Getting Goalie Coaches in Gear

09:00 AM EST
min - read
Max Rosenthal
09:00 AM EST
min - read

Learning Opportunities Abound for Coaches Wearing Goalie Gear to Teach

Talking to goalies is easy.

Let’s talk about breakaways, for example.

Coaches can tell their goalies to manage breakaways by using c-cuts to get about halfway between the crease and the hashmarks as the shooter crosses the neutral zone while the goalie starts to move backwards towards the net as the puck crosses the blue line, maintaining about a stick length gap between the goalie and the puck before making a quarter-turn butterfly slide just outside of the post to make the save.

Too much?

This instruction might make perfect sense for some goalies, but to many, these words from a coach mean very little.

Talking is often the easy part of coaching.

Creating environments for goalies to learn a new skill and understand when and why to use it is far more challenging. Donning their own goalie gear, coaches can access a wide range of teaching tools that are otherwise unavailable.

Explaining technique and timing with words alone can prove to be particularly difficult for goaltending students with less experience, those with hearing or verbal processing difficulties, and goalies who prefer to learn through visual cues.

More experienced goalies may also gain deeper understandings of their position when they can see the coach’s message, in addition to hearing it.

Goalie coaches are able to explain and demonstrate many aspects of goaltending in standard coaching gear which usually only includes skates, gloves, stick, and helmet.

Generally, hockey coaches don’t wear any leg protection, making it challenging to illustrate techniques like the quarter-turn butterfly slide where goalies slide across the ice on their knees.

While some goalie coaches can be seen driving their knees through the ice without any padding, the end result is sure to look less like goaltending and more like someone wincing in pain.

When coaches wear their goalie equipment, they can protect the last bits of knee cartilage they may have left and they can provide more clear, detailed lessons for their students. Many goalies struggle to close their five-hole and transfer their weight appropriately when performing butterfly slides.

Goalie coaches can provide examples of good and bad execution of butterfly slides when wearing their gear, helping students learn and retain new aspects of goaltending as they develop.

Goalies can also become better students of the game when they give constructive criticism on the coach’s movements in net.

By articulating thoughts about the coach’s technique, students can gain a more comprehensive sense of the goaltending position that goes beyond simply listening to a coach’s feedback. Goaltenders should be encouraged to give constructive criticism to their peers as well, but many will feel uncomfortable at times receiving criticism from a teammate. Coaches that demonstrate techniques in their goalie gear allow students to think more deeply about the skill at hand while avoiding situations where the wrong piece of feedback may break another peer’s confidence.

Many coaches may wonder whether they are still “good” enough goalies to exemplify the position in their gear: ‘will goalies pick up my bad habits?’

The goalie coach’s weaknesses in net are invaluable points to discuss with students. Goalies in training can gain an important sense of solidarity with their coaches when seeing how difficult aspects of goaltending are even for deeply experienced coaches. For many goalies, seeing a coach struggle may be just what they need to continue on their own learning jersey while taking pride in their progress. All goalies and coaches can improve after all.

On the other hand, goalies can also trust their teachers more when the coach can skillfully perform the drill. Coaches with goalie gear can even mirror their students movements, providing extra learning tools and motivation to complete the drill. Players are much less likely to complain about an exercise when their coach is willing to go through the same challenge.

Taken this way, coaching starts to become a shared exploration of spacial awareness, creativity, strength and group cohesion instead of looking like a 60-minute lecture on ice.

Probably the most common reason goalie coaches don’t wear their gear is because it is cumbersome, time consuming, and limits the coach’s ability to shoot on goalies compared to the alternatives. Coaches should avoid dressing in their goalie gear for every practice, but putting on goaltending equipment for teaching purposes can be an essential resource when used appropriately.

For those looking to make goalie development more engaging, fun, and memorable, better practices may be just a couple extra leg pads away.

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