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Posted by on in Alexander

I am sure everyone who starts their hockey life as a goaltender, expects he/she will move along the goaltending pathway year after year until they have a legitimate shot to play professionally or at National team level. 

It is an unfortunate part of the game that, for some goaltenders, those expectations meet the realities of the situation at some point.  Perhaps it’s not making the travel team, competitive team or being cut at a training camp.  And that creates the doubt that it might not happen. 

This is when goaltenders, parents & coaches need to take a proactive approach to the situation.  It is not the time to throw in the towel.  And, a well thought out plan will keep everything on a positive note. 

The goal always should be to “play at the highest level possible based on one’s skill set and physical capabilities”. 

Now let’s a minute to think about one approach the situation when you meet that “bump” in the road. 

First, everyone involved whether goaltender, coach or parent, needs to be HONEST.  For all it simply means putting aside bias & accepting, now, exactly where you fit. 

For the goaltender, you need to discuss with a trusted coach, how your present skills compare to those needed to move up the next step along the goaltending pathway (PW to Bantam, Bantam to Midget, Midget to Junior and so on).  By focusing just on the next level (whatever that is) and not looking beyond, you are bringing the conversation into a more realistic mode.  This conversation about what needs to be done & why it needs to be done is necessary.  That, plus a plan for continued improvement, will be critical to maintain your motivation & focus. 

From there, the ball (puck) is really in your court.  You must provide the effort, motivation and hard work with coach & parents providing direction and support. 

In any event, all involved must understand how steep the climb to the top really is. The numbers who "make it" are extremely small by comparison to those who start out. The hockey pyramid is very wide at the bottom but becomes so much smaller as it nears the top.  Hockey is now a global sport and once you leave Minor or Youth hockey, competition for spots on high level teams could come from almost any corner of the planet.

At this point as well, I suggest to all parents and goaltenders go and see games at the next level above where you/your son/daughter presently plays.  Sit at the side of the rink as close to the boards as you can.  There you are going to get a sense of the speed of the game and how quickly the puck moves, how hard the players shoot, how skilled they are at executing fakes, how quickly goaltenders must react and be able to read situations and on and on.  When you do, I think you/they will find it is a real eye-opener. 

At any rate, it should point out the gap between where you are and where you want to be as it relates to skill.  Hopefully this will be the motivation factor that spurs you on. 

And, finally, I point out, it is not always about skill.  A POSITIVE ATTITUDE, EXCEPTIONAL WORK ETHIC, A COMPETITIVE SPIRIT, BEING COACHABLE, A DESIRE TO IMPROVE EVERY DAY & BEING A TEAM PLAYER are all attributes that are meaningful to coaches at every level. 

Many times, it is the goaltender who possesses these intangibles who will improve & move up the chain more rapidly to the next level. 

There is never a good reason, not to put your best effort into being the best goaltender you can possibly be, every time you go out on the ice, at whatever level you play.

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Posted by on in Alexander

It happens to everyone at one time or another in their goaltending career - we get benched.

It happens at all levels of play; it happens to the pros.  In the case of the pros, it can sometimes have long lasting career effect. At most other levels, though, it is just a temporary situation.

Whatever. It is not pleasant.  Perhaps you aren't even having a bad game. Or, maybe you are.  Fighting the puck or playing in an uncharacteristic manner.  Maybe the coach just wants to "shake things up". Hopefully that is the reason. But even if it is, it's a shock. It's embarrassing! Fans & parents are looking on, not to mention your teammates

And, then the thoughts start going through our mind: why? It was just one goal & it went off my defenseman's stick (of course coach didn't notice that); the whole team is playing badly, why signal me out? I could have played through that rough spot, I just needed a few more minutes to get my game together. Am I going to get my next regular start? What are my teammates thinking?

And then the frustration and even anger can kick in.  It's difficult to keep your mind in the game, and perhaps you really don't feel like cheering on your team or for that matter, your playing partner.

Hopefully, this is nothing to do with you personally, but, whatever the reason, you really can't change it.  Once done it is done.  You can either move on & stay prepared (in case you need to go back in the net) or sit there with your negative thoughts & emotions which really doesn't do anyone, including you, any good.

The best approach, & only productive one, is to take it as a learning experience: an opportunity to study players or the opposition goaltender.  And, maybe there, see some things you could incorporate into or add to your game.  Or, is there something in your game you need to improve so this doesn't happen again.  

One thing for sure, being benched will test your mental toughness.  But, with the right ATTITUDE, you'll come away a stronger more resilient goaltender who can deal more readily with the pressures of the game & the ups and downs of goaltending in a positive manner.

Perhaps one piece of advice to leave you with is to be prepared to be benched.  It will happen! And, sometimes it just comes right out of left field without any warning.  So, think about it before it does.  Try to set in your mind what you will do; what your reaction will be and how you can turn it into a positive.

No matter what the circumstances, be supportive of your teammates.  Sooner or later, you will need their support.

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Posted by on in Alexander

“SIZE".  At a very young age, it is normally not a factor in goaltender selection, but, unfortunately, as you move up the hockey chain, it does begin to matter.  Sometimes, even, at the U13 level and, most assuredly, at the U15 & U18.  But don’t despair; there is room for the smaller goaltender at those levels & beyond Minor/Youth Hockey or High School.   And, there is still a place in Major Junior/Tier I for the smaller goaltender and, most certainly, the smaller goaltender can flourish at the Junior A or Junior B/Tier II level.

Beyond that, U Sport, NCAA, ECHL, AHL and European teams are options open to those who have the skill but do not achieve the "supposedly ideal" 6' 2" height for an NHL goaltender.  Understand, reaching the NHL is no easy task, even with the size factor.  At any given time, there are only 62 goaltenders playing there and they come from every part of the world.  So, your competition is not only the kid on the next block or in the next town, but the kid playing minor hockey in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland or Germany or Russia. 

My advice to any goaltender, who is shorter in stature than your peers, is to not bury your dreams, but understand what your situation is and take steps to improve your chances at playing at a higher level (if that is truly what you want) by working on and improving those parts of your game to get you there.

So, here are some things you need to be to maximize your ability to compete at any level, no matter what your size.  You can achieve proficiency in most of these even without the help of a coach. 

- athletic (possess incredible agility, balance & co-ordination with speed) These elements can be developed away from the ice surface, but a certain amount requires on-ice time (see the next element below)
*not all goaltenders will have the physiological capabilities to achieve a high level of athleticism.  So then, positioning becomes a much more important factor 

a superior skater (a master at using inside edges to position, or reposition on skates in control and on balance)
Spend on ice time working on inside edge control, crease skating drills & team skating

- unmatched in lateral movement (speed with power in lateral movements on skates or in a lateral slide)

- a student of the game (watches games played at all levels; observing player tendencies and play patterns and how shots are generated and from which locations in the defensive zone they originate)

- excellent at reading the shot release (using complete puck focus and shooter information such as hand/puck/shoulder position to determine height, velocity and shot location immediately as the puck is leaving the stick blade) 

- near perfect at tracking shots (able to SEE pucks coming into & going away from your equipment & FIND the flight path of the puck through screens & front net traffic situations)

- a master at staying up and on skates (patient and confidently remaining on skates and only moving to a butterfly or RVH position after the PUCK HAS LEFT THE STICK BLADE & the velocity & trajectory is known or through experience &/or past observation can anticipate the logical sequence of events prior to the shot) The exception being close in, tight, shot situations where the higher percentage play is to use a down, butterfly or RVH, blocking position

- near perfect at positioning (must always have proper angle and depth on every shot and must arrive "on time", every time, so feet are set and skates, hips & shoulders are square to the puck "BEFORE" the shot released – in the case of a lateral slide the same squareness must be priority) 

- strong mentally (develop your mental toughness & “grit” to handle the ups & downs of goaltending)

 

A few other non-technical, non-tactical necessary elements.

has a “never give up” attitude
works harder than any of his team mates every off or on ice session
wants to be the best
wants to learn

 

ENJOYS PRACTICES AS MUCH AS THE GAME

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Posted by on in Alexander

Today I want to address a topic which is discussed often among coaches & a question asked by recruiters & scouts.
  
Is he/she coachable?

Perhaps there is no more important quality in a player than to be eager to learn.  And, probably no quicker way to become a better goaltender. 

So, who exactly is the "coachable" athlete? I suggest it is the goaltender who WANTS to be in the net every second of the game; who ACCEPTS the fact that they do make mistakes and who LEARNS from those mistakes; who TAKES responsibility for their performance (good or bad); who SEEK out help from their coach or mentor and are ALWAYS looking to improve.  Their mind is open to new things & new ways to do things.  They take advice WILLINGLY, and though they believe in themselves, they understand that they are where they are because of others.  And, that they need others to become the success they desire to be.

A coachable goaltender is one who shows up at the rink PREPARED, whether practice or game. They are always ready to get better and want to be the best they can be. They are energetic and enthusiastic.  They are first on the ice and last to leave and always looking to do more.  


And they look you in the eye when you speak to them.

Unfortunately, I've seen my share of goaltenders over the past 25 years coaching WHO DO/WILL NOT "look you in the eye when you speak to them".... they just nod or, look past your shoulder as you speak & then go out and do exactly the same as they did before the conversation.  As a coach this is, perhaps, one of the most frustrating & disappointing encounters you'll have.  And you know right there you words are not having any effect on the individual.

Because, they are telling you, without saying a word, "there is nothing you can tell me I don't already know and, so, I am not really interested in what you have to say".  It also shows a complete lack of respect for someone who is only trying to help you get better. If any of this sounds familiar, well………………….

I suspect all coaches would welcome that the goaltender simply say, "I don't agree coach, I see it this way" or "I'd prefer to try this way, because...." or "Can you explain to me why this is important?”  At the very least this would produce some dialogue.  And, from that dialogue perhaps a common ground can be reached.

Most of these type goaltenders I encountered, did not go on to have an extensive goaltending career beyond Minor/Youth Hockey. 

So, the message here folks is: if you are an aspiring goaltender and not already "Coachable", learn quickly!

"The difference between a good player and a great player is that a good player thinks he or she is good, and a great player always believes they can be better,“ A great player is an athlete who is never satisfied.”  Bob Deraney

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Posted by on in Alexander
Didn't make the team?

Make it a new beginning not an end with a 
NEW ATTITUDE & renewed motivation
 
 
Reflecting back on the tryout period prior to the season as we enter the first couple of weeks of hockey season, it is safe to say these were some very anxious moments for goalies (and parents too)
 
And, some of you didn't make the team you tried out for. Believe me, I've seen it happen numerous times including a couple of personal experiences & I must admit it wasn't the the most pleasant of times.

So, today, I thought I would pass on some advice which, I hope, will motivate you to begin the process of improving your chances next time.
 
I know the first question that comes to mind, when you get the bad news, is WHY?  
 
Truth is, sometimes it doesn't make a lot of sense, even when you get the answer. (if you get an answer)  Maybe it was just that the competition was tough (a lot of exceptionally good goalies in your age group) or you didn't perform up to the expectation of the coaches or your skills were lacking.  Or maybe, "politics" came into play.  Maybe it was your demeanor, how you presented yourself in the net.  Maybe the coach thought he would give a second year goaltender(s) the opportunity, or the coach just felt more comfortable (confident) with the other guy (or girl).

You can't hang on to the thought that the coach didn't like you, or they didn't see you at your best, or you should have been selected because you allowed fewer goals than the other goalie(s) .  

Whatever the reason, you must move on.
 
Understand, that, unless we do fail from time to time, we will never become the best we can be.  Most top end athletes (goaltenders) will tell you that they failed numerous times during their rise to the top, and these failures were the motivation that really drove them to become successful. (check out the Jordan Binnington story) They learned from the failing experience and were able to "move on", understand their deficiencies, and vowed to work diligently on those deficiencies to make the necessary corrections and improve.

And, so, failing is a necessary part to improving your game.
 
The question is, what are YOU going to do about it?
  
 
The first thing you need to do is take a hard, honest look at your game and identify the parts that need improvement   
 
Although you may attempt to do this yourself, I suggest you enlist someone whom you consider to be an unbiased, experienced coach to review your game with the use of video or observation.  Just remember, they will need to be brutally honest and, so, you may hear things you don't want to hear. However, if you REALLY want to improve, then the need for honesty.

 
During the initial review process, 3 or 4 areas for improvement may be identified.  Once, identified, develop a plan and commit it to writing.  This will provide direction and keep you on track, plus allow you to measure how you are progressing at a future point in time versus where you began.  You will likely have to do this several times during season, similar the approach used at the professional hockey level.

I suggest that you include your parents in the plan.  They can act in a supporting role where necessary. But remember, the puck is in your rink. It's 
YOUR plan and not the responsibility of Mom or Dad or a coach to lead you along.  They supply direction and support only.  YOU must provide the motivation, dedication & hard work.  
 
If you truly WANT (not wish, like to, would be nice) to be a top end, above average or elite goaltender then you need to put in the work, provide the self-motivation and DEVELOP THOSE GOOD, PERSONAL HABITS necessary.

There is absolutely no substitute. There is no "magic formula"  You must put in the time and the work.
   
 
AND, NO ONE ELSE CAN DO IT FOR YOU! 

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
 
 
 
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Posted by on in Alexander

The most important factor when the puck is being carried behind the net is to maintain eye contact with the puck for the greatest amount of time that it is there.

Generally, goaltenders will stop watching the puck once it passes the post on the short side & begin to move in the direction the puck is being carried without bothering to maintain any type of eye contact with the puck until they arrive at the far post.

In other words, the goaltender is “guessing” that the puck carrier will continue moving the puck in a forward direction behind & around or beyond the net.  And this really is a “guess”.

Simply, because, this does not consider the other 3 options at the puck carrier’s disposal:

1. the puck carrier can stop at some point behind the net & with a quick set up, make a pass out to a supporting partner on either side (result = panic: since goaltender is committed to one side of the net & has no idea where the puck carrier or puck is, he/she ends up turning his/her head from side to side in an attempt to determine where the attack will come from)

2. the puck carrier can make a back pass to a partner who is below the goal line & trailing the play (result = trailing partner steps out over the goal line & jams the puck into the open net near side or plays “catch” with the passer forcing the goaltender to bounce from post to post & completely out of position for any type of scoring attempt)

3. as he reaches the mid-way point behind the net, the puck carrier can make a back pass to a supporting partner who is already above the goal line on the same side of the net where the puck carrier started (result = easy tap in goal 9 times out of 10)

 

So, here is one method to "effectively" track puck movement behind the net.

 


The first point I want to make here is “don’t panic”!  Remember, generally you will have more time than you realize especially, if you maintain excellent eye contact with the puck.
 

In this scenario we have chosen, the goaltender has positioned him/herself in an RVH (or for younger, less experienced goaltenders in an integrated post position on his/her skates) on the blocker side post as the puck is being moved below the goal line towards the net on the goaltender's blocker side. 

The goaltender should hold this position on the post until the point where the puck has moved past the blocker side post inside the frame of the net.  Now the goaltender moves his upper body away from the blocker side post but keeps his/her skate blade/pad in contact with that post and eye contact on the puck.  At this point the goaltender will be positioned on the goal line & approximately MID-NET.

When the goaltender can no longer see the puck over his blocker side shoulder he should continue to HOLD THAT SAME MID-NET POSITION, turn his head & attempt to pick up the puck location over his trapper side shoulder.
  

If the puck carrier has continued his path forward with the puck, the goaltender should just simply use his/her trailing leg (the one still in contact with the blocker side post) to push off & engage and seal the trapper side post and the ice.

On the other hand, if the goaltender cannot locate the puck position over the trapper side shoulder, he should KEEP HIS POSITION & turn his head back to the blocker side & attempt to locate the puck on that side.

If the puck carrier has stopped & set up behind the net, the goaltender can still maintain eye contact on the puck simply by leaning a little more to one side or the other and reacting to what he does. Although, not totally integrated to either post, the goaltender's location still leaves him/her in a very, very favorable position to gain angle on a pass out to either side of the net or deal with a wrap around attempt. 

If any type of back pass has been made the goaltender is still in a favorable position (MID-NET) to react to either of the back-pass situations described above because the goaltender is just a short push away from being able to quickly and effectively integrate with the post and seal the ice and/or gain angle against the scoring attempt.

We suggest this method is equally effective in situations where puck movement is similar but, where the goaltender chooses to remain on his/her skates and to not move into an RVH position.


(although we have used puck movement from blocker to trapper side of the net, the same method can be used for a puck being moved in the opposite direction)

Tagged in: Goalie Training
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Posted by on in Alexander

You can absolutely "kill it" in practices, but if you aren't able to perform under pressure you will not become a top end goaltender.  To quote Allistair McCaw, professional trainer & author

"THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BEST AND THE REST COMES DOWN TO PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE


In my experience, when you have two athletes (goaltenders) of equal skill the one most likely to come out on top is the one who can handle the stress and pressure of competition, even when fatigued. 
The athlete able to cope with stress & pressure will always be looking to solutions, not excuses.  They will be doing all the good things we explained in our last e-mail and posted to our FB Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/alexandergoaltending/

If you watch them closely in practice, these are the ones who consistently challenge themselves to become better.  Even when the drill is mundane or "easy" they look for ways to make it challenging.  They look for more ways to make it more difficult....for themselves.

Hopefully they have a coach who understands the saying "you play like you practice" so he makes sure the goaltender is engaged and challenged in every drill.  But, if not, they know what they have to do.  They understand that the best way to get better and learn about yourself, your capabilities & shortcomings is to "step into the fire".

You will compete as you train!  If you really want to perform well under pressure you need to take an honest look at how you train.  Don't give in to excuses & looking for the easy way out. 

I recall an incident working with a couple of Junior goaltenders where I devised a drill (purposely) where the goaltender's chance of success was marginally low.  Mid-way through the drill I had one of the goaltenders come up to me and suggest we switch drills......because he thought is was too hard.  Good luck with that one.

Here is a quote from a prominent QMJHL goaltender, “You definitely have to practice like you play. I think the more you practice competitiveness, and making athletic saves, the more your body will get used to it”, said the veteran netminder. “When it comes time to applying that in a game, you are ready to make that type of save. You always have to battle for those extra saves and extra pucks, because you never know if it’s going to be a difference maker in a game.”
 

Can you handle the pressure and be a "difference maker"?

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Posted by on in Alexander

Over the past month I’ve been taking in a lot of hockey games, mostly watching goaltenders in the 13 – 15 age group (10 – 12’s next).

With few exceptions, the majority goaltenders appear similar. They all look the part and, generally, they all have reasonable technical skills. Some are a step above others, others struggle a little at the level and a very large group are possess average skills – they are no more above average than below average.

If I am looking beyond the obvious, however, it becomes apparent that there is much more of a separation than the 3 I have described above.  Because, once the game starts, some of those who looked the part, no longer stand out.

So, if I am observing or reporting on a goaltender, here are some of the important elements I want to evaluate beyond the general technical skills:

1.      Does he/she compete to stop every shot?  Is she/he willing to do anything to make the save?

2.      Does he/she have excellent footwork controlling his/her inside edges both on her/his feet and in a down position & move around the crease smoothly and easily?

3.      Does she/he position (gap/angle) properly in all game situations

4.      Do I see his/her eyes track pucks/shots right into his/her trapper or body or to her/his pad, stick or blocker and then away from the body?

5.      Is she/he mentally tough & focused? Making a timely save when the pressure is on or shaking off mistakes and bad bounces

6.      Can he/she process the game?  Does they appear to understand how plays generally develop in the defensive zone and are they able to understand the potential options.

7.      Is she/he athletic?  I don’t mean diving & flopping all over the crease.  I mean CONTROLLED athletic movement

Certainly, this list is not all encompassing and there are more parts to the making of a top end goaltender.  However, many of these elements were lacking in a good portion of goaltenders I observed.  All are skills or intangibles which do not require a coach, only motivation & effort.

But make no mistake, their absence will/could become the deciding factor when you are being scouted or recruited.

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Posted by on in Alexander

Success!  Everyone has their own definition.  Most of what I hear and see is that success is equated with winning.  I don't necessarily agree with this, but, to each his own opinion.

So, what is really necessary to be a success (successful)?  Ask 100 people and you might get 100 different answers.  So, it's really an individual thing.

This leads me to the question: "what is REALLY necessary for success?"
Again, the answers would be similar to the question in the second paragraph........... different answers from different people.

So, let's talk about that a bit by exploring what happens when we are NOT successful.

From personal experience what I see, is that, when we are not successful (in our own estimation) we get caught up with irrelevant things which have no real bearing on results or success.  "I need a better pad" "a different stick or brand of gear"  "Maybe I should have a protein shake before the game" "perhaps I need to change my off-ice workout" 

And so, we fret & anguish over minor details which make up such a small part of the picture and neglect the important parts which bring the most positive results. Why do we do this?

BECAUSE IT IS EASIER! 

It is easier than admitting that you really don't do the important things that make up the 90% difference to be successful such as:

- eating nutritious foods
- getting the correct amount of daily rest
- never skipping a workout
- preparing thoroughly pregame & pre practice
- diligently working on your skills to perfect your game
- never taking a "night/day off" at practice
- keeping an open mind to advice & correction
- being a "student" of the game always in "learning" mode

Sure, new shiny pads or stick will look sharp, but, are they really going to make the difference? Not unless you have already honed your technical skills and mastered the fundamentals of goaltending.

And, for that, you must PUT IN THE WORK!

So, what are you waiting for?  Make a decision, stick to it and START TODAY.

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Posted by on in Alexander

You always perform at your best when your mind is calm and free of distractions.  A calm mind allows you to focus and react smoothly to what is happening around you.

The opposite of that of course is a mind filled with thoughts with one competing with one other for attention and giving off different signals.  That causes indecision.  So now, that low shot to the blocker side that you normally handle with ease becomes a challenge.  Should I angle the puck to the corner, try to stop and cover it or???? Your body becomes tight and your right arm (or left if you are left-handed) refuses to move at the same speed it normally does, the puck slips through and the red light flashes!

Generally, there are two major elements that cause indecisiveness.

I think a lot has to do with trying to do things perfectly (take it from a former perfectionist)  You put so much focus on the "how to" or the technical part of the action that you tend to neglect the fact that the outcome is what is really important......STOP THE PUCK!

Another cause might be thinking too far ahead.  You worry about the final score and forget to live and act in the moment.  So, throughout the game, your mind wanders to the outcome at the neglect of the present.

If you find this happening to you you might try these couple of tips to help you:

1. Don't second guess yourself....stick with your "A" plan. (generally your first thought is the best one)

2. Trust what got you to where you are.  Trust that all your training and hard work will see you through even though you might encounter rough patches.  Don't worry about being perfect. The minute you start questioning your abilities you are at a disadvantage. 

In the words of the Nike commercial...."JUST DO IT" 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Much of the off-season focus should really be on the physical plus time (refer to our e-mail from last week) taken for technical development and improvement.  This will still leave you plenty of time to play golf, tennis, or some other sport as a non-competitive activity.

So, here is what a potential training period could look like.  The number of training days per week will be determined by the program/trainer.

May 1 to the middle of August if you are Professional, University or Junior
(approximately 16 weeks)
May 1 to the middle of August if you are Midget, High School, Bantam or Prep School
(approximately 12 weeks)
June 1 to the middle of August if you are younger
(approximately 10 weeks)

Among other things, here is a short list of some basic elements you need to key in on during "The Most Important Season".

 

Speed & Agility
Allows you to start & stop, change direction & shift momentum all while maintaining good balance

Leg & Lower Body Strength & Power
Gives you explosive starts, sharp stops, hard slides & pushes.  Allows for smooth transition from skates to pads & pads to skates and from side to slide in a lateral slide

Core Strength:
Gives you well developed abdominals, oblique & back muscles for smooth, quick, efficient movement in & around the net.  (Core muscles are first to contract when we initiate goaltending movements)

Quick Feet:
Allows for speed of foot movement in and around the crease for single or multiple directional changes or save sequences

Flexibility
Gives you the ability to initiate movement outside the normal range of motion; especially useful
in scramble situations or when caught out of position

High Fitness (Cardio) Level:
Gives you great anaerobic capacity and all-round conditioning

Hand/Eye Coordination & vision training:
Gives you the ability to co-ordinate limb movement to intercept the path of the puck effectively
on every shot

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Posted by on in Alexander

A couple of weeks ago we talked about "net presence" and the impressions goaltenders give by their on ice demeanour.  And, there, we offered up a couple to tips as to how you might check on your own "net presence".

Today we are going to take a quick look at a couple of ways you might differentiate yourself from other goaltenders in your league/division and stand out from the crowd.  Here it is worth repeating the comment often heard from recruiters and scouts...."at some point in time, they all look the same".  So, here are just a couple of things to help you NOT "look the same".


Work at becoming a better all round athlete
- most pro goaltenders today are excellent athletes and some such as MA Fleury, Jake Allen, Jonathan Quick & Pekka Renne are exceptional.  Being a better athlete will also enhance your ability to execute technical skills

Become better at puck handling - a goaltender who can handle wide rims and dump-in shots and make passes efficiently are worth their weight in gold and are a coach's dream

Battle harder - put 100% effort into covering every loose puck; make the impossible save at least once per game

Calm & focused - remain calm and focused when confronted with adversity or when things become chaotic.  No emotional ups & downs

Develop your consistency - attempt to keep your play consistent throughout the entire game and from game to game.  Coaches/recruiters like to know what to expect

Continue to develop all the position's fundamental skills - a solid base of fundamental skills is a pre-requisite for top performance

Show a positive attitude - win or lose, no matter what the situation

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Posted by on in Alexander

Recently I spent a bit of time with my son who works with the Blues in St. Louis. And, fortunately I was able to take in a couple of NHL games plus spend some time around the rink.

It’s been a few years since I saw a live game and it didn’t disappoint.
  Not surprisingly, today’s game is incredibly fast.  Speed of puck movement, shot speed & accuracy are all at the highest level.  However, what impressed me most was how quickly players & goaltenders make decisions and choose between the available options. 
 
I’m sure some of what I saw is a product of the player’s individual experiences moving up through the hockey system, but you must believe that the majority of what we see is a direct result of an incredible amount of time spent practicing their skills, off season training, hard work and time management.
  And, this applies not only to reaching the NHL but also to staying there.  
 
On the trip back home, I mused about what I had seen and wondered what the impact would be if every goaltender could see what goes into a “day at the office” for a professional goaltender.
  How many would commit, and dedicate the time & resources necessary to become the best they could given any physical limitations.
 
Understand, hockey must and should always be fun and up to the point of a goaltender’s teen age years. Throughout those times, it’s all about developing the basic physical and mental skill requirements of the position. But, at some point after, things need to change (the fun still needs to remain though) for anyone who aspires to play at the highest level they can.
  
 
However, after all my years of working with goaltenders, it totally amazes me the numbers that appear to have absolutely no idea what it takes to be an elite athlete, and, more importantly, who don’t take the initiative to research & understand how to become one. 
 
When you consider we live in the information age, it’s really no ones’ fault but theirs.
  Perhaps they are just among the “want to; would like to; wish I could” group.  Or perhaps they just “follow the crowd” thinking that, if everybody else is doing it, it must be right.  Still, it disturbs me to see the talent wasted needlessly.  

I say, take responsibility for your development! Carve your own path! Lead the way!

 
At about this time I can hear people saying how much you will need to “sacrifice”.  And I remember using that word in my last e-mail.  But on reflection, I now believe this word is totally overused when it comes to explaining what is necessary to become an elite or above average athlete.
  “You need to sacrifice to be the best” is absurd.  It is only a “sacrifice” if you are giving up something and are not completely committed to the task.  There isn’t any “sacrifice” involved if you make a choice about what you want to do and ‘go for it”.
 
At the end of the day, our choices define us and ultimately will determine the level to which we will rise.
  MAKE GOOD CHOICES! 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Some time ago I happened upon an interview with the “mental skills coach” of the New Zealand “All Blacks” famous rugby team.

The article begins with the headline “Make Mental Strength Your Strongest Skill”.  In the article, he attributes the team’s phenomenal success, for the most part, to each individual’s “mental toughness”.   Understand that the “All Blacks” are a premier professional team (and so not unusual to find a “mental skills coach” as part of their staff).  But, when you think of the disproportionate amount of the time & effort we, as coaches, put into physical skill & technical development versus the time, on average, a goalie spends developing his/her mental skills it is easy it is to understand why many a goaltender can go through extended periods of time playing well below their capabilities if these skills are not developed.  I am not saying that better mental skill training and mental toughness is the answer to every goaltender’s performance issues, but, when you think of the number of above average skilled goaltenders who have never developed to their full potential because of lack of mental skills it is easy to understand how important these skills are for success.

The position of goaltender, has some unique pressures which very few, if any, who have not played the position fully understand or appreciate.  It is really the weight of expectations.  And is it a very, very heavy load.  But, fortunately, one that most goaltenders enjoy having the opportunity to play such an important role in the success of their team.

So, what really is “mental toughness”.  Mental toughness is described in the following as the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges, and
perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves. 

Mental toughness is not something that everyone is born with.  It is developed over time and through experiences.  It is understanding that one must “stay the course”.  Giving in is not an option.
It is understanding what the reality of the situation is and exactly what your job is.  It is maintaining focus and dealing with one moment one after another & not getting ahead of yourself spending precious time & energy thinking of consequences.

In the “heat of battle” here are some quick things we can do when our “Mental Toughness” is challenged

  1. Let go of the miscue/distraction and stay in the present (park it!)
  2. Take a deep breath, relax your body part by part (I'm not one much for the "water bottle squirt" bit) and reset by recapping in your mind what happened and how you might have prevented it from happening (or not)
  3. Eliminate any negative thoughts & focus on the present

So how do we develop “Mental Toughness”

Well the first thing we need to do when we are faced with adversity is understand that by facing and accepting the challenge head on, we are strengthening our coping habit & developing mental toughness and our ability to deal with future adversity and, at the same time, develop our resiliency

Secondly, we need to just “get over it” and focus on the next challenge

And, thirdly, understand what we need to do in a physical sense & mental sense to meet those future challenges

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Posted by on in Alexander

I am often asked; “What does it take to become a successful, top performing goaltender?”  Usually my first response is TIME, LOTS OF HARD WORK, PROFESSIONAL COACHING & LUCK followed by “the list is quite long, where would you like me to start?”  Sometimes the conversation ends there but not always.  Unfortunately, parents and goalies today expect immediate success & results.  It just doesn’t happen.

Here are SOME of the physical & intangible elements that go into a top performing goaltender from my perspective.

Physical Elements

Speed & Agility -  ability to start & stop, change direction & shift momentum all while maintaining good
balance
Leg & Lower Body Strength & Power -  explosive starts, sharp stops, hard slides & pushes.  Allows for smooth transition and body control from skates to pads & pads to skates and from side to slide in a lateral movements
Core Strength - well developed abdominals, oblique & back muscles for smooth, quick, efficient
movement in & around the net.  (Core muscles are the first to be activated when we initiate goaltending movements)
Quick Feet - speed of foot movement in and around the crease for single or multiple directional changes or save sequences
Flexibility - the ability to initiate movement outside the normal range of motion;  especially useful
in scramble situations or when caught out of position
High Fitness (Cardio) Level – above average anaerobic capacity and all round conditioning
Hand/Eye Coordination & great vision - ability to track pucks, read the shot release and co-ordinate limb & body movements to intercept the path of the puck effectively on every shot

Intangible Elements

Passion - a burning desire to be best  you can be and have fun doing it
Competitiveness - a willingness to compete hard to stop every shot every time you step on the ice
Mental toughness - able to handle the pressure of the position and the game, the ups and downs of sport, fatigue and injury
Work Ethic - willing to work hard at practice, and in games as well as in the off season to further develop skills and improve strength and conditioning
Character - a positive attitude on and off the ice; a team player;  accepts responsibility without placing blame; uncompromising integrity
Student of the Game - observes, asks questions and constantly strives to understand the elements of the position and the game
Ability to Adjust - able to make modifications to their game when necessary; a simple adjustment during a game or a long term commitment to change style or adapt to a new method in goaltending
Concentration - able to focus on what needs to be done and going out and doing it
Focus - able to "zone in" on the puck and find it through traffic under all types of circumstances; able to read plays and the puck off the stick
Preparation - understanding that good game preparation cannot be substituted; develops a pre-game routine that enables them to maintain a  high level of confidence and game focus
Resiliency – that “bounce back” ability after a bad game or goal
Habits – personal home & off ice habits that contribute positively to all these intangibles 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Just found this article in my "e-news" this morning & thought it would bear repeating.  I am not sure if I wrote this.  Unfortunately, if not, I have been unable to find the author.  So, for the moment, let's go with "Author Unknown" and if he/she turns up, proper credit will be given.

I have to say, after over 20 year of watching, coaching and involved the the sport of hockey, I am convinced that this article is "bang on".   For the most part goaltenders on Spring Teams are left to their own devices relative to any type of goaltending specific coaching during the "Spring Hockey Season" (which could consist of anywhere from 6 - 8 weeks of practices & tournaments).   I don't have any first hand experience of this, but I am told that goalies pay the same as any other player while sharing tournament games with a partner.   And lastly, let's not make any mistake here, the goal is "WINNING".  So, if one goaltender has even marginally better skills than his partner, who do you think will play the majority of important games in tournament play?

 

"As hockey has become a year round sport there has been much speculation that we are not developing well-rounded athletes and sport specific training and competition needs to be balanced. The theory is that a better athlete will make a better goalie down the road. Goalies sometimes have a large number of off-season tournaments to participate in that are exposure driven and goalies as well as parents feel compelled to participate because of the potential to be "seen".  But, on the other hand, the number of tournaments has grown dramatically lately and many feel the cost of participating and the time involved is not a positive trend.

There is a clear distinction between training and competition. Training programs offer goalies the tools to become better while exposure tournaments only give them the forum to demonstrate their skill.  Unfortunately, there is a distinct trend toward the latter and it is not only cutting into participation in other sporting activities but also the opportunity to develop better skills and all round athleticism. 
  
Many top end coaches from the professional ranks are recommending that all Minor Hockey players compete in other sports and are urging them to put the skates away to play lacrosse, tennis and soccer instead of going on the spring and summer “tournament circuit”. Of course the risk of following this advice is the multi-sport athlete who ends up underexposed and slipping through the cracks.

But, at the end of the day, with so many scouts & recruiters looking for talent, if you are deserved, they will find you."

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Posted by on in Alexander

This is the time of the year (mid-season) when most goaltenders look back (or should) at what they have accomplished to date; whether they have met our development goals, and, at the same time, begin to set goals and training objectives for the second half season. Although the following has been taken from a business model, we think it can easily be applied to goaltending. Keep these in mind as you move forward into the New Year. 

Here are a some keys to success:

1. Don't blame others for your problems. Rather, accept personal responsibility and move forward correcting the things that are within your control and accepting those that are not 

2. Don't engage in endless self-analysis and always questioning your abilities and self-worth. No one every enjoyed success dwelling on negatives

3. Have written goals with deadlines and a plan of action to accomplish them. There is something magic about writing things down

4. Manage your time effectively. You only have so many hours each day to accomplish what is important to you. Don't waste time

5. Don't keep repeating the same behaviour and expecting different results 

6. Take some time every day to celebrate you achievements (privately or otherwise)

7. Take the steps necessary to maintain a high level of energy - both physical and mental. Nutritious food, lots of rest, regular goaltending specific work outs & hydration

8. Don't give up to soon. Some of the world's most successful people are those who are the most persistent 

The key to positive results is to know yourself. The better you know yourself; your strengths, your weaknesses, your goals, what you are learning from your experiences, the more positive your development will become.

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