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Developing Progressively More Difficult Goaltending Drills

Developing Progressively More Difficult Goaltending Drills

Even pros like Roberto Luongo break down complex saves into a series of simpler movements in practice

The creation of progressively more difficult drills is one of the fun and important responsibilities of a goaltending coach. There are many ways to practice and develop the same techniques and skills and learning how to read the play. The value in new drills comes from keeping things fresh and interesting for both coach and athlete. This article will discuss three techniques a goalie must master. I will discuss how a coach puts these techniques together into ever more difficult drills. By doing this, one can ultimately create, and practice, the tactical situation described below.

The goaltending techniques to be used are the following: (1) shuffling (2) vertical-horizontal post integration and (3) a dynamic butterfly slide. Each of these techniques should be practiced in isolation as basic building blocks for more advanced play.

One of the most fundamental skating techniques in goaltending is shuffling. As a coach I frequently stand behind the net watching my goaltenders shuffling from post to post. It requires proper post integration techniques, power, agility and balance.

The VH position is difficult to learn and requires a lot of practice before it should be used in competition. As an isolation drill, you can ask your goalie to hug one goalpost.  Thereafter, the goaltender repeatedly drops into the VH position to develop comfort and muscle memory.

Once the goaltender can shuffle with control, power and can perform the VH technique, you can progress and put these skills together. You now ask your goalie to hug one post, shuffle across the goal line and dynamically take a VH position as they arrive at the opposite post. The horizontal leg is dropping to the ice as the goalie has taken the final shuffle and is getting close to the opposite goalpost.

The next technique to practice in isolation is a cross-crease butterfly slide. I ask my goaltender to assume a VH position against the post. I then ask them to push off their inside edge through the crease towards the opposite face-off dot. I fully acknowledge that the angle of the slide may vary with the position of the puck. Different angles can be practiced at different times!

Once all of these fundamental skills are in place I can put them together in a more complicated drill. The goalie begins at one goalpost. A shuffle is performed and VH post integration is achieved in a dynamic fashion. Thereafter a dynamic slide is performed without hesitation.

The goaltender and coach have now arrived to a point where shots may be added to the drill. As the slide is being performed, the coach should be ready to release a shot into the chest of the goaltender. The technique of body cradling for rebound control has now been added to the scenario.

Ultimately you arrive to the point where the value of isolation work is revealed in a tactical scenario. Let us say that a two-man cycle is occurring down low near the goal line to one side of the goaltender. The goaltender is hugging the post. The puck carrier skates behind the net while the other opponent moves towards the lower part of the circle. The puck carrier then makes a cross-crease pass to his teammate who releases a shot. The goaltender is moving through the sequence of isolated skills discussed above. The goalie is shuffling from post to post while the attacker is skating behind the net. Suspecting a possible wrap-around, the goalie dynamically moves into VH position while shuffling across the goal line. The pass is made requiring the goalie to perform a slide to the other side of the crease where a shot is taken. The goalie gets there in time and cradles the puck against the chest. A nice save is made revealing the benefit of all the work done in isolation.

This drill can also be performed using a standard pad down paddle technique for a wrap around with a “Toe Box Push” across the crease. I think a goaltender should be able to do it both ways!


The coaching principle of adding one fundamental building block to another is referred to as CHAINING. The goaltender must learn these techniques in isolation and thereafter be able to put them together. This is the only way you can move away from technical development towards actually learning how to read plays and compete. The chain links must be worked on in isolation through the agony of repetition. Do you remember “The Karate Kid” and wax on, wax off?  His Sensei made him do a lot of boring stuff. It was only when he partook in combat that he understood the reason behind the methods.

The second coaching principle discussed here is that of the WHOLE-PART-WHOLE method. If the goaltender is executing the majority of the sequence well but is struggling with one part, it is your responsibility to focus on the problematic area. For example, if the goalie has problems dynamically achieving VH post integration then you practice this until the issue is resolved. There are both techniques and scenarios that become problematic for goaltenders. It is the responsibility of the coach to break things down into manageable pieces for their students.

Drills can also be made more difficult by taking one drill and just adding a more difficult element to it. This does not have to involve the aforementioned coaching principles. Let’s look at the previously described drill.

During a game, a two-man cycle with a pass-out commonly occurs. The difficulty for the goaltender may lie in controlling the rebound after the first shot. A common result may be a save with an off-square rebound. By adding a second shooter releasing a second shot from a pre-determined location, the goalie is required to rotate the hips, perform a dynamic power (butterfly) slide and make another save. A beginner would not be able to handle the added element since they may not even be able to perform a slide. You would challenge an intermediate level goalie with this scenario when pre-requisite skills are present. The advanced goaltender is comfortable with this drill, understands its practical application, has encountered it in competition and can repeatedly obtain a favourable outcome for the team.

Drills are great but have limited application. They will never create the same degree of chaos encountered during a game. Nevertheless, you can get closer to chaos by adding a more challenging element to a drill.

In conclusion, goaltending coaches must frequently apply the CHAINING and WHOLE-PART-WHOLE training principles when developing drills and teaching. Adding more challenging elements to simple drills can leave you with a large number of drills.  A lot of athletes also question their coaches as to why they are doing something that doesn’t seem to have immediate practical application. A good coach must be able to explain the drill, the main elements to be learned, the desired outcome, proper execution, potential problems and how to correct them. Good luck!

About The Author

Tomas Hertz, MD BA

Tomas Hertz has been a contributing author to InGoal Magazine since 2010. He operated  "No Holes, No Goals Goaltending" in Kingston, Ontario for a decade and worked with developing goalies in the G.K.M.H.A. and K.A.M.H.A. He remains active as a timekeeper in the O.M.H.A. - O.W.H.A., the O.J.H.L. (Kingston Voyageurs), and the O.U.A.A. (R.M.C. Palladins).