Selecting a Goaltending Coach and/or Goaltending Camp

Selecting a Goaltending Coach and/or Goaltending Camp
24/09/2011 Juha Halmesvaara

So you have decided your son or daughter needs a goaltending coach/instructor or requires a goaltending camp or school. After due consideration, you realize they won’t improve their skills as a goaltender without proper help. Note the key phrase – “proper”.

How do you select a goaltending coach or program?

Well first of all realize one thing; anyone who spends one on one time with your favourite goaltender will help them to improve in some small way. No matter how poorly or how well trained they are! Surprised? Well for years something called the “Hawthorne Effect” has had a considerable impact upon the learning experience. In the early part of the 20th century efficiency experts or workplace study specialists found that when a manager or leader interacts with an individual or student that person’s performance will improve. No matter how skilled the teacher or leader may be!

The mere personal attention of the leader helps to build up the student’s self-confidence and thereby assists with their learning.

So if you hire anyone to work with your favourite goaltender they will improve their performance. BUT if you want to improve their performance by an even greater factor you need to identify certain qualities in your prospective goaltending coach.

Question 1 – Have they ever played goal?

Surprisingly, this may seem obvious but there are so-called goalie coaches/instructors who have never played goal. Recently an individual who I have come to respect for his skills as a goaltending instructor was replaced as goalie coach for a local junior hockey club by someone who was a friend of the owner but who had never played goal!

I feel a goaltender will relate better and bond more easily with someone who has played goal. Also someone who has played goal will have a better sense of the psychology of goaltending or the goalie “psyche”. Someone who has experienced the burden of performing as a goaltender in a critical game knows what a young goaltender goes through.

Question 2 – Have they a background in the science of goaltending?

Any goaltending coach with a background in bio-mechanics and athletic movement (kinesiology) will have a better approach to analyzing a goaltender’s movement and in correcting errors. A coach who merely tells goaltenders how to move or react to game situations without knowing why will not be an effective instructor. Simply having a goaltender move in a certain way because that is they way you played isn’t enough. A coach has to be able to explain properly why something works.

If that instructor has knowledge of sport psychology, as well, he will be better able to properly prepare a goaltender for the mental game.

Question 3 – Are they a certified hockey coach?

Anyone who works with a goaltender should be a certified HockeyCanadaor USA Hockey coach. Being certified insures they have been trained in all aspects of coaching i.e. growth & development, communications, skill analysis, how to run an efficient practice, fitness & conditioning etc. Having their certification also demonstrates to you the goalie coach’s commitment to continually learning. For no one knows everything about goaltending – they have to keep acquiring knowledge.

Question 4 – What formal education do they have?

Has your goalie coach a phys end degree, fitness instructor certificate or teaching degree? Teaching requires formalized training. One doesn’t wake up one morning a teacher. Now there are some who have an aptitude to teach or train but without the formal training they are incomplete. Knowing what has to be taught and how to properly convey that information progressively requires training.

Question 5 – What experience do they have?

How long have they been coaching goaltenders and where? Choosing a goaltending coach who has run goaltending clinics, camps or schools for several years means they have some success. In fact, if you read testimonials from students or parents or can even talk to anyone who has attended the clinics you will be providing yourself with valuable information.

Question 6 – Are they a goaltending school or a hockey school which has a goaltending component?

A specialized goaltending school has no doubt about its existence. It is there to promote the development of goaltenders. A hockey school may be tempted to use goaltenders as targets for their other students – defensemen and forwards!

Question 7 – How do they work on-ice?

It would help if you can attend an on-ice or off-ice session run by the prospective coach or instructor.

What is the ratio of students to coach? Any teaching situation that involves more than 6 goalies to 1 instructor doesn’t work.

How does the instructor interact? Does he spend too much time shooting and less time actually observing the goaltender?

Does the instructor seem attentive to the goaltender or is he just going through the motions?

Do the drills make sense?

Do they reinforce correct technique?

Do they allow the goaltender to become lazy?

How do they utilize their on-ice time? I recently attended a goaltending practice which spent 15 minutes on on-ice stretching and another 15 minutes explaining each of the 6 stations the goaltenders would be going through. The practice was only an hour! That meant that with the flood time deducted the goaltenders had only 20 minutes of drill work. On-ice stretches are a waste of time! Stretching should be done prior to going on ice.

A properly run practice has little down time spent in organizing kids or in running practice drills which are too complicated or too involved for the goalies. Some coaches confuse keeping busy with being productive. That isn’t always the case. High speed drills which allow goaltenders to continually repeat errors or to make small procedural mistakes which should be habits by now are not productive! It is better to make sure the drill is done so the goaltender executes the skill properly before you accelerate the pace.

Having 24 goalies going through 6 stations with 3 instructors may seem highly active but are errors being missed?

Are the drills progressive? Do they involve too many skills? Are they age specific? Or does the coach put the 9 year olds though the same drills as the 16 year olds?

How good are the shooters they use? And how disciplined are they? Are they accurate shooters who shoot age specific shots? Do they stand still when required so as to prevent distracting the goaltenders during the instruction time?


You will notice I haven’t said anything about whether they have played pro hockey. Although a former pro or junior goaltender will have an appreciation of the stress or requirements of playing at that level, they still need to know how to teach, how to analyze skills, how to correct errors and how to run an efficient on-ice and off-ice practice. Keep these points in mind, remain an informed purchaser, ask questions and shopping for the right goaltending coach or camp will become a more successful enterprise.


Juha Halmesvaara