How Team Coaches Can Help Develop Youth Goaltenders
By Pamela Foster for Pro Ambitions Hockey, Inc.
Often, goalies get neglected during hockey practice. Yet there are hockey games where goaltenders win you the game single-handedly.
As a team coach, you need to engineer appropriate techniques to help develop youth goaltenders to become accomplished shot-stoppers. Here are five tips that team coaches can employ to enhance goaltenders’ practice and improve their performance in hockey matches.
Let Your Goalies Warm-Up at Practice
If you want a fruitful practice session with your youth goalies, always start with a solid warm-up session. Avoid giving them shots to block immediately after starting. After they hit the ice, provide them with enough time to prepare properly.
Your youth goalies can join other team members for a group warm-up. However, goaltenders don’t need the thorough skating warm-ups other players go through. Therefore, you can give them specific exercises and drills focusing on the skills and muscles they need to target.
Consider Their Skill Level
Coaches may feel tempted to take as many shots as possible on goaltenders during practice. However, Corey Schwab (once a goalie development coach for the San Jose Sharks) urges youth hockey coaches to exercise restraint. The idea is to focus on shots that fit the skill level and age of the player.
Peppering young goalies with shots, especially hard ones from adult coaches, can result in them getting scared of the puck. Ultimately, their joy of playing in this position may waver. Instead, coaches should hit the puck with the player’s ability in mind. That way, slowly but surely, your goalies will gain confidence.
At the same time, don’t allow anyone other than coaches to take shots on youth goaltenders. They may not know your player’s abilities, hitting too hard.
Skating Skills Come in Handy
Many coaches tend to overlook the need for youth goalies to work on their skating skills. The assumption is that they spend most of the time on the net, and skating may not be so important.
However, Kevin Reiter (former goaltending coach at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program) notes that skating is crucial to young goaltenders’ success. In fact, he reckons skating is the lifeblood of goaltending.
If your goalies can develop strong skating skills, they will be better at blocking shots and moving around the net quickly to get in position.
Before they can get used to it, they may suffer muscle problems from time to time.
Play Them as Defensemen or Forwards
Playing your youth goalies in other positions helps keep them engaged during practice. If one of them isn’t in goal, let them play as forwards or defensemen instead of sitting on the bench. In the process, they will work on their skating skills.
They also get to understand the game better.
Have Specific Objectives for Each Practice
The main objective of a goalie is to stop the opponent from scoring. But for them to be the best goaltenders, they need to keep advancing their skills. The best way to help them do this is to give them short-term goals to hit during training sessions.
Let them perform specific tasks, such as those that focus on preventing goals from both sides of the net, their positioning, and their handling pucks during saves.
Create Real-Time Game Situations
Simulating game-like situations give young goalies beneficial practice. They get to practice shot-stopping as they will encounter in games. It also allows them to practice what they have seen in real time.
During drills, goaltenders can tell who has the puck and where they intend to shoot from. In real games, they have to track the puck, see who has it, and where it is. That means they need to work on the skill during practice.
Don’t Forget the Mental Aspect
The mental aspect of the game is critical for netminders. It helps keep your goaltender’s head in the game. They also grow as goalies by building their confidence.
There’s no better feeling for a goalie than heading to a game full of confidence. Even fans or friends who like sports betting can be sure of winning when such a player is on the net.
For instance, giving a youth goalie a reactionary shot can make them feel good. Shots that they can save with their glove or blocker help them build confidence in the net. Regardless of their age, confidence is a crucial element for goalies.
As a coach, you should identify if a goalie needs help with exercise addiction. Such players suffer from low confidence, and extreme exertion does them more harm than good, psychologically and psychosocially.
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