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5 Ways Coaches Destroy Their Goaltenders – Part 3

This is the third of a five part series by Larry Sadler, the Director of Check back next Thursday for part four.

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.

3. Coaches Under Work Them


  • Coaches will prevent the backup goaltender from getting any game work or severely reduce them from doing so. No matter how weak their back-up goaltender is a coach risks making them worse and thus potentially weakens the team by not giving the back-up goaltender sufficient game time. They need the in-game work so they can both maintain and improve their self-confidence.
  • Coaches refrain from giving the back-up goaltender any significant responsibilities. Coaches who don’t give their back-up goaltender proper responsibilities in games prevent them from developing their analytical skills. Operating a door on the player’s bench will not teach a goaltender how to better play a 2-on-1. Having them take stats or game notes will.
  • Coaches don’t provide the game goaltender with the opportunity to review their game performance critically. Coaches who don’t allow their goaltenders the opportunity to assess their performance after they have played prevent their goaltenders from developing their analytical skills. In addition, the coach prevents the goaltenders from correcting their errors and in improving their play.
  • Coach refrains from having any goaltender stats taken. Coaches who don’t provide goaltender specific stats severely hamper their goaltenders’ ability to learn from the game effectively, particularly from their mistakes and accomplishments. By goaltender specific stats I mean – shots against, save percentage, shot charts (where each shot directed at the net originated from on the ice) or net charts (where shots hit or entered the net).
  • Coaches who don’t allow their goaltender specific off-ice conditioning. Coaches who provide no goaltending specific eye-hand and agility based conditioning prevent their goaltenders from developing their hand and foot speed and thus allow their goaltenders to fail.
  • Coaches who don’t develop their goaltender’s ability as a defensive zone QB. Coaches who fail to enhance their goaltenders natural ability to direct play in the defensive zone hurt their team’s ability to develop. Goaltenders have the opportunity to help a team by being more aware of what is going on in the defensive zone. Goaltenders see more of the complete defensive zone and can relay information to their team specifically about offensive openings and defensive coverage needs.


  • Coaches who don’t provide specific goalie drills. By giving goaltenders little to do or too little to work on in a practice a coach allows their goaltenders to stagnate and prevents them from improving and growing as a goaltending unit. Coaches must stress drills in which the goaltender’s ability to move quickly and to stop the puck efficiently is enhanced.
  • Coaches who don’t provide high intensity drills – Coaches who don’t create drills which properly progress to a higher intensity pace will prevent their goaltenders from learning to excel – to push those limitations that separate them from what they can do now from what they should be able to achieve in the future.
  • Coaches who don’t provide balance and agility work. All goaltenders need to improve their balance, footwork, and agility. Coaches who fail to emphasize this in practice will force their goaltenders to fall behind the pace of the game. They will therefore not become faster, instead they will get slower.
  • Coaches don’t provide progressive drill work. Coaches who don’t allow their goaltenders to increase their ability to perform a skill at game pace by increasing the difficulty of a drill allow their goaltenders to stagnate.
  • Coaches who allow soft non-game-like shots. Coaches who encourage soft or weak shots in practice fail to test their goaltenders and therefore fail to allow them to develop properly.
  • Coaches who allow non-game-like drills. Coaches who fail to use game-like drills in practice prevent their goaltender from developing their play-reading ability.
  • Coaches who give their goaltenders too much time between shots and the next segment of the drill. Coaches who unrealistically space their shots out in drills prevent their goaltenders from increasing their recovery time in response to the pace of the game.
  • Coaches who fail to focus on the sloppy rebounds which occur in practice drills. Coaches who don’t do anything to encourage their goaltenders to direct or to move rebounds away from the danger areas (i.e. in front of the net) send improper messages. They don’t allow their goaltenders the opportunity to develop good habits.


Smart Goalie LogoLarry Sadler is the Director of

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



About The Author


  1. Paul Szabo

    Once again, on my son’s pee-wee AA team, pretty much every one of these faux pas was present. And this is hockey at the elite level. The question, however, is how to get competent people in place, considering that we live in a hockey culture of volunteers, and it is hard to criticize someone who donates his time.
    A friend of mine who is a pro goalie and goalie coach says that in Hungary, parents pay per month and a certified goalie coach is there pretty much full time. He cannot figure out how in Canada, the hockey power, we don’t do the same. Think of why Finland is sending goalies worldwide, despite their tiny population. A generation ago they decided to create a dedicated program for kids to have proper coaching. We see the results 20 years later by looking at the NHL rosters…

    • larry sadler

      The only recommendation i can make if for you to find a goaltendng coach who can help your son and perhaps interact with the head coach to point out how he can beter work with your son.
      stay in touch either here or on my site

  2. Larry

    Instead of pointing out everything thats wrong, can you point out what they should be doing.

    • larry sadler

      Larry (gotta love that name)
      good point made by you that is why I have written the other articles here in InGoal
      stay in touch either here or on my site

  3. Natalie

    Sorry, hockey mom here and well, I figure skated, so am a bit lost on some of the finer points – what is your take on this? My 9 year old son had a kid taking hard shots at him at the try outs and he finally just left the crease when the kid was shooting on him at practice. The goalie coach (the other goalie’s dad) was in disbelief, but my kid said he got hit twice and it hurt and he’ll take a shot like that in a game, but not in practice during drills from his teammates. (One in the thigh, one on the chestpad – he said the one on the chest pad hurt, ALOT, and he is not generally touchy) Do I work with the kid to overcome his fear of being hurt (it’s only with one skater)or do I climb up the grill of the coach for letting the skater shoot at him so hard?

    The coaches here think my kid needs to suck it up but I told them I don’t know of course, but I don’t think Mitch Korn lets Shea Weber unwind on Pekka Rinne in practice – which shut them down, but I know they think my kid is the problem. Help?

    Thanks! (yes, they both made the team – it just looks like it will be a long season if this is how it starts)

    • john

      Sounds like the problem is not with either child; your son is likely not protected well enough. I think you should start by getting your equipment checked out. It probably doesn’t fit properly, or doesn’t give enough protection. If the equipment is doing it’s job, your son won’t have to “suck it up”.
      Good luck with this.

      • Mike


        I agree with John; if a kid his own age is taking shots on him, and if his equipment is right he should feel nothing more than pressure hitting him. As for the speed or hardness of the shots, you want to practice like you will play and not soften shots up just for practice. If he takes soft shots in practice he will never be able to adjust to the speed of the game shots. I usually have kids older than my son shoot on him during lessons so the speed of the game will feel slower to him. He gets dinged pretty good sometimes but he has learned to shake it off and get back in there. As a matter of fact two weeks ago my slap shot was a bit off and I hit him right in the collar bone, I thought I broke it. I was aiming low blocker :). After a few minutes of him crying and me feeling like crap he got back in there. He is 13 by the way.

      • larry sadler

        good point equipemnt is important
        but I would add that the shooting has to be appropriate to the age & skill level of the goalie as well

    • larry sadler

      good comments made here
      you are perfectly right to cmment on the shooting especially if it is not to the skill level or age of your son. If the coach can’t warp his head around that perhaps he should get in net & i will have Chara shoot at him!!!
      stay in touch either here or on my site