by Kevin Woodley
Social distancing and stay-at-home isolation has left a lot of goaltenders at every level with extra time on their hands, and in search of ways to stay sharp and perhaps even improve without being able to actually get on the ice to practice.
Making sure you are training properly is the most obvious way to take advantage of this down time, and we’ve already shared a couple other tips, including some of the extra things Philadelphia Flyers goalie Carter Hart does all the time to work on his mental game (From Cold Showers to Concentration Grids), how learning to play the guitar through free lessons from ex-NHL goalie Sean Burke can also improve your glove hand (Goalies and Guitars), and an hour-long mental strength training webinar led by Pete Fry, the Goalie Mindset Guy, and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Dylan Ferguson you can still do by watching the replay.
Another thing goalies have turned to is juggling and ball drills. For most, it’s an easy way to stay on top of their eye-hand coordination at a time when they can’t get on the ice to face shots.
Of course, not every goaltender already knows how to juggle, and that includes at least one prominent NHL goalie who is now using this down time to learn how.
Become a member to read the full article, fine out which NHL goalie is learning to juggle right now, get a lesson of your own from John Stevenson, and find out why he thinks it’s not enough to just juggle.
“I never knew how to juggle and I was always so jealous when I saw other goalies do that,” Pekka Rinne told his former Nashville Predators playing partner and current TV analyst Chris Mason during an Instagram interview. “I’ve got to learn that, that’s just one of those things that you’ve just got to know. So, I went and ordered actual juggling balls, so that’s been my new thing. I’m trying to master that and maybe at some point, I’ll add some more balls.”
For those of you who would like to do the same as Rinne, we’ve got a special treat.
John Stevenson, an Alberta-based sports psychologist whose client list most famously includes Hart and Stanley Cup-winning Washington Capitals No.1 Braden Holtby, promised a group of goalies he could teach them how to juggle in 10 minutes during a mindset training seminar he co-hosted with Pete Fry last summer, and InGoal was on hand to capture those lessons, which as you will see in the video below dates back to a young Stevenson training under Russian legend Vladislav Tretiak.
Before we get to that video instruction, however, it’s important to remember that learning to juggle is just one step. Left at that, all you really be doing over time is getting better at juggling, and while that may still have value warming up the eyes and hands before a game, it won’t necessarily make you a better goalie. Just as Rinne talked about adding more balls, Stevenson moves on to different more difficult tasks with a variety of juggling and ball drills. So, after watching this video, make sure you keep reading below for more.
After his 10-minute learn-to-juggle introduction at that goalie mindset seminar last summer, Stevenson quickly moved on to more dynamic juggling options, and then into a series of ball drills that we will share with you here in the coming weeks and months.
“Ball drills have to be three things: 1. You got to do them every day; 2. You’ve got to do it where they’re progressively harder, it’s weight training for your brain and for your eyes; and then 3. They have to simulate game situations. So, if you’re just standing there juggling, well it’s great, but it’s only one category of the ball drills you need to be doing to maximize your training.”
We promise to share more of those soon. But for those of you who already juggle, or those who really do master it in the 10-minutes Stevenson teaches you how, and are eager for the next step now, we’ll give you a sampling of some things Stevenson suggested for Rinne.
“What I’d say to Pekka is you’ve got three-ball juggling down, you did it stationary, so start to do it walking forward, then I’d get you to start walking backwards,” Stevenson said. “And then let’s do it where I put my hand up in front of you and you got to call out the number of fingers I hold up while you’re simultaneously doing it. And if there’s not a partner around, okay, let’s do it where you have to read an article off the wall while you’re juggling. It’s just like adding weight to the bar, you’re progressively making that drill harder. Eventually, you could do the three-ball juggling on a Bosu Ball, or eventually on a Swiss Ball. Once you get that grass root level of three ball juggling, let’s take it to another level so you’re doing multiple object processing.”
Just as we wrote about Hart working on things to get better even when he can’t get on the ice, and how he returned from injuries each of the past two seasons and played better, Stevenson believes goalies can get better by training their minds and eyes during the pandemic.
“When this all blows over, you might even be a better goalie than you were before,” Stevenson said.
~ check back next week for a sample of a ball drill you can do without juggling, and Stevenson’s for keys to making ball drills relevant to goaltenders.
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As the technique in juggling improves, it can become too easy, such that you barely have to pay attention because your toss is perfect. Solving this is somewhat simple. You can change up what you’re actually juggling. Also, you can reverse the motion of your hands; instead of throwing in and catching out, you can throw from the outside and catch on the inside.
There is something that gets easily ignored with many hand-eye exercise: what are you training your head to do? Ib the crease, goalies should move their heads with the puck. You probably won’t be able to move your head with each ball when juggling. This is one of the reasons why other ball drills are still important.