Managing Different Advice from Multiple Coaches
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?
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.
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?”
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?”
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 www.chdcentre.com or www.cgdgoalies.com.