.
  • Special drills/technique – While it is great that you will plan specific drills for goalies as part of the team workout’s it is not enough. Just like you will teach your skaters how to shoot, pass etc you need to teach your goalies how to make their moves and execute saves. Now this is a tricky area as most coaches don’t have the knowledge needed for the task and it is truly better not to make something up and being wrong than not to give instructions at all. Teaching a totally wrong technique can be very damaging to the young goalie. I recommend that you discuss the situation with your goalies and come up with the needed drills together. There are also good manuals and resources available where you can study the basics and get the needed information to help you goalies. These goalie specific technique drills should be ones where you give your goalies a chance to repeat the moves so many time that they start to develop a set of automatic moves that become faster and faster. Watch better or older teams work out with their goalies and copy the drills that are suitable for your goalies and their skill level.
  • Conditioning & strength – Once again I would like to see the goalies always to be in the top 1/3 of the team in all physical tests. They play a very demanding position and they should be in a shape needed to play the whole 60 minute games. They can’t go to the bench and rest like they team mates. Goalies can go through the same dryland training as the rest of the team in most cases, but when planning your program you should look into a few additions and extras to their program. On weight training (assuming you have an older team that is already involved with weights) goalies program should be focused on lower body first, then mid section and lastly on shoulder area. This is very much different from the lifting the team does as goalies game starts with their feet and focus on weights must be there. I always recommend using free weights instead of the machines, involving balance elements by using balance boards, swiss balls, bose stand etc in conjunction with the weights. On the conditioning I also recommend to use a lot of the coordination drills etc with tools like utility ladders etc.

I hope that you did find these ideas helpful when planning your team practices.