5 Ways Coaches Destroy Their Goaltenders.
This is the first of a five part series by Larry Sadler, the Director of Smartgoalie.com. 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?
Larry Sadler is the Director of Smartgoalie.com.
For further information on goaltending instruction please contact Larry at [email protected].