What is the best approach to off-ice training for your young goalie?

I’m going to cut right to the chase and give you the straight up answer – here it is.

The number one way to get a young goalie to the next level is…

Keep them in love with the game!

How do you keep them in love with the game? You keep it fun, you keep them healthy, you teach them to take the lessons sport has to teach from both wins and losses. The first two fall directly within my realm as a hockey strength and conditioning coach – keeping it fun and keeping them healthy.

One of my clients is a forward who was told he was too slow, too small and lacked the hockey sense to play (even at the OHL level). This guy went on to win a Stanley Cup and win the fastest skater distinction at the NHL All-Star game. He recalled a conversation he had with his best friend since childhood. They were talking about their times in youth hockey and his friend was saying something like, “remember how much you hated going to practice when we were kids?” My client was blown away – he was thinking, “No, I loved going to practice – it was the highlight of my day.”

If you enjoy Maria’s articles, check out The Ultimate Goalie Training Program

It was the love for the game that kept him involved in hockey, that kept him working diligently to become a better player and ultimately led him to the NHL. He did not play hockey or train for hockey with the purpose of earning a living as a hockey player, it was to help him have more fun while playing the game.

On a weekly basis I get email from parents who want to know how to train their 8, 10 or 12 year old goalie for hockey success. It is not the parents’ fault, they might see other kids involved in specialized training or maybe the coach tells the kid that he needs to be quicker or he won’t be on the team next year. Then you have the kids who are 6’1” and have a full moustache at the 12 years of age – that is genetics folks, you can’t train that.

In the worst scenario a very well-meaning coach gets his hands on a program that has been handed down from a college or pro program and he thinks he has hit the jackpot. Just think – if this is the training that Crosby does and I get my players to do it, then I will have a whole team of Crosbys out there – woohoo!

When you read it here in black and white, that makes no sense at all does it? Yet it happens all the time! If you want your young goalie to be out of the sport by the time he is 15 – this is the route for you.

On the other hand, if you want to support your young goalie and help them to enjoy their sport, you might try this instead:

  • establish the habit of putting in extra work to achieve a long-term goal
  • improve their skill as they develop
  • make it a positive way to spend a few more quality minutes with your child

For goalies under the age of 12 focus on bodyweight exercises like perfect push-ups, bodyweight squats, single leg balance, chin ups and movement drills. Athletes over the age of 12 can start using dumbbells – don’t worry, resistance training with weights does not cause growth plate injuries, unless they are being used improperly resulting in the athlete losing control of the weight resulting in a fracture.

The goal of resistance training with bodyweight or dumbbells is to learn proper technique, which gives the goalie a head start as they get older and capable of lifting heavier loads, they have excellent technique which will allow them to train safely and effectively as they make the move to the next level.

I have attached three articles describing some stability, strength and power exercises that you can work on with your young goalie. This is the place to start.

Athletic Foundation for Youth Goalies

Athletic Foundation for Youth – Hockey Strength

Athletic Foundation for Youth -Hockey Plyometrics


Maria Mountain, MSc is the owner of Revolution Conditioning in London, Ontario. She helps hockey players from the professional to the amateur level play at their highest level while reducing their risk of injury. You can access some free off-ice goalie training info at http://www.hockeytrainingpro.com

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5 Responses to The Best Way to Get Young Goalies to the Next Level

  1. Paul Ipolito says:

    Maria should be congratulated for her sensible outlook on handling young goalies.Letting them have fun and helping them learn to love the game is the best way.I REALLY appreciate her trying NOT to sell her products to kids she knows are to young to get the most out of it.

  2. Bill Horrigan says:

    I could not be in more agreement with all of the articles you’ve written. My 8 year old son has begged me to let him become a full time goalie. I found this web site looking for some basic techniques to teach him. I found a lot of great articles on development instead. When I read this article it gave credit to my way of thinking. Aside from a weekly skating class, my only plans for his training is a goalie clinic this summer. Everything else is just play time. I want to improve his glove hand so I pull out the baseball and his mitt. Surprise! He loves playing catch with me. I want to improve his lateral movement and hand-eye coordination, “hey son want to play a game of tennis?” Letting kids try different things benefits them for hockey development, and helps keep the game of hockey fun and fresh. Again great articles and thank you posting them.

  3. Anthony Bailey says:

    I recently contacted Maria about purchasing her Rapid Response Goalie Training system for my 8 year old and was surprised at how quickly she wrote back to me, and how HONEST she was about my son being too young for it. It would have been very easy to take my money. Instead she gave me solid advice and some good solid info for my son. Once he is old enough I will definitely be purchasing her products!

  4. Great article. So many hockey people are overly focused on the future and development they forget that the kids “play” hockey because it’s flat out the funnest game out there.

    • Paul says:

      I’ve used Brian Daccord’s goalie system for my son. I trust his program. That he volunteered his opinion only validates for me my first impression: that Maria is bang on with her advice.

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