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Managing Different Advice from Multiple Coaches

Managing Different Advice from Multiple Coaches
corey Schneider Canucks goalie works with coach roland melanson

Even NHL goaltenders are exposed to different voices and techniques, including Cory Schneider, who will almost certainly hear different ideas in New Jersey than what he was taught by Rollie Melanson, shown here, in Vancouver.

It’s that time of year when parents, players, and coaches are trading in summer weekend getaways at the cottage for early morning practices or out of town tournaments. For most, hockey season is officially underway.

For some goaltenders, it’s an opportunity to put into practice all of the things that they learned while hard at work during summer camps.

Camps? As in, more than one?

You bet.

It’s not uncommon these days to speak to a goaltender or their parents and hear they attended more than one goalie camp during the summer. In fact, some make a point to attend more than one camp to increase their exposure to new teaching methods that may end up helping them become a better goaltender.

Some of you may have even been through the following scenario:

You show up to your first goaltender evaluation camp. You’re excited to wear your freshly broken-in equipment, maybe it’s your first ever full custom set, and you’re busy catching up with other goalies and checking out their gear in the arena lobby while your mom or dad are talking to other parents about it “already being that time of year again.” While you’re busy getting ready, you start thinking about all of the things you learned from summer camp.

“I’ve got the edge,” you think to yourself. “Nobody else here learned any of the things that I did.”

The Zamboni finishes its last lap and the doors shut. It’s now time to step on the ice. There there are a dozen or so other goaltenders out there with you, but that doesn’t bother you, because you have the edge. After you take a few strides, you begin sizing up the competition.

“I see Johnny, it looks like he got bigger, and I know he was working with a top goalie coach this summer,” you think to yourself in between strides. “But so was I, so was I,” you remind yourself.

As you finish your second lap around the ice, you notice a goalie coach on the ice. It’s someone you’ve seen around the rinks before, but never had the opportunity to be on the ice with. You skate by each other, acknowledge each other with a friendly smile and a nod, and you take a few hard strides to get your feet going.

The whistle blows from centre ice, the goalie coach calls everyone over, and begins to explain the format for the evaluation. He says that the first 20-minutes will be structured around a variety of skating movements – shuffles, t-pushes, butterfly slides, butterfly recoveries – everything that you should be able to do at your age and skill level. Then, for the next 40-minutes, nets will be stationed around the rink to simulate “game situations” and that’s when the shooters will get on the ice to take shots. The goalie coach then points to the stands to show you where the evaluators will be sitting, all of whom have over 10 years of coaching and evaluating experience. You swear you see someone wearing the jacket of your favourite NHL team. The whistle blows, bringing you back to reality, and the coach saying, “split up into two groups, half on that blue line and the other half on that blue line. Let’s go!”

“Great,” you think you yourself, “I’ve gotten so much faster, stronger, better at my crease work. I learned so many different ways to become a better goalie. I’m going to dominate these drills.” You give yourself a tap on the pads with the back of your stick and grab a spot on the blue line.

The first drill is a simple pattern, the ‘X-Drill’, which you’ve done at least a million times this summer.


You fly through the drill. Your skates cutting through the ice so sharp and your stops are so hard that mountains of snow are forming beneath your feet.

“Hey – you. Hang on a second,” and before you realize that the goalie coach is talking to you, he’s standing there trying to get your attention.

“Work the drill like this … ” and he proceeds to show you a different way of performing the drill than what you’ve learned this summer.

“Okay, no problem,” you say. Coach’s love kids who listen and who are coachable. You know that.

The next drill adds two shuffles and a butterfly recovery. “Piece of cake,” you think to yourself. After a few repetitions, you hear “Hey – you.”

“The goalie coach found someone else to help,” you think to yourself.

LA Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford chats with Jonathan Bernier

Jonathan Bernier is another NHL goalie who will go through different coaching voices, working with Bill Ranford in Los Angeles last year, a summer of training with a personal coach (in his case Marco Marciano in Montreal) and now another new goalie coach in Toronto. (InGoal file photo by David Hutchison).

Wrong. He’s back standing in front of you.

“You can be moving a lot better. Here, watch me…” and he proceeds to show you a totally different way of performing the drill than what you’ve learned this summer. This time, though, it really doesn’t look right.

“Okay, but I just … I … this summer I went to a goalie camp and one of the coaches showed me to do it this way,” you say nervously.

“Well, this is the way that I like seeing it. Try it this way.”

You try, because coach’s love kids who listen and who are coachable. You know that.

You manage to get through the rest of the skating drills. Now, it’s time for the game situation drills.

“Now, it really counts,” you say to yourself. After a quick drink of water, you join the group at one of the nets where the goalie coach is demonstrating the drill. It’s a quick push off the post to face a shot, and then a recovery into the post for a walk-out in tight. From what the coach is saying and how they’re positioning their body, you make note of anything in particular that you might need to show while you do the drill. Nothing immediately comes to mind.

You’ve also done this drill at least a million times this summer.


After facing the first three shots, you feel good. Your movements are strong, you are square to the shooter, your recoveries are perfectly in line with where you want to go, and your strategy in-tight is consistent. It’s not always pretty, but it works for you.

In between repetitions, you can see out of the corner of your eye someone in a track suit and goalie skates gliding your way.

“Hey – yo…”

“Not again,” you think to yourself.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I’m sure it does.

While the following scenario is set during goalie tryouts, it can easily be applied to the first few practices of a new season with a team’s goalie coach, or during a training session with a local goalie coach who your minor hockey association has brought in to help coach its goalies that you may not have had the chance to work with. It’s a common struggle for parents and goaltender’s to manage all of the information and messages coming their way.

It’s important for you to understand that you are not alone. It happens more than you think.

Here’s a personal example I’d like to share. Two weeks ago, I was conducting a private training session with a 14-year old AA goaltender. We had done a lot of work together over the years, but only during the season. This past summer, he attended a goalie camp for the first time and it was out of town. I started to notice that he picked up a new technique during butterfly recovery saves. I simply asked, “is this what you’re most comfortable with?”

Goalie Coach Mike Valley talks to Stars backup Richard Bachman

Mike Valley talks to former Dallas Stars backup Richard Bachman, who will have a new goalie coach with the Edmonton Oilers this season.

His answer, simply – “yes”.

Was it wrong? No.

Was it something that I may not have taught myself? Yes.

Did it work for the goalie? Yes.

That’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Goalie coaches are responsible for teaching goaltenders a variety of skills, or “tools,” and helping them understand when and why to use each one.

Many goaltenders and parents will feel confused at some point about the mixed messages coming their way.

Inevitably, you will hear, “but my other goalie coach said to do this…”

As a goalie coach, the last thing you want to do is to force a goaltender to doing something that they are just not comfortable doing. It’s up to us to accept the fact that there are other techniques out there and that one (or more) may work better for that goalie in particular.

As goaltenders get older and experience playing at higher levels of hockey, there is a significant number who will attend training sessions with different goalie schools or private instructors. Now, there are some coaches who may not like that because they feel that some of the work that they’ve been developing will become undone. The advice that’s helped me along the way is having open, two-way conversation with parents, goalies, and their other goalie coaches.

At the end of the day, I would encourage all goalies to branch out and learn from as many resources possible.

The recipe for success is split equally four ways:

– It is the goalie’s responsibility to ask the right questions, understand what is being taught to them (and, most importantly, why) and to take something from each goalie coach that they come across and make it their own.

– It is up to the parents to make sure that their goaltender is enjoying goalie training and they are learning something each time they step on the ice. If a goalie shows signs of confusion and they’re not old enough to communicate their issue, please do not hesitate to do it on their behalf. There is absolutely no sense in a goaltender trying to force something to happen that they know deep inside just isn’t right for them.

– At the earliest signs of confusion, goalie coaches should find out what the goalie is thinking about. Often times, once a goaltender becomes confused about what to do, their movements become slower and they start to telegraph their execution. They’re thinking too much. Maybe ask them, “what works best for you?”

Eli Wilson working with James Reimer

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer worked on position-specifc drills with goaltending coach Eli WIlson again this summer.

Depending on that answer, develop a plan to help the goaltender execute that particular movement or save selection consistently to the best of their ability. Then, find out what they have been taught from others and, if needed, contact those coaches and talk things through. I have been absolutely amazed by how open dialogue helps sort out these issues relatively quickly.

Similarly, there may be times when a new coach sees something the goalie has picked up over the summer just isn’t working for them – maybe it is making them slower, causing more goals, or forcing them to use more energy than needed. After giving it some time, this can be a great time to try and get that goaltender to at least try it your way by simply saying, “let’s try something new.” The goalie should also be asking themselves “does this make sense for *me*?”

If so, go ahead. If not, ask questions.

Coach’s love kids who listen and who are coachable. We all know that. But, sometimes, coaches need to listen to the kids.

We’re fortunate to learn a thing or two from them, too.

~ Elias Rassi is currently an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development. For over 10 years, Eli has been afforded the opportunity to work with goaltenders in the AHL, ECHL, CHL, OHL, QMJHL, Canadian university, American collegiate hockey, and professional leagues in Europe. CGD offers group, semi-private and private training programs for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the heart of the city’s West end. For more information, please visit or

About The Author

Elias Rassi

~ Eli Rassi is currently 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 or


  1. Gayle Duncan

    Elias you have identified it once again.

    You are a “master” in the crease.

  2. Joel Gauthier

    I come across this situation on an almost weekly basis. Like you were saying: “It is the goalie’s responsibility to ask the right questions, understand what is being taught to them (and, most importantly, why) and to take something from each goalie coach that they come across and make it their own.”

    That’s definitely my exact response to them. I never force them to play a certain way. I explain the benefits and the disadvantages of using a certain technique, and then let them choose what works best for them, obviously with a bit of guidance and a few corrections. I find this really helps and creates a very good dialogue with my students.

    I haven’t yet needed to contact another goaltending coach to discuss a difference in approach, but I envision it in the very near future, as I will be privately coaching many goaltenders with a separate team goaltending coach in place.

    On a side note, I see this sort of thing happening more and more often with Hockey Canada’s new Goaltending Certification Program being put into place. This will be a challenge for us coaches to appropriately manage, but as always, I look forward to the challenge.

  3. Gabe

    Good article Elias; one question, as a minir hockey goalie coach and active goalie myself, I find it easier to put on the pads and show the kids the technique in person rather than only explaining it to them. Then i let them try it and adapt it some to their liking and comfort after they’ve had the visual. In your expereience have you found putting the pads on yourself helps? Keep in mind Inam coaching Atom / Peewee

    • Eli Rassi

      Hi Gabe,

      Thank you for the feedback! Absolutely – wearing pads, trapper and blocker to help demonstrate what you’re teaching young goalies is extremely beneficial. Personally, I have worn specifically those pieces of equipment while coaching goalies from Tyke to PeeWee. I have also seen other coaches use mirrors and/or video to supplement their teaching.

      The more practical, visual feedback, the better.


  4. Steve McKichan

    The more steadfastly that a goalie coach sticks to “their way is the right (only) way” the more it indicates inherent insecurity, and in most cases is inversely proportional to that goalie coach’s actual level of real playing experience.

  5. Coach Vic

    Well Eli … it’s been a LONG time since I’ve ever read an article that really brings
    “the TRUTH and REALITY” of modern Goaltender Education and the inevitable
    conflicts that a new Goalie Coach may bring into the “growth” of these elite athletes!

    Just like it is VERY WRONG for one Coach to remain with his Team year after year after year …
    Goaltenders (and their families) must develop a Goaltending Education plan which includes
    many different Goalie Coaching resources.

    It is BEST to have a “home base” of sorts where you develop a strong relationship with
    ONE Goalie Coach or Academy throughout your Goaltending career; however, this personal
    development plan needs to be enhanced with several other Goalie Coaches, who bring
    a variety of new and possibly beneficial additions into your Elite Goaltending experience.

    It MUST be the responsibility of the Parents/Guardians of each Goaltender to research each
    new Goalie Coaching program to see that it will help to advance the skills yet make certain
    that it won’t introduce any negative experiences on or off of the ice.

    I call this “Satellite Goaltender Coaching”!

    A Goaltending Student must NEVER say “but, I’ve been taught to do this differently”!
    Rather, each Student needs to develop a positive attitude with every new Coach and
    new skill development that is presented to them.

    If their is a difference in what you’re being taught, the proper procedure is to contact
    your “HOME Goaltending BASE” and discuss this difference in teaching that you are
    learning THEN ask to have a meeting OFF the ice with your Parents
    attending and if necessary, include a SKYPE session with your main Goalie Coach.

    Together, this “TEAM” you’ve assembled will speak this difference out and ultimately
    the Goaltender and their Parents must decide which is the best direction to take on
    this specific skill lesson.

    NO one Coach has every correct answer to every athlete they work with (unless, they
    are willing to deeply research each athletes successes and failures and develop a skill
    set that works for that individual athlete)! Goaltending IS NOT a One Size fits ALL position!

    Develop your “HOME BASE of Goaltender Coaching” in the early stages of your Hockey career and have no hesitations in adding several,very qualified “Satellite Goalie Coaches” to your TEAM along your path!

    Always thank your Goalie Coaches for introducing NEW skills to you and also thank them for building onto the various skills that already work great for you. Feedback like that brings your “Goaltending TEAM” closer and stronger for you.
    NOTE: Any new Goalie Coach who is not willing to meet with you (and your Parents) off of the ice to discuss various teaching methods must not be part of your “Goaltending Team”. If a Goalie Coach like this IS stuck with you for the whole season, you need to accept that fact, do your best to learn and do what this Goalie Coach says and once you’re playing IN the game, use what works BEST for you.
    Bottom line, if you are stopping pucks consistently, that’s what counts! If you are NOT making saves like you are expected to when using what you’ve learned in the past, then it IS time to learn something NEW!

    Hope this adds positively to the philosophy you are giving to all these readers Eli.
    Keep up the good work!

    Coach Vic LeMire


    • Goalie Parent

      Eli this was a wonderful article.

      I do have some issues with Vic’s comments based on our own experience though.

      My son has been taught by a number of different coaches over the years. We are currently working with a fantastic “home base” goalie coach who is recognized at a national level.

      Our experience has been that the “satellite” coaches either do not understand or choose to ignore the new techniques and continue to push their own methods. This has resulted in discussions (similar to what Richard describes below), but it is the goalie coach who insists on forcing the goalie to do it his way.

      In our experience, my son has usually already been taught at least two methods to execute a certain move (normally also including the one the new coach is trying to teach) and has adopted the one that works best for him. The discussion with a new coach usually goes like this:
      -new coach: try doing it this way (no explanation of why it’s better)
      -goalie: I used to do it that way, but my other coach taught me this other way. Here’s why it works better for me [discussion of both techniques]
      -new coach: well do it my way anyway.

      I don’t know if it’s ignorance or arrogance, but rarely does the other coach even think about the technique explained to him and just keeps pushing what they already know.

  6. Richard St-Onge

    I went through a similar scenario a couple years ago.

    The goalie was a midget level player and I was showing my group a way to post up for a wraparound. When his turn came, he ignored my instructions and did it another way. I approached him and asked why he wasn’t practicing what I showed. He “argued”, yes argued, that this is how his other coach showed him to do it. I said that’s fine, but there are more than just one method or technique for this drill and I would like him to give it a try. I also added that it’s good to have multiple save selection options for a specific situation. Basically, the more tricks you can pull out of your hat, the better the chances.

    Suffice to say, when I left his group to go help another, he completely ignored my words and continued to do as he wanted.

    This is, in my opinion, coaches brainwashing kids into thinking that no other coach out there knows better than they do. Aside from the insult, it also limits the goalie to find and apply what works for them. As you stated Eli, try it and see what works best and use that. We’re not holding a gun at their head shouting “this is the only way”.

    This is one good reason goalie coaches should have some type of yearly symposium as do personal trainers to share new information and new methods/approaches to coaching goalies and develop some kind of global standard.

    • Goalie Parent

      Richard, my son has been on the other side of the new technique discussion (see my reply to Vic above).

      If there are multiple techniques for a certain situation, it’s the coach’s job to explain to the goalie in what situations the 2 techniques should be used (low shots vs high shots for example). If one technique is always better, the coach should be able to explain \ demonstrate how it is better. In our experience, the coach just says “do it this way” without any explanation.

      I totally agree there needs to be some sort of symposium so that new methods can be shared.