Jared Waimon: Talking NCAA Goalie Coaching and Development
Jared Waimon worked the last two seasons with Quinnipiac University starting goaltender Michael Gartieg.
That work has paid off, in spades. The undrafted Garteig was a Mike Richter finalist this past year, and earned himself a one-year, entry-level deal with the Vancouver Canucks. He put up a .924 save percentage as the consensus starter for Quinnipiac; if the team was on the ice, chances are, he was too.
“Jared was huge, especially this past year,” Gartieg said during the Canucks recent development camp, while also singling out Steve Valiquette for the work they did the past few summers. “Jared did a really good job of making sure I was prepared for whatever games we had each weekend. He’d scout teams, find out what they do best and then we’d work on it during the week and it really allowed me to have a plan going into the games instead of going in blind. We got along really well.”
Waimon sat down with InGoal Magazine to talk about how he works the goaltenders at Quinnipiac, and share some insights into the life of a NCAA goaltending coach.
Although he was officially on the staff, Waimon served as the volunteer goaltending coach for Quinnipiac, working with the team when he could and going to the games he was able to make it to on his schedule. He juggled his NCAA coaching with private lessons, working Monday through Thursday as an unpaid guide for Garteig and the team’s three other goaltenders.
“Practices [at the school] are late mornings, and private stuff usually happens in the afternoon or evening, once schools have let out,” said Waimon, “so I’m able to be there Monday through Thursday for practices.”
He would be on the ice with the four goaltenders – starter Garteig, a red shirt transfer from Air Force Hockey, a sophomore, and a graduating senior – for roughly three hours a day, four days a week. He spent two to three sessions a week with the team’s red shirt transfer and two to three a week with Garteig, but goaltender sessions had to be fit around regular practice, particularly for the heavily-used starter.
“The first half of the year, [Garteig and I] would do two to three goalie sessions an then he’d do regular practice,” Waimon said. “He likes to be out there a lot.”
As the year went on, though, they had to scale back. By the time the playoffs rolled around, the combined amount of time Garteig would spend at regular practice and with Waimon was cut down from a full practice to just 45 minutes, max.
You’d think a big chunk of those sessions may be spent working on technical skills, especially with a coach like Waimon, who is known for coaching private lessons, as well. The coach insists that isn’t the case, though.
“For college goaltenders,” he explained, “the biggest thing as a coach is making sure they’re decisive. In the moment, if they’re decisive and they impose their will on the play – even if it wasn’t the best decision – you know where you are, you know what you’ve done, and you can recover from that. If you get caught in between, you don’t know where you are, you don’t know what you just did. It’s a lot easier to reflect and improve when you actively make a decision to do something.”
Waimon, therefore, spends a lot of time letting his goaltenders try out new things – as long as they’re decisive about what they’re going to try before they do it.
“Go ahead and do it” is the big motto for this NCAA coach.
At the private level, things are different.
While Waimon worked with Garteig as a volunteer NCAA coach, he’s also the private instructor for Minnesota Wild prospect Stephen Michalek as a part of ProCrease Goaltending. He’s been working with the former Harvard netminder since around 2006, dating back to when Michalek wasn’t a goaltender you’d look at and immediately think of as a future pro.
With him, he worked more on the technical aspect of his game, although he insists that the first thing he does is emphasize letting Michalek be an athlete in net. On the long-term scale, he suggests, you can make those stricter, more technical adjustments; if you limit a goaltender’s athletic boundaries early on, it can hurt them far more than their creativity ever could.
When you coach a private student, it’s about the skills – both from an athletic standpoint and from a technical standpoint. Coaching NCAA, on the other hand, is about situational work, adapting to the systems the team works with in order to ensure the goaltender will succeed with the teammates he has around him.
Take puck-handling, for example.
“With private coaching,” says Waimon, “you work on the skills. You work on the puck-handling concept itself. As far as what you do with the puck, though, you work on that with the NCAA program. I can work on puck-handling with a kid in a private lesson, but the kid could then tell me ‘oh, my coach doesn’t want me to do that’. It’s all about the situation at the team level.”
Knowing that nuanced difference is part of what makes having NCAA goaltending coaches so important; the raw skills can be taught by private instructors, but the situational development remains so reliant on learning within the team itself. Without a goaltending coach – which many Division III schools lack, and even some Division I schools on a full-time basis – the goaltender is left trying to fit what he knows into the system by himself.
That’s hard enough when a goaltender is already mentally decisive; when they’re still learning how to make those decisions, it can be a huge struggle.
It’s not easy for schools to get the coaching support they need, though.
At the Division I level, teams are given three paid coaches. They’re then allowed one volunteer coach; oftentimes, like with Waimon and Quinnipiac, that coach is the goaltending coach.
That leaves the position at the mercy of the volunteer coach’s schedule – something that happens at the Division III level as well, making it hard for goaltenders to get the support they need.
Coaches like Waimon find these jobs great experience, though, even if they are unpaid.
He got started at the Division III level, working with Trinity – where he got his first taste of working with the collegiate goaltenders.
“In Division III, at the end of the day, people do it because they love it or they’re trying to expand their capabilities. That’s how I got involved with Trinity.”
Now, he’s got two former charges who have made it successfully to a point where they’re sitting on NHL deals. That, plus the experience he’s gotten, suggest that there’s a bright future for coaches like him – who are willing to put in the time, even when it doesn’t give them much in the way of a tangible reward at first.
Given the huge evolution of the position, though, the unpaid nature of many NCAA coaches like this are a harsh reminder; there’s still a lot of work needing to be done in prioritizing the position.
Waimon expects to be back with Quinnipiac next year. The team has the red shirt transfer, an incoming freshman, and the sophomore practice goaltender all ready to compete for a chance to replace Garteig; they’ll get some small skill sessions, a scrimmage, and a bit of ramp-up time to decide which one gets the first nod in net.
Maybe, one of them will be his next success story.