Friend Or Foe

A friend and fellow goalie coach once told me that "goalie coaches need to be careful not to turn our goalies into robots." This advice has stuck with me whenever I am working with a young goalie.

Most goalies have a system that can be summed up as a "mental-manual" that tells him or her what to do in certain situations. Goalie coaches want to help by giving young goalies certain rules to follow in every situation, which would effectively take the guesswork out of the game. 

And that's important when it comes to playing such a precise position. For example, being off your angle by an inch or two can be the difference between making a save and surrendering a goal. 

How well a goalie understands and executes his or her system becomes the foundation of their game. This is obviously important, but relying too much on structure will turn a goalie into a robot and take away from his or her natural athleticism. This is why a balance between structured and unstructured play is crucial to effectively developing as a goalie.

Out Of The Comfort Zone

Small area games are designed to force players into thinking and executing at a faster rate due to the limited space that is provided. This is especially true for goalies. It forces them to play outside of their comfort zone by playing deeper in the net and making more reactionary saves than they are used to. Part of this is due to the fact that there is no crease or other on-ice markings in which to base their positioning (although coaches can easily draw a crease if they choose to).

Goalies need to be able to read plays and react accordingly, with less structure. Therefore, more emphasis will be put on athleticism and compete level in order to keep that little black thing out of the net. 

Right Mental Approach

Some goalies take the wrong mental approach and get frustrated while playing small area games because they do not know how to play without their own mental-manual. They view these games as their foe and their confidence can take a negative turn. They must understand that any drill designed to put the goalie at a disadvantage can be a good learning experience. It will challenge them. If they can do it during practice while at a disadvantage, then it will become easier in the game.

A Goalie's Friend

In taking a different approach, small area games can become a goalie's friend and ally. It will challenge them to execute their skills quicker, no matter what their system is. They can work on certain aspects such as reading plays, challenging their reflexes, raising their compete level and making more athletic saves that are outside of their typical structure. Often times, this is what many of the momentum-changing saves are comprised of during games. They are saves that are not within their typical structure. These athletic, non-robotic saves that cannot be taught.

Challenge Yourself

Hockey is a creative sport. Goalies cannot just be robots. Small area games provide a good opportunity for goalies to get outside of their comfort zone by forcing them to rely less on their mental-manual to tell them what to do. 

Small area games should be challenging and fun. Embracing this challenge and understanding their purpose will inevitably make these drills an enjoyable experience that can benefit them greatly. P


Scott Clemmensen is the goaltending development coach for the New Jersey Devils.




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