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Coaching the Coaches: Battle Mindset

Coaching the Coaches: Battle Mindset

This is part six in a series of articles from guest author Ryan Honick, President GDI Southeast, GDI Midwest and Director GDI EAST, WEST. Coaching the Coaches looks not at developing goaltending coaches, instead it looks to provide some support for the many coaches who have little or no experience dealing with the men and women they rely on the most – their goalies. Ryan regularly visits with coaches at all levels to share his insights, a taste of which you will get from this series.

Battle Mindset

Beyond just technique and the “right” way to make the save, lays a goaltending attribute that is well known, and extremely identifiable: a goalie’s Battle Mindset. It is their ability to make a save no matter the circumstances and in whatever shape and form that works. Coaches should stress competing in their practices, in the gym, and on the battlefield. Competition is a good thing and should be the reason why we play sport. If a goalie does not compete, they have no business between the pipes. A unique perspective from my friend Michelle McAteer, the Division 3 MIAC Augsburg College Women’s Head Coach. She thinks that “For the players to buy in (play for the goalie) they need to see our goalie demonstrate a consistent and extremely high compete level in practice. If so, on game day, skaters realize that our goalie is ready to go to battle and they feed off of that. That high compete level translates in to confidence, from the within the athlete, and from her coaches and teammates.”

Strange how the term “athletic” has become synonymous with today’s best and most highly recruited goaltenders at all levels of play. Big and athletic seem to be what everyone is after in most cases. While we can’t teach size, we can teach to compete for pucks. Does athletic mean flopping around doing cartwheels when a simple butterfly save would be a better choice? It should not! This is the current biggest misconception in the position. It should however mean that when technical responses will not get the job done, that a more “acrobatic” or “out of the box” attempt should be made. Some goalies do seem to simply have a knack for stopping pucks and they are likely the ones that compete for each and every one of them. While Dominic Hasek reinvented this attribute, Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick have refined it in their recent Stanley Cup wins. This reminds goalie coaches that at the end of the day, you have to just go and be a goalie. Add this with yet another structure-first technician hoisting the cup, in Corey Crawford, and we are brought back to our goalie morals. There are many paths to success (as in any other thing in life), and that a blend of unique attributes creates an individuals’ potential. A goalie’s style will not guarantee you a win. But it is certain, that if your goalie does not compete and possess some form of battle ability, you will fall victim to mediocre results.

Most coaches feel that they DO NOT care how the goalie gets the job done, just as long as they DO get the job done. Just stop the puck, right? While competing for these pucks, it is key for the goalie to remain smart. We shouldn’t want it to look flashy for the sake of the highlight reel; we should remain tactical at all times. What will give me the best chance to make this save? – is really the mindset a goalie keeps. Keeping focused on the puck with the eyes is the secret to competing and really zeroing in on the one thing that the goalie’s brain can process while chaos ensues around them. Being reactive to what is occurring, being instinctual and not mechanical, so that the response is fast and fluid, relying on the body’s athletic ability such as speed and stength to stretch out and deny a player at the back door are all required elements of battle success.

In the video below we see Ebbe Sionas of the USPHL-Premier Jersey Hitmen demonstrate his battle mindset. He gives up a poor rebound and is determined to make up for his mistake by competing for it. His reaction is at first instinctively structured, his eyes are locked onto the puck as he chooses what he thinks is the best reaction to make for the given situation. Athleticism takes over in the form of quickness, explosiveness, flexibility, and reflexes. Look closely at his unorthodox choice and note that it turns out to be a game saver to preserve a win and we look back at it as the save of the game at a big time of the game.

Most importantly is the pride that any goalie should have in doing their job. What the above goalies all have in common is that they absolutely hate to let a puck in the net, whether in practices or in games. They take pride in stopping a puck just as any athlete takes pride in executing their roles to a tee. They put their “signature” on the play. They are proud of their efforts. This can certainly be taught to our youngest of athletes.

For part seven of the series we will examine how it should now be an expectation of all goaltenders to be a catalyst for the breakout, by diving into the transitional side of the position.

Quick Links to previous articles in this series:

Link to Part 1: Intro

Link to Part 2: Role of the Goalie

Link to Part 3: Save Process and Positioning

Link to Part 4: Five Ways Goals Go In

Link to Part 5: Drills

Ryan Honick is a Professional Goaltending Consultant and is currently the Goaltending Coach for the USHL Green Bay Gamblers and USPHL Jersey Hitmen. Both of these team’s goalies won their respective Goaltender of the Year awards last season. He has previously coached in the ECHL for 6 seasons, along the way working with 4 goaltenders that have now played in the NHL. He consults regularly with College, USHL, NAHL, USPHL and Tier 1 teams within the United States. Ryan has also worked with the 2015, 2014, 2012, and 2010 ECHL Goaltender of the Year award winners, the 2014 USPHL-Elite Goaltender of the Year, and the 2011 EJHL Goaltender of the Year. Based in Washington DC, and Chicago, IL, GDI USA operates year-round and provides clients with a full gamut of programming. Contact Ryan directly for more information.

Ryan Honick
President GDI USA

C: (757) 641-9515
E: [email protected]

About The Author

David Hutchison

David is one of the founders of InGoal Magazine which he began in 2009. Of course he finds time for some goaltending of his own as well, and despite his age, clings desperately to the idea that some NHL team will call him to play for them - though in his mid-forties (OK, late 40s) it'll likely be for a practice when everyone else on their depth chart has the flu and the shooter tutor has gone in for repairs.