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5 Ways Coaches Destroy Their Goaltenders

5 Ways Coaches Destroy Their Goaltenders

This is the second in a five part series by Larry Sadler, the Director of Check back next Thursday for part three.

Sent in by a reader, this little guy is probably being well-looked after, but not all youngsters are so lucky.

After more than 30 years as a goaltending coach I am constantly reminded of how some things just don’t seem to change. Unfortunately, one such thing seems to be very evident – coaches often hurt their goaltenders. In fact, they may slowly destroy them. Now a few coaches do this intentionally, but many do it unintentionally and they do it in many ways. I have categorized some of these mistakes into 5 key points. Check them out to see if you have inadvertently fallen into any of them.

2. Coaches Pressure Them


  • Coaches who constantly point out a goaltender’s mistakes. Coaches who criticize their goaltenders without pointing out proper corrections put an inordinate amount of pressure on them and therefore program their goaltenders to fail.


  • Coaches who become excessively upset when their goaltenders are scored upon. A coach who becomes clearly agitated when their goaltenders “let in” a goal undermines the goaltenders’ self esteem and weakens the goaltenders’ resolve.
  • Coaches laying the difference between winning and losing solely upon the goaltender. A coach who makes it clear to everyone that the goaltender’s performance is the difference between winning and losing puts an incredible amount of pressure on that goaltender. If anything, the coach should be trying to lift pressure from a goaltender’s shoulders so he can concentrate more effectively on the game. Remember, too much pressure makes a goaltender too tense, and leaves his self-esteem brittle and easily fractured. Coaches who blame their goaltenders for all goals against fail to realize that it took a mistake by at least one forward and another mistake by at least one defenseman to get the puck to the net. Sometimes blaming just the goaltender for a goal is like blaming a puddle for the rain.
  • Coaches who play a goaltender until he loses. This attitude makes the wins contingent on the goaltender’s performance alone. Minor or youth coaches who continue to constantly play goalies until they lose will cause their back-up goalies to wither and will definitely wear out their first string goalie.
  • Coaches who humiliate their goaltender for poor performance in front of the team. Any coach who openly criticizes any player in front of his team mates risks ruining his self-confidence. It is even worse for a goaltender because the nature of his position quite often sets him from the rest of his team already. Coaches who shout out non-specific or critical comments directed to the goaltender from the bench do nothing to help the goaltender’s development and only serve to embarrass and frustrate the goaltender.
  • Coaches who pull their goaltenders from a game too soon or keep them in too long. Coaches who pull their goaltenders too soon risk ruining their self-esteem and leaving them in too long, especially in an embarrassing situation, is just as bad. Pulling a goaltender without telling them why also sends the goaltenders a bad, demoralizing message.
  • Coaches who send small negative messages by telling their goaltenders they are “starting” rather than “playing” the game. A little thing like telling a goaltender he is starting implies he may not be finishing a game. Tell him he is “playing the game”. Referring to them as “targets” also implies the goaltenders can not be proactive.
  • Coaches who tell their goaltenders “It’s all up to you”. By putting too much emphasis on the goaltender as the prime reason for winning a game the coach puts too much pressure on the goaltender.


  • Coaches who expect their goaltenders to stop every puck in practice. Setting unrealistic objectives in practice and letting them know when they fail to live up to these objectives will cause many goaltenders to crack. To properly ensure goaltenders develop remember the 70% success rate rule. Every drill should guarantee an average of 70% success or goaltenders will get discouraged.
  • Coaches who allow their players to run the net in practice or to humiliate the goalies in practice. Coaches who don’t provide for their goaltender’s safety or who fail to prevent their goaltender’s embarrassment at the hands of their team mates will program their goaltenders to become easily intimidated. That quite often carries over into games.
  • Coaches who allow their players to “dipsy-doodle” too much in practice when attacking the net. By that I mean, coaches who allow their players to hot-dog or showboat during shooting or offensive drills by slowing down or dragging out their play in a completely non game-like pace. These non-game specific actions will have a detrimental affect upon a goaltender’s timing. It will also have a negative effect on the goaltender’s confidence.
  • Coaches who allow too many shots on net at one time. These shooting galleries, in which players shoot all at once at the goaltender at any time in the practice, could injure your goaltender or negatively affect his focus and confidence causing them to wince or to pull up on shots.


Smart Goalie LogoLarry Sadler is the Director of

For further information on goaltending instruction please contact Larry at [email protected].



About The Author


  1. Tim

    The practice comments are right on. It seems that every practice I see my son get caught up in a shooting drill where one player wants to shoot that second rebound; or dig the puck after it’s been trapped.

    I think the biggest issue is that it throws the timing of the drill off for the rest of the players; so it’s bad for the goalie *and* bad for the team.

    • larry sadler

      great comments
      I agree
      stay in touch either here or on my site

  2. paul szabo

    The comments about how coaches pull their goalie without supporting him or her, and how they say in advance that they can start but might not finish if… are such huge points that I have experienced this year with my son’s team.

    An extra note about the wrong-headed language we use to describe goals. We almost all say “let in” a goal, even as goalies. We need to say “the guy scored a goal”. Do we ever hear the opposing player say “Oh yeah- my goal- the goalie LET ME shoot it in”? Of course not. He takes full credit for the goal by saying “I made a great shot” or something to that effect.

    • Christian

      The language thing is such a huge point. A goaltender needs to be mentally focussed, aware of his skills, trust in his style and possibilities, and just feeling good while playing. Funny thing that most of the players understand that, and almost every time a goal was scored on me, at least one of my teammates is skating over and tells me that was probably his fault. Ok, if the goal was too obvious a complete ****up by myself, things turn again and I might think “my teammate fooling me, and thinks I’m nervous or something”, which is really bad as well. If some goals against happen, and the teammates shut up and stop talking to you, it’s propably the right time for a change in goaltenders. It’s a team game, even if goalies are often kind of separeted from the rest of the team during a game. If they stop talking, something is wrong, and they may have lost trust in my opinion. If they never talk to you during a game, there is even more wrong, but with the team itself 😉

      Anyways, for your own confidence the goalie, the coach, and the players definately NEED to accept that goals against happen. Even the bad ones. I’ve seen so many bad goals in this years NHL playoffs. They guys earn millions of US$, but they make mistakes as well, and these are even more terrible in the end because it’s about money.

      One thing that helped me from time to time during a game when I think a goal against really did hurt: Take a look into the goal scorers eyes, how he’s happy that he scored, his cheering team. He just scored a goal against you. Now he’s celebrating almost like he has won a championship. One goal. Must have been a real effort for him scoring this as he is that happy now. So that implies you made your job right before and things weren’t easy for the other team. Proceed with this. Score yourself next with robbing a sure goal from them at their next shot. Make them fight for the next. You don’t want to see them cheering again tonight.

      For practice, I don’t really care about goals against. Like written in the article, most of them aren’t really like those in a “real” game, even if you make a practice match. The defenders don’t check, players aren’t giving 110% all the time during their shifts, they try new things and moves, maybe even new tactics. That’s the reason why the shooters have almost every time too much time to target, and shoot. They will make you looking bad then. But that’s a general issue, and I think you won’t get rid off it in hobby/amateur/semi-professional leagues because the coach don’t want to upset the “we want to have fun and shoot goals, goals, goals” fraction in a mixed team.

      These words are my own observations, and maybe not correct for everyone. Other Opinions?



      • larry sadler

        great comments
        let me chew those over & I will respond soon
        contact me either here or on my site

    • larry sadler

      Hello again Paul
      great comments on languae I will use that myself in my presentations thanks

  3. OldBird34

    Wow, I’m not a kid I’m a 35 year old woman, but this article is so relevant to the game I played on Saturday. I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell my coach he’s really making me so nervous that it’s causing me to play horribly. I literally am so nervous I’m shaking on the ice.

    Said coach has not been around for much of the season. We had a game in November we lost where I was in net and the score was 7-1. Some of the girls sent him text messages complaining that I should have pulled myself and let the other goalie play. We were being so horribly outplayed, I didn’t see the need to swap goalies. We were just outmatched that bad.

    Anyway, after that I managed to get in net twice (because the other goalie was not available), won both games and my team was very supportive around me, again, the coach did not witness these games. That was two months ago, he has not allowed me to play since, playing the other goalie instead. Keep in mind, this is the other goalie’s first year on our team, I’ve been the only goalie for 13 years and I’ve played quite well up until this point, never had a problem with nerves before.

    Cut to this weekend. The new goalie has not been to practice for two weeks. My team is encouraging me saying that it’s my turn and I get to play this weekend. I assume that decision has been made on who’s playing. Absentee coach shows up on the last practice before the game, we haven’t seen him in 4 weeks. The day before the game rolls around he starts sending me text messages. He wants to know how I feel about the game on the weekend. I ask him what does he mean, is he talking about my feelings on playing the game. He replies yes, because he knows that team beat me badly before and I might be too nervous to play against them. Well I wasn’t until that moment. I explained to him that that particular loss, despite what was reported by others, wasn’t all my fault, it was a terrible game all around. He says yes, a lot of people complained about me in that game but seems okay with my explanation. So I think the argument is settled. He then takes a full 8 hour break from texting me to say “I guess you can start the game on Saturday” which leaves me brimming with confidence of course.

    Well Saturday comes. The new goalie shows up for the first time in two weeks (Didn’t know she was coming) we warm up and I know right from the getgo I’m crazy nervous because he’s watching me from the bench, waiting for a reason to pull me. I can honestly say I’ve never felt this kind of pressure before. I try to shrug it off thinking that I will stop a few pucks and get over it. So I do stop a few pucks and then on the third or fourth shot, they score on me through a screen. After that, forget about it. No hope of regaining my confidence at all. I should have pulled myself at that point. But I didn’t, thinking if I show weakness then he’ll never let me play again. So obviously, this makes me more nervous. He finally pulls me in the second period after I let in goal #4. I go to the bench angry, more at myself than anything for letting him get to me. He tells me I played good but I looked nervous. I replied “What do you expect when I haven’t played since December.”

    Now am ashamed for saying that at all. But, heat of the moment, sometimes you say stuff. My teammates were supportive. I have nothing against them, they deserved a better performance out of me. I let them down by letting my nerves get to me. The other goalie let in 2 goals and we ended up losing by 2. I really have no desire to go to practice now. There’s 4 weeks left in the season and I’m fairly sure that I will not be allowed to play again. After that November loss that garnered the complaints, the coach spent a good long time at the other end of the ice having a conference with the other goalie, then sent her down to give me “tips”. After 13 years of playing, I was getting tips from a 19 year old who started playing 4 years ago. I am not against learning new things, but the way it went down, it felt like that loss had been completely hung on me (our team spent most of that game trapped in our own zone).

    Anyway, until I read this article, I didn’t realize how much the language of the coach affected me. At the beginning of the season he told me the other goalie would start the first game and I’d start the second and “We’ll see where it goes from there.” So all season, I’ve basically been waiting to find out what that meant. It’s put me on edge having to guess where I stand.

    I am still not sure what to do with these last 4 weeks. At least now I know I’m not nuts for being so nervous this weekend. I mean, it’s a rec league, it’s supposed to be fun and it just isn’t anymore. But again, thanks so much for writing this.

  4. Goaliemom

    Oldbird34 you have my sympathy. Do not give up. If necessary find another team. Try to get a meeting with this coach and explain the mental aspect of goaltending to him. If you do it in a non accusatory way perhaps he will listen. Right now that coach is a disgrace. Unfortunately it seems a fairly regular occurrence that the head coach of any team has little understanding about how to develop goalies. Goalies are mostly shooting targets during practice and are expected to be miracle workers during games. The coaches often pit two goalies against each other and do not engender respect for the position of goaltender in the team. Unless we have goaltender coaches also on the team there seems little that will change. A goalie has to try to zone out the noise caused by all of this negativity and believe in him/herself. Hard I know but what else is there? Goalie parents continue to lobby but even showing coaches articles like this is hard to do for fear they will see you as critical of them.

  5. Andrew

    Your comments about practices was spot on. All of your comments happened over this season. He was just a target, told to get up after stopping a barrage of pucks from three forwards shooting at him at once over and over. Not allowed to experiment and being forced into repetitive exercises he found boring.

    Found this article last night after my son was cut from his team because he “didn’t develop over the season” re: see this article.

  6. Matt

    So as a goalie of 25 years, good enough for a few AHL games…I have been coaching the goalies on my son’s teams. The a few things I have found. Coaches have no idea how to coach a goalie or develop the skills for a solid foundation. Most practices are half ice and the “players” have a net where the crease is. Coaches do allow me to work with our goalies but get mad when I am in the way of drills or trying to show and explain positioning or skills for certain situations. Goalie is the hardest position to play in hockey, but it is also about 90% mental. Maybe 75% once you hit 40….Anyway any thoughts on how to fix or change that our teams goalie is great during practice when I’m on the ice, but during games….it is like everything leaks out of his head.