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Importance of Integrating Goalies Into Team Practices

Importance of Integrating Goalies Into Team Practices

By Stefan Nichols and Eli Rassi, Hockey Eastern Ontario goalie coach mentors

Pasco Valana, who is part of the Hockey Canada team that has put together a new national goaltending development plan, works with a young goalie. (Photo Courtesy of Hockey Canada)

Pasco Valana, who is part of the Hockey Canada team that has put together a new national goaltending development plan, works with a young goalie. (Photo Courtesy of Hockey Canada)

It’s an exciting time to be involved in developing goaltenders in Canada. Much has been done in the past several years to elevate the importance of having a consistent goaltending development program in our country.

The most high profile change is led by Hockey Canada with the introduction of its level-based goalie coach certification program. In fact, Hockey Canada’s Level 1 development session is currently being delivered across the country and covers foundational areas such as:

– Skating
– Stance
– Moving skills
– Positioning
– Save selection
– Basic puck control
– Stickhandling

As the goalie coach mentors for Hockey Eastern Ontario, which is one of Hockey Canada’s 13 branches and the governing body for amateur hockey in Eastern Ontario, we have been offering education sessions for coaches in the National Capital region for just over two years.

In that time, we focused our content on technical aspects of the position similar to Hockey Canada’s Level 1 program, but we also shared information such as how to properly conduct transparent goalie evaluations during tryouts, properly fitting equipment, and communicating best practices between goalies, head coaches, and parents.

However, the seminar that always filled fastest and by far the most popular was “Proper Goalie Integration.”

Coincidently, Hockey Canada’s level 1 training also goes into great detail discussing the importance of “goalie incorporation.” The overwhelming evidence demonstrating how integration leads to goalie development, as well as the same message coming down from Hockey Canada in its goalie certification training, compelled us to write a two part mini-series on integrating goalies into every practice.

Pasco Valana and Colin Zulianello, who are part of the Hockey Canada team that has put together a new national goaltending development plan, work with a young goalie. (Photo Courtesy of Hockey Canada)

Pasco Valana and Colin Zulianello, who are part of the Hockey Canada team that has put together a new national goaltending development plan, work with a young goalie. (Photo Courtesy of Hockey Canada)

There is no doubt Hockey Canada’s goaltending sessions will provide coaches at all levels of minor hockey with information they can use to develop age- and skill-based expertise. However, a great deal of goaltender’s success lies in the hands of the head coach  responsible for setting the team practice agenda with or without goalie incorporation.

Integrating goalies into practices has been a hot topic of conversation in the last little while. When asked why head coaches don’t allocate more time for goalie development during team practices, the most common responses are:

“Why should I? Every goalie has their personal goalie coach and they go see them a couple of times a week.”

“Our minor hockey association runs dedicated goalie training once a week/month – that’s enough.”

“Between what the team’s goalie coach says and their personal goalie coach, I don’t want to confuse our goalie.”

Goalies are all expected to perform the same way for their respective teams, positively influencing the outcome of the game. However, the unfortunate reality is that not all goalies are on the same playing field. This dilemma is amplified when you consider most goalies are paying roughly the same amount of money when it comes to registration fees. And, yes, while some are fortunate enough to attend weekly, private training sessions outside what might be offered by their minor hockey association, it’s not reality for most goaltending families.

But, what do all of these goalies have in common? The obvious answer: Team practices.

If numerous coaches in one association all make a commitment to be more considerate of goalies when creating their practice plan, they will build a strong culture of development where all athletes are put in a position to consistently perform at their best ability at every age group.

If we compare a goalie that only receives association-provided goalie instruction every two to three weeks with a goalie that receives goalie specific instruction every practice in addition to the association clinics, the difference in development will be significant.

Consider a goalie who receives the following:

-10 minutes assigned for goalies to work on their technical skills with a goalie coach as outlined by Hockey Canada’s guidelines; and
-Approximately five to 10 minutes of verbal instruction, coaching, and feedback with regards to how they perform during drills.

That’s nearly 20 minutes total. Assuming three practices per week, the goalie receiving specific coaching and feedback will be getting double or triple the amount of development hours throughout a season.

Compare this approach to an association that does not integrate goalies into practices, the results will be night and day.

The answer as to why head coaches should focus on integrating goalies into team practices is simple. Goalies will play their best if they feel like they are an integral part of the team and included in the team construct. Practice drills designed similar to game scenarios that involve a goalie moving in realistic situations should be the goal.

It makes everyone on the team better — which is the main point. And coaches that make a commitment to integrating their goalies will provide development to every goalie they ever coach in the future.

We can all do our part to provide all minor hockey players – goalies included – the opportunity to learn and develop their skills during team practices. It’s disturbing to think all of these extra development hours are dependent on who receives the coaching assignment at the beginning of the year. Is it not time to level the playing field?

~ Stefan Nichols is the owner and head instructor at Goaler U (www.goaleru.com) in Ottawa, and has coached at the professional, college and junior levels and served as the mentor goalie coach for various minor organizations within Hockey Eastern Ontario. He tailors sessions to the goalies’ needs, melding his technical and tactical knowledge and his eye for detail with a background in teaching. He uses innovative teaching techniques that will be applied to the goalie coach program to provide local goalie coaches with the latest learning resources.

~ Eli Rassi is the goaltending coach with the Carleton Place Jr. “A” Canadians in the Central Canada Hockey League. He is also an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development (CGD).  CGD offers on-ice group, semi-private and private training programs, and consulting services for minor hockey associations, for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the city’s West end, the Complete Hockey Development Centre. For more information, please visit www.chdcentre.com or www.cgdgoalies.com.

1 Comment

  1. Todd Bengert

    Hey Eli and Stefan. Glad to see this article in print. I wrote something similar after the Kevin Woodley article was published on NHL.com, but my tone wasn’t quite as genial.