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New Series: Coaching the Coaches

New Series: Coaching the Coaches

Today InGoal introduces a new series of articles from guest author Ryan Honick, President GDI Southeast and Director GDI EAST. 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. 

Goaltenders, parents, and goaltender coaches, this article is meant to be shared with your coaching staffs. Since most InGoal readers are not Head and Assistant Coaches, be sure that this article finds its way into their hands for you to best benefit from it. The content is derived from my point of view and my opinions, it is widely concurred, but in many cases, alternatives to these subjects can be very effective, and I give credit to many people for helping to shape my philosophy, namely Ian Clark, GDI Founder. What we take most for granted in our little private world of goaltending is that we often keep our knowledge from our Head and Assistant Coaches or that it is at times lost in translation. Let us make an effort to help them-help you!

Ryan Honick talking with goaltender Jeff Jakaitis of the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL

Ryan Honick talking with goaltender Jeff Jakaitis of the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL

I get around in the US. I travel from Minnesota to Florida, and from Illinois to Massachusetts working with individual and team clients. One thing is apparent, there is a need for goalie coaching as most teams do not provide it and most coaches have little experience with it. Two things are recently occurring: first, associations and clubs are enlisting a goalie coach, sometimes one that just comes in periodically to keep the goalies on their toes or to simply pay them some attention, and sometimes one that is around the team and involved in the day to day or weekly matters of the goalies quite a bit. Former goaltenders are finding themselves as Assistant Coaches on a squad, often performing double duty as the liaison to the coach and taking on the role of a full-fledged assistant. Secondly, a select few coaches are taking matters into their own hands in order to better serve the players that they rely upon most. The latter is rare and I want to encourage it here.

Be warned, it is important as a player coach not to overstep your bounds as a goalie coach. If you have no goalie coaching or playing background, do not attempt to change the goaltenders. Instead educate yourself. Consult a goalie coach or someone with modern knowledge of the position so that you can use this information to aid your goalies.

I have met a few great hockey coaches that in their own self analysis come to terms with one major deficiency within their own arsenals; they have no clue what their goalies are doing. Admittedly the most important player on the ice by most, neglect in this realm runs rampant. One such coach I have worked with for over 7 years is Jason Kersner, a former NAHL Head Coach and now at the helm of the USPHL Skipjacks Hockey Club U16 Midget Minor team. He has previously taken his U18 teams to USA Hockey Nationals 7 years in a row. He and I have had years to cultivate an understanding with one another and I have made it one of my goals to better my goalie coaching ability through knowledge of the player’s side. Jason states, “There is no arguing that the goaltender makes the biggest impact on the outcome of a game and the team.  It is also the position (unless you are coaching at a level where you are fortunate to have an everyday goalie coach) that gets the least attention from us as coaches.  I think it’s extremely important as coaches we spend some time in our personal growth and development to learn about the position.” I wish more coaches thought as Coach Kersner does.

In this series I will identify some key development objectives for goaltenders, provide you with key things to keep in mind when dealing with your goaltenders, and discuss what you can do as a head or assistant coach for your goalies, along with showing diagrams and video of rather complex drills made simple that any coach can use to work with their goalies. I hope to reaffirm some things for you as well as open your eyes to others.

We will look at a number of topics through the course of this series including:

  • Goaltender Role and Development Hierarchy
  • Positioning
  • Save Process
  • 5 Ways Goals go in
  • Drills
  • Battle Mindset
  • Listen and Interaction on Style
  • Video Review
  • Transition
  • Communication
  • Naming/Relieving Starter
  • Accountability
  • Leadership

Next week we begin by addressing the role of the goaltender on your team and determine where to begin on the ice as the skills and tactics of the position are built not in isolation but upon a proper foundation that will ensure long-term continued success.

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


  1. David

    Looking forward to following this.

  2. Chris

    Thank you for sharing this article. There are so many coaches out there that have no idea on what to do with their young goalies on and off the ice and during practice.

  3. Mark O'Reilly

    This is great information and the message needs to be heard by all coaches. How about an out-reach to USA Hockey to develop a two-pronged coaching education approach, one for head/assistant coaches and another for goalie coaches? These could take the form of optional one-day clinics that would supplement the Level 1-5 coaching certification clinics.

  4. Vancouver Goalie Coach

    I’m really looking forward to this. Please consider the very small goaltenders when offering advice on aiding development, especially the “what not to do with an Atom or PeeWee goalie.” I see far too much use of the little guys purely as shooter-tutors and argued with coaches who believe this is development.

  5. Jamie Austin

    This will be an interesting series to follow. Having two sons, one a goalie and the other defense, I have only met one head coach in the last eight years that openly admitted that “when it comes to goalies I have no idea what to say to them”. In my opinion, self analysis often clashes with ego with head coaches and the goalies suffer and ultimately the team in the end. Too often when asked about getting a goalie coach the response is “they are doing fine”! I think the change in thinking regarding goalie development has to be brought about at the Association level to be effective and not left to the coaches discretion. Looking forward to the next article in the series!