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5 Ways Coaches Destroy Their Goaltenders.

5 Ways Coaches Destroy Their Goaltenders.

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

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.


1. Coaches Ignore Them – Ignorance Is Not Bliss


  • Coaches will leave their goaltenders on their own much too often. Many coaches simply don’t know what to do with their goaltenders. They may feel threatened by their lack of knowledge when it comes to their goaltender, so they often intentionally or unintentionally leave them alone. Remember, just like any other athlete, left to their own devices goaltenders will repeat bad habits and fail to improve.
  • Coaches will set no goals for them. Without having set, realistic aims and objectives goaltenders will wither and dry up. This often happens because the coach has no idea what motivates a goaltender and because of this the coach either sets improper goals or no goals at all. Without set goals and objectives for the season, for the month and even for each game, goaltenders will stagnate.
  • Coaches give them non-specific feedback and direction. When pressed, the coach just gives them a very general “good” or “pathetic” without being specific. Non-specific feedback will be disregarded by goaltenders as irrelevant or, worse still, they may over react and become completely disheartened. In either case this type of non-specific feedback prevents their goaltenders from improving.
  • Coaches hope the goaltenders know what to do. Coaches who leave their goaltenders to their own devices send a message that they don’t consider the goaltenders important. This guarantees the goaltenders don’t improve simply because the coach allows them to receive no needed corrections. The goaltenders therefore repeat mistakes over and over again until they become ingrained and impossible to change.
  • Coaches feel its better to tell them nothing than to tell them something that’s wrong. Coaches who are afraid to say the wrong thing often say nothing. This only serves to isolate their goaltenders. Remember, interaction between a coach and their athletes often confirms self worth, while non-interaction leaves the athletes with little or no self esteem.
  • Coaches do nothing to seek out help for their goaltenders. A coach who knows nothing about goaltenders and does nothing to alleviate that ignorance is acting irresponsibly! When coaches don’t even try to seek out help they send a message that their goaltenders aren’t worth helping.
  • Coaches who say goaltenders are different and thus give themselves permission to forget about them. Coaches who don’t know goaltending often dismiss their ignorance by saying “goalies are a different breed”. They will often consciously or unconsciously use this as an excuse to do absolutely nothing with the goaltenders.
  • Coaches don’t bother referring their goaltenders to goaltending school/camps because they feel it’s just not their job. Coaches who don’t know goaltending should go out of their way to check out schools and then refer their goaltenders to the appropriate clinics, camps or schools. They should do their research! Failing to provide that info to goaltenders again isolates and devalues them.
  • Coaches who feel that if they can’t teach it than it just doesn’t have value. Insecure coaches who don’t know a skill often devalue it by disregarding it. It’s a modern day version of the Aesop fable about “sour grapes”. What you can’t achieve or do must not be worthwhile. This approach will only weaken their goaltenders by leaving them abandoned.


  • Coaches who fail to notify their goaltenders whether they will or won’t be playing the next game until the last possible moment. Goaltenders, like any athlete, need to be properly prepared to play. Coaches who fail to give their goaltenders sufficient time to prepare by waiting until game time to let the goaltender know who will be playing prevent them from being mentally ready for the game. Keeping both goaltenders in suspense, or on “tenterhooks”, right up to when the puck drops is unfair and very unwise. Failure to be properly prepared for a game may put too much stress on the goaltender that does play.
  • Coaches who frustrate any team work between their two goaltenders. Sometimes a coach forces his goaltenders to become inappropriately competitive. By that I mean he forces them to work against each other in such a way that they become singularly focused on their goaltending partner failing. An effective goaltending partnership becomes a mutually agreeable pairing that allows them to feed off each other’s energy. This paired energy gives them the opportunity to work together and by doing so to improve themselves by working on areas in which they need to improve together. A poor coach creates inappropriate competition by having them compete to play. (i.e. one plays one period and the other plays the other and the one with the better GA plays the third, you play until you lose, etc.) Often, goaltenders become distrustful and selfish. Failing to use your goaltending partner as a sounding board or as a confidant isolates a goaltender and therefore weakens him.
  • The Coach gives the goaltender no guidance prior to or during the game. As the team prepares to hit the ice for the game the coach gives the goaltender no specific direction, no aims or objectives for the game. He gives no encouragement prior to the game and doesn’t assist them in any way with their mental prep or, worse still, does not allow them to prepare themselves properly.


  • Coach wants no goaltending coach. The coach feels threatened by having anyone else in a coaching capacity on the ice in practice. He doesn’t want anyone else on ice during practice doing anything he can’t control. Control freaks don’t want anyone competent on the ice or bench. If a control freak realizes he doesn’t know goaltending he will feel threatened by having anyone on the ice or on the bench just because he can’t control them. For these coaches knowledge is a form of control and having someone on the ice or bench who knows something he doesn’t threatens that control.
  • Coaches give their goaltenders no proper work in practice. Coaches who know nothing about goaltending end up giving their goaltenders no work at all or worse, give them improper work. They allow them to skate improperly i.e. not skating in proper stance forward and backwards, skating the entire length of the ice when short explosive burst across the ice are more effective training tools, they allow them to stickhandle without their goalie gloves, or they allow them to leave rebounds in front of the net rather than have them direct them out of danger and off to the side. They allow them to recover slowly from saves rather than demand they recover more quickly.
  • Coaches provide no one-on-one interaction with the goaltender in practice. A coach allows himself to become too busy with his forwards and defensemen. The coach therefore has no time or doesn’t want to spend any time with his goaltenders. By neglecting them in practice the coach frustrates their personal esteem and therefore programs them to fail.
  • Coaches forget to set up goaltender specific drills. Often coaches design drills with the forwards in mind first, the defensemen second and the goaltenders a distant third. With limited time the coach ends up spending 60% of their practice time on forward skills, 30% on defensemen and 10% or less on goaltenders.
  • Coaches do no research on the position. A coach who doesn’t know goaltending should do some research to fill that knowledge gap. Coaches are constantly researching defensemen and forward skills and drills – why not goaltender skills and drills?


Smart Goalie LogoLarry Sadler is the Director of

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


About The Author


  1. Dave

    Larry, great article. i see this happen all to many times in kids leagues. As soon as someone mentions this to the coach or an assistant your told the coach knows what he’s doing thats why he’s the coach, cheer from the stands. This is the main reason I read and research so many things about goalies, Im trying to do for my daughter what her coaches should be doing. Keep up the good work.

    • larry sadler

      if your coach continues to be so “open-minded” I would recommend getting a goaltending coach to work with your daughter
      stay in otuch either here or on my site

  2. klemmer

    EXCELLENT! Can’t wait for future installments!

    • larry sadler

      thanks for the kind comments

  3. Matt in Montreal

    I’m interested in coaching goaltenders for the first time this coming fall.

    Pay it forward.

    • larry sadler

      hello again
      liked the comment
      pay it forward and let me know if you need any help
      stay in touch contact me either here or on my site

  4. Colin Grubb

    Excellent article Larry, as an ex-pro Goalie myself and goalie coach, I can relate with everything you’ve wrote.

    I moved to Houston from UK in 2008 and I went to my local rink to offer my assistance and the coach says, “We’re just scrimmaging, it doen’t matter about the goalies”. Great coaching uh??

    I since went onto coach all the house league Goalies and do evaluations throughout season and the feed back from the parents was overwhelming.

    Keep up these great articles.

    Colin Grubb

    • David Hutchison

      Familiar! I went to a provincial hockey organization – fresh from working at the US Olympic Training Centre – and offered to help teach physiology sections at coaching clinics. Answer: Thanks, we already have someone. So I went to one…where we were taught that “your lungs are a muscle the exude lactic acid into the atmosphere.” hmmmm. Then the goalie coach told us it’s crucial to be upright with equal pressure on both the inside and outside edges of your skates. Yikes…

    • larry sadler

      good work!!!
      keep it up
      and thanks for the kind comments
      stay in touch either here or on my site

  5. Todd Hisey

    Great article. I hope to become a goalie coach next year as my son’s move up in hockey. Thus far the only practice I have seen for young goalies, is shooting pucks at them in an unorganized fashion.

  6. Brian Lewis

    Great Article. I can’t wait for the rest of the series. It should be reuired reading for all coaches. I play goal in adult “beer league” just for fun and exercise and have coached “grass roots” goalies for years including my son who was quite accomplised (i.e. much better than I ever was or will be) and this year was the first time I have not been able to coach him. The coach he had this year single handedly all but destroyed all the work from years of ice time and would not listen to either set of goalie parents. Thankfully, my boy still wants to play, and his physical skills are still there, but his mental game and timing have been shot to hell. Looks like we are going to have one hell of a lot of retraining to do, so I look forward to your articles.

    • larry sadler

      thanks for the comments
      be sure to bring up your conceern regarding the lack of goaltending work with the exec perhaps they are not aware of the problem and if they are perhaps they might be moved to solve it
      stay in otuch either here or on my site

  7. Nick Gerz

    With all due respect, I highly doubt a coach feels “sour grapes” towards his goaltender. Stop being delusional. But other than that, GREAT article Larry!

    • larry sadler

      thanks for the wake-up call perhaps sour grapes is too strong
      I guess i will have to come up with another reason why coaches hurt their goaltenders’ development
      stay in otuch either here or on my site

  8. Jane Toner

    Our 12yr old is now in his 3rd year in net. We have experienced some of the points you listed. We went proactive and got him involved with a local goalie school and he has sessions with the goalie instructor (usually once/week) along with his team practices. Last yrs coach let us have his instructor on the ice with him at a practice(but at our expense)and he didn’t seem happy about it as it ‘took away’ his goalie for half the practice and took up half the ice, so we stopped.
    We’d also like to see our son do something more than be a ‘doorman’ for the games he doesn’t play. Are there stats he can be keeping on the players and shots that would increase his knowledge in the game. If so, do you have any sheets for this?
    Thanks for the great info.

  9. Adam

    Hi Larry,

    Long time no see! Not sure if you remember my son Kier or not? You worked with him at Canlan Scarborough many years ago (I think Kier was 8 at the time) and we would see you from time to time at different venues. Well not for nothing we moved back to the States and have run into some know-nothing coaches and the worst of the bunch is his current high school Varsity coach. I sent him a long email about a month ago and included part of this article and a link to this page.

    Kier dropped back to AA this year to play a Varsity hockey as a freshman this season after being begged to play for the high school. big mistake! Yes Kier has done well.

    Well I was re reading the article today and just realized that you are the writer and thought I should say hi and thank you for such a well thought out and written slap in the face to all the bad team coaches out there. A way for all us goalie parents to present what needs to be said.

    Kier still calls you “Evil Larry” LOL and I still thin you are great.

    All the best, Adam, and Kier