Efficient Use of Practice Time: Goaltender Applications
The question and concern about how to maximize limited ice time for player development is very important. This is frequently more of a concern for goaltenders and their parents. Every head coach wants great goaltending since this is a vital component to any championship run. Head coaches are also more than willing to criticize goaltenders for poor performances; however, how many coaches are willing to commit ice time during team practices for goaltender-specific development? That is the key question!!
Here are some of the situations you may encounter as a goaltender or goalie parent in minor hockey:
- head coach is knowledgeable about goaltender development and is committed to providing (the minority!)
- head coach acknowledges his/her lack of knowledge of goaltending but is committed to providing it
- head coach is knowledgeable about goaltending but is not committed to providing it during practice
- head coach is not knowledgeable about goaltending and is not committed to providing it (the majority !)
- some teams have goaltender training budgets and others do not
When I became a ‘AAA’ goaltending coach I was mainly dealing with situation #2 and there was no goaltending budget in the team’s fundraising plans. The coach wanted the goalies to get a lot of work in practice but was not allocating a certain amount of time or ice surface for development. I realized I had to become a bit more creative. I decided that every time the coach called the team in to talk or diagram the next drill the goalies would stay with me. I would have a plan to stay in the neutral zone or go to the crease and do goaltender-specific work. Since I was dealing with limited time (1-2 minutes), I focused on the most fundamental developmental consideration-SKATING. There are many traditional drills out there that focus on goaltender-specific movement. The U-drill, W-drill, X-drill, basic shuffling and T-push drills for lateral mobility, the iron cross in varying combinations and much more. I also focused a lot on recovery drills for both strengthening and conditioning purposes since I was dealing with 9-year-old goaltenders at the time. The goalies got a lot of work that season! This plan of action obviously made the goalies more fatigued than the other players but it also made them stronger and tougher physically and (hopefully) mentally.
In subsequent years with different coaches I have been provided with an acceptable amount of ice surface and 15-20 minutes allocated to the goalies. Pete Peters, former goaltending coach of the Edmonton Oilers, said that minor hockey coaches should allocate 30 minutes each practice to the goalie coach. This is not difficult if the head coach is willing to modify the team drills to a ¾ ice surface concept. In this scenario, the head coach can also use one goalie at one end for team purposes while the goalie coach works with the other goalie at the other end. When actually time is given to a goalie coach you can accomplish so much more. You can now start to take shots and work with the pads, stick, gloves and the body unit. You can focus on rebound control, and 2 and 3-shots scramble drills. You should always continue to work on the fundamental skills and perfect the correct muscle memory (Neuro-Muscular Patterns). With time you should require more intensity, quicker reactions and you should shoot the puck harder. Finally, if the head coach is willing, you should provide said coach with tactical drills that are beneficial for both goaltenders, forwards and D-men.
I have also had the opportunity to work with coaches that promised goalie-specific time during practices but then fell short on their promises to me. Since most of my work is done on a volunteer basis, I lessened the amount of time I gave to these teams for obvious reasons. This formula resulted in poor goaltending performances. In fact, as the goaltenders got older and the competition better, many of these goalies lost their position on ‘AAA’ teams since they believed entitlement would keep them at the highest level of minor hockey. BIG MISTAKE !!
For teams with goalie budgets you may find that all your son or daughter will be in practice is that classical “target.” No one will provide them with feedback on save selection and save execution. The point of the budget is that your child will go to professional instructors on the side for development so as not to disrupt team practices. This can vary for $50 to $200 per hour depending on the instructor and ice costs in your community. These goalie budgets are usually only a couple of thousand dollars and will be chewed up quite quickly. It will not in any way come close to the amount of time being spent on development for non-goaltenders on team ice-time. The greater concern for me is that poor habits can very well develop with young kids when ignored during team practices. Why are goalie parents paying for team practices if their child is not getting any instruction during that ice-time? This is something non-goalie parents just do not care about or understand.
In conclusion, as a head coach remember that the goaltender is quite important to a positive competitive outcome. If you are not able to provide on ice development seek out a qualified progressive instructor for this purpose. Finally, minimizing down time during practices is vital since the smallest amount office surface can be used for skating, conditioning or basic puck-handling drills for your puck-stoppers.