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Providing the best advice for Goaltenders globally!

Differentate Yourself

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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Playing at the "next" level

Some time ago I did a short survey with a goaltending coach who had worked at a Midget AAA, Junior A and University level & also, a goaltender (not from the same team) who had played through each of these levels.  My intent was to attempt to get a perspective, outside of my own, on some of the major skills & attributes necessary to play "up" at each level.  My question was, "list 5 - 6 things you feel a goaltender must have or develop as they move up those three levels.  

Here are their responses:  


(Coach Perspective)

- need to develop their anticipation of play in the defensive zone

- ability to recognize and be able to react to opposition systems such as (PP) zone entries etc.
- excellent rebound control
- ability to find loose pucks in traffic (the amount of front net traffic increases as you move up each level)
- the physical strength to handle traffic to fight for loose pucks when play is in tight to the net (not only is there more front net traffic, but the players get bigger as you move up each level)

(A goaltender's perspective)

- able to balance (time management) all facets of their life

- keep the different aspects of their life separate (hockey time is hockey time, study time is study time, off ice training time is off ice training time etc)
- confidence in their skills (confident that all the work & practice will make for a successful transition to the game)
- a short memory (live the game in the present)
- deep motivation to succeed 
- knows game time is battle time

I think you can see, from the responses, there are some key things you need to understand about moving from level to level.  One thing, I would like to add is "SPEED".  Everything gets faster moving from level to playing level...shots travel faster, passes are quicker, players skate faster, plays happen faster.  The whole game moves faster.

And to quote the goaltender who helped me out, "many times, especially at the start of your first season at a higher level, it is as much about being able to "keep it all together" as it is about how well you stop a puck" 

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Different advice from different coaches

A recent conversation with one of our long-time clients prompted me to dig this out of my files and share it with all of you.  The conversation cantered around having a different goaltending coach from the previous year and that coach looking to make some changes to his play.

Mostly, I think this happens simply because each goalie coach has his/her own perception of what is technically correct or how a goaltender should approach/react to game situations.  And I suspect, this is not uncommon.

From our (Alexander Goaltending) perspective once you go beyond the basic foundational technical skill, there may be more than one option to achieve similar results.  Providing, of course, in all instances, that the results are positive.  It doesn't necessarily mean one is right & and the other is wrong.  However, as a coach we need to understand, that because every goalie has different mental & physical attributes (size, speed, strength and so on), what will work for one goaltender may not necessarily work for another.  It is the coach's responsibility to make the best use of those attributes the goaltender already has.  


We, as professional coaches, are entrusted, among other things, to teach the technical skills of the position. Just as important is to ensure our students understand why we suggest a particular method.   Simply put, we are providing a goaltender a tool for his/her "toolbox".  Hopefully they realize the benefit, but, how and if they use it is always their choice.  As long as, whatever they choose allows them to perform at the highest and most efficient level given their particular technical, physical and mental skills.   

If you do find yourself in a situation where you are being asked to do something goaltending related that you feel uncomfortable doing, you need to open a dialogue with the coach to try and understand where the issue is.  Hopefully he/she is not looking to make changes just for the sake of change.  The role of the goalie coach is really all about developing and improving skills, analysing performance and solving performance problems.  

If a change is being recommended to how you are presently doing something, the question here should be "WHY”?  Why change?  Is what I am doing holding back my development?  Is my action (or non-action) causing goals?  How will it improve my performance?  I am sure the competent coach will be able to show you how this change will/could work to your advantage and help you move forward to improve. 

At the same time, however, we do feel it is incumbent upon the goaltender to, at the very least, give something new a try.  Not to do so might be depriving him/her of an opportunity to make a change that improves and/or develops his/her game beyond where it is presently.     

A very high profile national level coach once told me a good coach should always be able to answer the "WHY" question with a positive reply and back up their answer with examples or results.

Note: Research shows it takes between 300 - 500 repetitions to gain competency (many more to be proficient) in a motor skill (trapper save) and 3000 - 5000 repetitions to correct a poor/incorrect muscle motor pattern (need to un-learn and then re-learn).  

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Patience!

Because we try to support our student/clients at and away from the rink, we like to stay in touch with both they and parents as frequently as we can.

Some (just a few), hold a belief it is important for their son/daughter to play up beyond their present skill/age level in order for them to achieve long term success.  They feel, that, if they don’t, their son/daughter will never reach their (?) goals.  I find this to be a bit unrealistic.  Simply because, everyone will develop at their own pace.  As a parent, all you can really do is provide your son/daughter the opportunity to play, expose them to the best QUALITY training available, (notice the emphasis on quality) encourage them and support them.

Everyone has a different development curve which is based on several factors of which some are controllable and some not. We will always have those few (very few) who are ahead of the normal curve, the average (a majority) and, of course, the “late bloomer” (very few).  And, no amount of wishful thinking will propel any of them beyond what they are physically and mentally capable of achieving.  

When your son/daughter is younger, it is easy to get caught up in the allure of skipping a step & jumping up to a level beyond their age group in the hope they will develop faster and quicker.  And, even at higher levels (Junior & above) the same idea exists.  I must admit, I may have been one of those people.  Even today, I look at some of our student/clients and wonder if their development would not be better served by playing up.  But………

REALITY CHECK HERE!

There really isn’t anything wrong with “testing the waters”.  Say trying out for a team (if you are able) that competes above your son/daughter’s present playing level.  But, unless your son/daughter is very mature & can be certain they will see enough “net time” (nothing erodes confidence more than sitting at the end of a bench game after game) to develop & improve their game skills, they are much better off “staying the course”.  

Here are a couple of reasons to “stay the course”:

- it allows them an opportunity to experience growth as a player
- it gives them more time to develop their skills because they are not always trying to play “catch up” with stronger, more experienced & older kids & team mates
- different social dynamics will come into play at the next level
- they might be looked to for a leadership role which, in turn helps them develop as a person
- it could serve to build their mental toughness & character because they could become (if not already) the “go to guy or gal” who logs all the hard minutes in tough times

IT’S ALL ABOUT PATIENCE

It is my belief (as a coach and long-time scout) that if you are good enough, you will be “found”.  No matter how deeply a goaltender is “buried” they will hear of you and find you.  I do understand the concept of “timing” also enters the picture, but, have the patience to continue to work smart & hard; search out & use every resource possible to improve ALL aspects of your game; refine your skills to perfection.  And, hopefully you will become the best goaltender you can possibly be at the level you are supposed to be.  And, who knows where that will lead. 

 

I know that not everyone will agree with me simply because, unless you have experienced it, it is difficult not to look for the “silver bullet” that gets you on the fast track.  Unfortunately, very, very few who ever get on the “fast track” train will ride it all the way to the station.

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"Grit" will get you there

The world of a goaltender can be harsh at times.  It's no fun being on the long end of 10 - 1 loss or a 7-game losing streak.  Those can really test your "mental toughness".  Besides everything else it's embarrassing and, no doubt, a jolt to the ego.

So, let's look at somethings you might do to get a bit of your that "mental strength" back after you get knocked down.

Don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself.  Really, self-pity is not going to get you anywhere.  And don't look for anyone else to sympathize with you (except maybe your family) or a very close friend or coach.  Don't continue to focus on the problem....what you need is a solution.

Maybe what you need is to just get back to basics.  All the good things you did that got you to where you are. 

Maybe what you need is a change.  A change in your routine; a change in ATTITUDE.  Whatever.  Change is not necessarily bad.  To be a successful as a goaltender you must be able to adapt.  

Different year, different team?  New challenges for sure.  Are they going to adapt to the way you play?  Maybe not.  Maybe you must make some small adjustment to your game.  If the game has changed are you changing with it?  Are you willing to change?

Don't get all out of whack about things you can't control.  If you can't control it, you need to let it go and move on.  What you coach does, how your team plays in front of you, the calls the referees make.  You cannot control any of that.  So, discover what you can control (habits, choices) and spend your good time making sure those are right.

Stop worrying about everyone else thinks.  (something else you can't control) At times, you just have to simply do some things that others don't like.  They'll get over it.

Doing the same thing day after day and expecting different results does not make a lot of sense.  Don't repeat your mistakes.  Learn from them, "park" them and make a change.

Don't expect immediate results.  Everything takes time.  Your development as a Goaltending and likewise developing mental toughness is a process.  It doesn't happen in a week, a month, or a year.  YOU NEED TO WORK ON BOTH!

Don't get frustrated because you aren't where you think you should be.  Understand where you are at this moment and then plan and work the plan diligently to get where you want to be.  Get help with your plan.  Going it alone makes for a tough journey.

At the end of it all, nobody owes you (or me) anything.  Sure, we might not think it is fair, but, it is what it is.  Make the best of it.  Give what you have everyday and don't dwell on what you think you deserve.  

(as a side note, I recently read the book "GRIT" by Angela Duckworth.  Her many years of research (and of others as well) lead to a proven conclusion that "grit" or mental toughness is the main contributing factor to success)

What is your "Grittiness" index?  


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