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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
Oddities of 2018 NHL Playoffs

This year's playoffs have been one for the ages.  With the conclusion of the semi-finals last night we've seen some real oddities.  Both losing goaltenders are Vezina trophy finalists.  Both were younger goaltenders (Andrei Vasilevskiy (limited playoff experience), Tampa & Connor Hellebuyck, (no playoff experience) Winnipeg.  But, both highly touted to take their respective teams through. And, both losing teams in the semi-finals (Winnipeg & Tampa) were likely picked by most to move on (and who would have predicted Las Vegas & Washington to be in the Stanley Cup finals). I am not going to comment here on the play of either goaltender or whether they were a factor in their team losing.

But, the lesson here is that things don't always work out as predicted or planned and that we, as goaltenders, should never lose sight of this.  Hockey is at best, unpredictable.  And, we need to be able to deal with it.  Many of the articles I have written throughout the past season have covered the uncertainty of the position and how we should approach it. Hopefully, you've all been able to gain some insights from those articles that you can use in your goaltending travels.

As an added point to the oddities of the game, after having no shutouts in the regular season and starting the playoffs as a BACKUP, Braden Holtby recorded back-to-back shutouts in do-or-die games to propel the Capitals into the Stanley Cup Final.  It shows we can never tell what the future will bring.  So just hold on to your dreams, work diligently & with motivation and never give up.
 
 
 
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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

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

It happens to all of us at one time or another in our goaltending career - we get benched.

I've been there when I was actively playing competitively, you've been there; it happens to the pros.

It's not a pleasant situation. Perhaps you aren't even having a bad game. Maybe the
coach just wants to "shake things up".  Hopefully that is the reason, but even if it is, it's a shock.  And, it's embarrassing!  Fans & parents are looking on, not to mention your team mates.

And, then the thoughts start going through our mind: why? It was just one goal and it went off my defenseman's stick (of course coach didn't notice that); the whole team is playing badly, why signal me out? Am I going to get my next regular start? What are my team mates 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.

Understand this is nothing to do with you personally and whatever the reason, you really can't change it.  Once done it is done.  You can either move on and stay prepared in the event you are called upon to go back in the net or sit there with your negative thoughts and emotions which really doesn't do anyone, including you, any good.

The best approach, and 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 my game I need to improve so this doesn't happen again.  

One thing for sure, being benched will definitely 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 and 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 will turn it into a positive.

And no matter what the circumstances, be supportive of your team mates.  At some point sooner or later, you will need their support.

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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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