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Coaching the Coaches: Communication/Buy-In/Style

Coaching the Coaches: Communication/Buy-In/Style

This is part eight in a series of articles from guest author Ryan Honick, President GDI USA. 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.

Now that we are at about the half-way point of our series, it’s time to shift gears and begin to explore how to manage our goaltenders off of the ice. Dealing with the psyche of a goalie is as important as training them on the ice. While some are thick-skinned and seem built for the adversity of the position, most are not, and we must address this part of the athletes’ game no differently than any other human being needs to be taught. It is commonly known that goaltending is more mental than physical, so why do coaches (and we as goalie coaches) spend next to no time in this realm? Most of us are not psychologists, and we like to simply roll the lines and let the rest take care of itself. If we truly want to unlock a goaltender’s potential, managing them off of the ice is the ace you hold in the game of their development.

I have the honor of working alongside Ted Monnich. He is our Mental Conditioning Coach here at GDI USA. Ted is also a goalie coach and long-time goaltender. He has been involved in the game for over 40 years at various levels and has chosen Mental Coaching as his specialty. What better specialist to help with a goalie’s mental game than a fellow goaltender. He has been a contributing writer here at InGoal Magazine and we will visit with him periodically to wrap up our series. Ted claims, “How a young goaltender believes in themselves and their abilities (self-efficacy) is dependent on many factors in their lives. Certainly listening to praise or an inspiring speech by the coach or parents can heighten their confidence for a short time; however, the greatest influence on their confidence is their own performance experience and achievement. We believe most in our abilities when we experience success. Thus, the goalie must practice success, and it will, in turn, follow in his performance. The coach must cultivate confidence in the goaltender by designing drills that begin at a lower intensity, ensuring success and building confidence, and gradually grow in intensity so that the goalie stays challenged. In this way, above all others, the coach can cultivate self- efficacy and confidence.” [Email Ted at [email protected]]


unnamedOne of the easiest ways to evolve your coaching ability of the goaltending position is to communicate with your goalies. At a certain age (likely peewee, bantam and older), it is standard that your goalie has been to numerous goalie coaches and camps, that they have put in the work to better themselves, and that they are just waiting for an opportunity to showcase what they have built to you. What better way than to get their feedback? While NOT always applicable, what your goalie has to say may be of a high value to the team. Being sentenced back to the crease and told that you will take care of the skaters and they should take care of themselves is a real misuse of opportunity. Maybe a drill suggestion or maybe a quarterback’s eyes in picking up opponent’s tendencies come game time. If the goalie is free to express things like what he feels he needs to work on or what his goals for the season are, then you are in a much better position to help them reach their potential, rather than them just being along for the ride.

Buy In

As the Head Coach, you are looked at by the goalie to provide them with an opportunity to develop. They know that you control their fate and seek your approval. To simply ignore them will simply hold them back. To do no more than ridicule them will only discourage them. Encourage them while taking some amount of time to coach them. They are not the forgotten player on the team, they are not on an island, they are the team’s backbone. If they do not feel this way, then do not expect them to become leaders or look to be the saviour on a squad that inevitably breaks down periodically in games. If they practice and play nervously, they will achieve less than desirable results, if they are supported and encouraged, they will accept the responsibility and challenge of saving the day when called upon. You must buy in to a goaltender’s value.

Interaction on style

Note: this segment pertains to all coaches, especially the goalie coach on the team.

Early in each season, goalie coaches begin collecting reports from the students who they may not work with on as regular a basis as they had done in the off season. In addition to the typical update, we observe an all too common trend. The team’s goalie coach or even another member of the staff attempts to change how the goalie plays. While progression should always be paramount, dramatic dissection of freshly-built mechanics and responses is destructive and produces regression. This issue can be a tough one to swallow for some coaches. But you must respect the time, effort, and even money that a goalie has put in to get to where they are today. No one has all the answers, and many times a constructive suggestion or change is warranted, but to stubbornly demand a different technique or tactic based on ignorance by the coach is unacceptable. Be sure a goalie has an area of concern and that they require growth in it before simply rewiring it just because it is or is not your way. Most goalies attend modernized, progressive goalie schools each summer and your methods may be dated or different. We basically want the goalies to learn and push skill in the off-season, then reinforce, maintain, and build them in-season. To constantly go back and forth between choices only creates confusion in the goalie’s instincts. Some goalies can quickly adapt to change and are free to explore all theories, but most cannot. I am a great “first impression” goalie coach. I have a lot of new students each season. I pride myself on taking the time at the start of the year to understand my goalie, what makes them tick, what has led them to this style of play, who have they learned from and can they be communicated with, and what tweaks might need to be applied. Resist just intrusively bombarding them with different ideas that you feel are necessary. Again, keep it fundamental at first, then move into game threats that they see on a regular basis.

Now how many of you have a plan for naming and relieving your starting goalie? Are you consistent with it? Are you purposefully playing games with their heads? Our next focus will be on this disgustingly mismanaged detail that often makes or breaks your goaltender’s season.

 See the other articles in this series:

Part 1: Intro
Part 2: Role of the Goalie
Part 3: Save Process and Positioning
Part 4: Five Ways Goals Go In
Part 5: Drills
Part 6: Battle Mindset
Part 7: The Transition System

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]

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