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Consistency = Success

“CONSISTENCY beats Talent. Because it’s not what you do once in a while that matters, it’s what you do every single day”. #ChampionMinded 

 
In the world of hockey, consistency is something that every coach wants & expects from his/her goaltender. 

 

Why? Because if a goaltender is consistent, coaches know they can count on him/her to deliver a solid performance game in and game out and this allows the coach to formulate a game plan based around that without fear that things could go “south” sometime during the match.  

 

So, what effect does your consistency have on the team?   

 

  • Your team will play with more confidence because you are giving them a chance to win every game 

  • It gives everyone that extra layer of security so they can play their game without doubt, knowing that you are going to handle your end & that you are reliable and dependable  

  
As a consistent goaltender, what you don’t need is: 

 

  • To be flashy or super aggressive 

  • To play a perfect technical game 

  • To not allow yourself to make mistakes 

  • To let pressure situations overwhelm you 

 

What you must do from game to game is: 

 

  • Keep the number of mistakes you make to a minimum 

  • Keep your emotions in check & your energy level steady  

  • Keep the "lights out one day, play below average the next" performances to a minimum 

 

What leads to lack of consistency? 

 

1. Lack of pre-game preparation. I cannot emphasize this enough.  Preparation is the key to so much of a goaltender’s success because being inconsistent there will lead to inconsistent performances.  Other inconsistent habits we develop when we are away from the rink such as not following a regular off ice training program or sound nutritional, rest & sleep habits will also lead to lack of consistency on ice. 

 

2. Thinking we are good enough. Sometimes we like to relax and think “we’ve made it”.  Understand the toughest part is not necessarily “making it”, it’s staying there. If you aren’t getting better every day; you are getting worst and at some point, everybody else passes you by. 

 

3. You aren’t confident.  To be consistent requires confidence.  And you won’t develop confidence by second guessing yourself every time things go wrong.  Simply put, confidence is having faith & trust in what you are doing.  You don’t have to necessarily win the “big game” or get a shutout to develop confidence.  And, at those times when you don’t feel confident, try “faking it”.  You might be surprised. 

 

4. You lack a little mental toughness.  The smallest things upset you during the game & then you have trouble regaining focus.  Soon, the little distractions pile up and soon it affects your game.  Understand what is happening and that you need to address this.  You probably are as mentally tough as the next guy; you just don’t know how to deal with what is happening. If that is the case then you need to have a serious discussion with someone who can help.  Because of the nature of the position, and the pressures, goaltending, in itself is a real mental challenge. 

I encourage every goaltender who competes at an elite level to seek out the advice of a mental coach WHETHER YOU THINK YOU NEED IT OR NOT.  It is definitely one sure way to “up your game consistency” and your success. 

 

 

CONSISTENCY LEADS TO SUCCESS 

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Pre-competition Preparation

Pre-competition Preparation
Game day preparation is vital to the success of a goaltender, especially at a high caliber level of competition.  To neglect this important area is to jeopardize your potential to play at your best.  Proper preparation will give you a sense of control over the things you can control (emotions, reactions, attitude etc.) which in turn will give you confidence and you will go into the competition feeling at ease and comfortable. 
 
Prepare for the opposition 
 
1.  Through your own experience or by viewing video or statistics, determine “players to watch” on the opposing team.  This prepares you to deal with the better players on the opposing team because you know who they are and their tendencies.  (usually the “better” players are the “better” players game in and game out) 
 
2.  Again, through your own experience, or simply ask your coach, determine how this team gains entry into your zone. (wide rim/dump-in at the blue line or puck possession zone entries) This will help you to look for the cues to read the play better as it develops inside your blue line.  It will also influence the need for communication between you & your defense & how you work puck retrieval situations 
 
3.  Similarly, you want to learn the opposition tendencies once they penetrate into the defensive zone.  In puck possession zone entry situations, do they like to generate scoring opportunities off the rush or take the puck deep work the play from there?  Is there a pattern to their play when they recover a dump in? How do they set up in power play situations? Having even just a little knowledge of these things improve your chances for success. 
 
Prepare your mind 
 
Breathing: take 5 minutes and work on your breathing (this helps calm your mind and relaxes your body) 
 
Inhale for a count of two… hold the breath in for a count of one… exhale gently, counting out for four…  and finish by holding the breath out for a count of one. Keep your breathing even and smooth. If the 2-4 count feels too short try increasing the breath lengths to 4 in and 6 out, or 6 in and 8 out, and so on.  There are many variations of breathing exercises so try several & use whatever works best for you. Controlled breathing is also beneficial during the game whenever you feel nervous or to settle yourself after a goal is scored. 
 
Visualization: 5 – 10 minutes of visualization work will effectively bring you into “game mode” 
 
Find a quite spot without distractions.  Create a mental image (visualization) of different game situations in your mind as though they were happening, and you were   looking at them through your own eyes. (watch the puck coming at you and hitting your equipment, or you catching the puck or controlling the rebound. In other words, you are successfully making the save. Try to do this for 5 - 10 minutes.  It will be difficult at first and perhaps you will only be able to concentrate for a few minutes.  But as you practice more you will be able to concentrate longer. 

Visualization is the single most important, not technical tool of the elite athlete 
 
(visualization and breathing exercises can and should be practiced several times per week away from the rink) 
 
Physical Warm-up (typical) 
 
Pre-ice 
 
1.  Dynamic stretch / warm-up (10 minutes) 
2.  Technical movements include quickness and agility exercises (5 minutes) 
3.  Hand/eye drills with tennis balls or “reaction” balls either alone or with your goaltending partner.  (5 minutes) 
 
On-ice 

First couple of minutes – skating & movement drills (saves & crease movements, slides – do outside the crease) then team warm up (discuss with your coach & team mates the most effective warm up for you) 
 
Focus on the process of the warm up and not whether a shot goes by you and into the net   
IT IS A WARM UP ONLY TO PREPARE YOU TO PLAY 
 
 
Reminders 
 
Pick one or two self-reminds to take with you into the game.  Here is a quick list of some self-reminders you might use: 

- track the puck into and away from your body 
- focus on getting into position quickly on passes 
- re-position quickly on rebounds 
- set my feet before every shot 
- fight to find pucks in traffic 
- be patient 
- be under control (physically & emotionally) 
- help my “D” by communicating with them 
- get out & handle all pucks that are near the net 
- battle for every puck 
- BREATH 

 

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Confidence

Confidence!  It is a corner stone on which successful goaltending is built.

 

Confidence inspires you to play at a top of your game; playing at the top of your game inspires confidence.  The question is, which comes first?  Perhaps it is a bit of both.  But, make no mistake, self-confidence is crucial to performing at your highest level.


If you are confident, you'll be better able to handle difficult situations - those times during competition when things go wrong.  Your demeanour both on and off the ice will reflect that confidence and your attitude will be "play to win" and not a "try not to lose" mentality, which will influence your team mates & inspire confidence in them as well.

 

On the other hand, when you aren't confident, you'll struggle with mistakes, likely become frustrated and play too cautiously.  You become tense, your movements are no longer smooth, you "fight" the puck, you create rebounds and overplay situations.

 

So, if we understand how important confidence is to our performance, why do we struggle with confidence issues from time to time, and more importantly, how do you acquire/maintain/regain confidence.

 

From our experience, confidence seems more evident when the goaltender focuses on his/her strong points (what are the things I do really well) and not their deficiencies or weaknesses.  There is no room for negativity if you are to perform at your best.  

Confident goaltenders concern themselves only with the things they can control (emotions, preparation, attitude, thoughts).  We also note that, generally, the more prepared the individual is, the more likely they are to play with confidence.

 

And, that leads us to one of the most important elements that will affect confidence - PREPARATION.  We've talked about pre-game preparation many times before & we are firm believers that the better prepared physically and mentally (and especially mentally) you are to play, the more likely you will play with confidence.  There is something about routine and familiarity that gives us a feeling of comfort and preparedness.  So, doing all those "good things" which motivated athletes do away from the rink plus a positive pre-competition routine will start you off on the confidence route.

 

If you noticed, all the things we mentioned in the previous paragraph are controllable by the goaltender.  As a starting point,

1. make a list of what you can or can't control

2. don't worry about what you can't control.

 

Remember, there definitely will be ups & downs in your game and it is natural that you will struggle with confidence at times.  The secret is to understand that it will happen, and to believe in yourself and that what you are doing will bring positive results over the long run.  

Understand what got you to where you are today (hard work, motivation, dedication, on & off ice training, good personal choices).  Understand, as well, that your skills don't just "suddenly" leave you.  They don't say "that's it, I'm done" and go away.  More likely, you are hi-jacking your skills with negativity.  Our experience is that, goaltenders get into trouble with confidence when they start thinking the game, thinking about their mistakes or their team mates mistakes, the referee, missed opportunities, what their team mates think, what the coach thinks, what the fans think....the better able you can control that "little voice" inside your head the more likely you will play with confidence. 

No one can "give" you confidence and no one can take it from you.  Your confidence (or lack of) is in your hands (or, more exactly, in your head)  Understand the things (negative thoughts, unmet expectations, mistakes etc) that affect your confidence level and focus on replacing those thoughts (the little voice inside your head) with the notion that you can get through this because you are doing all the "right things" and that this is just one small bump in the road in your journey to becoming the best goaltender you can be.


Confidence is preparation.  Everything else is beyond your control. - Richard Kline

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Pre-competition Preparation (Part 2)

 Prepare for the opposition

  1.  Through your own experience, by viewing video or by viewing statistics determine players to watch on the opposing team (this prepares you to deal with the better players on the opposing team because you know who they are and their tendencies.  Usually the better” players are the betterplayers game in and game out.   (this will also prepare you for shootout situations)

 2.  Again through your own experience, by viewing video or discussion with your head or assistance coaches, determine the type of game offense this team usually plays or the combinations you will most likely see (this prepares you to formulate a plan for your reaction to most of opposition zone entries & power play, plus how you will need to communicate with your defense for a stretch pass, wide rim, dump & chase or beat the “D” and net drive situations etc.)

 3.  Similarly, you should make yourself aware of the opposition tendencies once they penetrate the defensive zone on 5 on 5, 5 on 4, or 5 on 3 situations (thiwill allow you to develop a game plan for reaction to each of these pressure situations so you improve your chances for success)

Reminders
 
Pick one or two self-reminds to take with you into the game.  Here is a quick list of some self-reminders you might use:

- track every puck into and away from your body, gear, stick etc.
- focus on getting into position quickly on passes
- re-position quickly on rebounds
- set my feet before every shot
- fight to find pucks in traffic
- be patient
- be under control (physically & emotionally)
- help my “D” by communicating with them
- get out & handle all pucks that are near the net
- battle for every puck
BREATH

Physical Warm-up (typical)

Pre-ice

1.  Dynamic stretch / warm-up (10 – 15 minutes)
2.  Technical movements include quickness and agility exercises with tennis balls or “reaction” balls either alone or with your goaltending partner.  (10 minutes)
3.  Static Stretch (5 minutes)

On-ice

For the first couple of minutes – movement drills (saves & crease movements, slides – do outside the crease) then team warm up (discuss with your coach & team mates the most effective warm up for you)

Focus on the process of the warm up and not whether a shot goes by you and into the net.  IT IS A WARM UP ONLY TO PREPARE YOU TO PLAY. 

IN GAME - BE ACCOUNTABLE

 

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