Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Be the example, Do NOT let them see you're rattled

I recently attended the playoff game of one of my better students.

High level, Game 5 in a 7 game series, his team was up 3 -1 going in. He played very well, but had a little issue with rebound control that cost him 1 goal for sure.

The game was 2 - 2 heading into OT and his team should have won it several times in the 3rd, but a couple of bad bounces allowed the other team to stay in it. Just over a minute into his team makes a bad pass all the way down at the other teams blue line and they make a beautiful pass to spring a break away - deke to the backhand and a high shot beats our guy to the glove side.

Now you've all seen goalie lose games and sometimes they get upset and sometimes they show class and skate away. I personally love Tim Thomas' reaction to an OT loss, he sprints off the ice as fast as he can and he's 'outta there'.

Well, our boy didn't have a reaction I was proud of and the problem with a major reaction to a goal, especially in a series, is that it gives the other team confidence and lets them know that they CAN get to you.

Lets just say the 5 or 6 stick slams, the 4 or 5 spinning out of control fits of rage and the smashing of the glass were something the coach should have addressed (I have no idea if he did or not) and something that was embarrassing to watch.

Everyone in the building saw this reaction and if the other teams coach was on the ball (again, I don't know if he was or not) he saw this and made a point of telling his team "we can get to this guy, get him off his game".

'Jimmy' played well and had nothing to be ashamed of, he was beaten by a good shot on a broken play by his team, it happens! But his reaction was something I'd expect to see from a little kid, not a 15 year old very skilled goalie at an elite level.

The students at our schools and Training Centre get 3 seconds to be pissed off, that's it. I would be disappointed if a goalie weren't mad when he/she got scored on. And each of us reacts in a different way. As noted, I allow my guys 3 seconds, you can swear or bang a stick or hit your head, but only for 3 seconds. Then it is imperative that you regain focus and dignity. Even at the end of a game, its key not to let the other team see you 'explode'.

Coaches and parents need to make this a focal point for all players. Everyone should be able to win and lose with dignity and grace. No one wants to lose, but you can't let it get the better of you.

Game 6 went to the other team and our guy didn't play, series is now 3 - 3. One wonders if the momentum switch created by his reaction made a difference. Hopefully he'll get another shot in game 7 and I'll update this post at that time.
UPDATE: Our man got the start in game 7 (that was 5 out of the 7 games he played, losing only 1 in OT) and he put on a clinic, winning 3 to 1, despite being outshot. I was quite proud of the way he handled the lone goal against, no reaction! His team remained composed and didn't score until early in the 3rd period and after that he shut the door. CONGRATULATIONS ON A JOB WELL DONE!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Use your nerves

Its playoff time and the rinks get louder, the games mean more and the fans get more belligerent. Unfortunately the fans DO get more belligerent and abusive in their comments, they also get loud, sometimes, really LOUD. This can all be distracting to a goalie who must maintain focus and poise, especially at this time of year.

Use the energy in the building to feed your fire. When you make a great save and the building gets louder, take it in, tell yourself the noise is for YOU, the cheering is for YOUR save. Or the other teams fans are booing you because your stopped their team. This means your doing well, enjoy their catcalls and boos, knowing that you are defeating their spirit and pushing them to be negative. Relish in the moment of being the focus of their attention.

When the players start to make abusive comments to you, smile, in the knowledge that YOU are doing something so right, they are not happy with you and PO'd that they can't score. Know that the comments toward you are their way of showing their frustration and build your own confidence from their frustration.

If the other team starts to 'crowd the net' or bump you, smile! Again knowing you are frustrating them to the point of breaking. Keep smiling or simply 'going about your business' without reaction because that is what they want.

The hardest part will be to maintain focus, and not to overreact in either direction. Get cocky or start to make your own comments and it can come back to bite you. Maintain your calm and be focused on the NET SHOT, because it is all that matters! What has happened doesn't matter, only the next shot matters. Remember this!

If you are focused and 'into the game' you can block all the distractions out, you need to be so into the game that you don't hear most of what is going on, its just you and the puck that matter. Allow yourself to hear what you need to hear, and build your own confidence from those sounds. Playing in the moment and being laser focused on the NEXT SHOT.

Do what works best for you, but I have always found that you need to turn your focus level up and down a few degrees when the play is stopped or between periods. While you must maintain your intensity level and focus, don't put yourself in the position of being zoned out to your own team and the positive things that are happening around you.

Martin Brodeur is a great example of a goalie who you will see laughing or smiling during a stoppage, but is incredibly focused while the play is on. I have known goalies who completely 'zone out' and become so intense for the entire game time (before, during stoppages and breaks and even for a time afterward) that no one could even speak to them. I have also noticed that most of the 'over intense' goalies, burn out earlier in their careers or can't take the stress they place on themselves and quit as teenagers.

Remember, winning isn't everything, but it certainly is a lot more fun when you do! Regardless, gain confidence from knowing that you have done your best and that you won't win every game or stop every shot, but your attitude should be that you can, and should!!

Most importantly, at any level, no matter what the outcome is, the sun will rise tomorrow and life goes on. Hockey is a game, not life or death, so do your best, enjoy the moment, build your own confidence and relish in the fact you have done all you can.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Common Balance problem for Butterfly Goalies

This past week I went out to help the goalies on my son's former team. they don't have a goalie coach and I had an early night at our Training Centre (finishing at 8:00). They had ice at 8:30, so I jumped in the car and went straight to yet another rink - my third that day (LOL)...

It turned out that only 1 of their goalies was at the practice (it's March Break), but it was Scott, whom I have coached for the past 5 years, on my son's teams. Scott is a great talent (for age 13) and is one of the most technically perfect goalies for his age, I have ever seen. Scott is not very tall, being one of, if not the smallest goalie in the league EVERY YEAR, so I have worked very hard to teach him to PLAY BIG and control his rebounds. He has always done a great job of working on this and has stolen many games with his awesome play.

I was excited to get on the ice with their team and I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Scott to ready him for the playoffs. I began - as any coach should - by simply observing for 10 minutes or so, to see what we needed to discuss and what areas needed to be addressed. Having only seen him a few times this season at our Training Centre and not in game action, as I was so accustomed to, for the past 5 years, I was shocked at the bad habits I saw.

I should NOT have been surprised, but having been his coach and working with him for so long, I guess I thought he'd simply retain the information and training we had worked on. The fact he hadn't only reinforces that goalies need specific and ongoing training. Parents and coaches should be aware that goalies need specific GOALIE COACHING and get their goalies the help they deserve. DO NOT LEAVE THIS TO UNTRAINED PEOPLE.

The areas that had declined in Scott's play were nothing out of the ordinary for a goalie who has not received proper instruction for a period of time, in fact, his new found bad habits are the most common areas to decline with goalies who are left to fend for themselves.

Parents and coaches need to be aware of these problems and pay close attention so they can help their own goalies.

First thing I saw was that he was rotating his entire upper body and catching pucks BEHIND his shoulder. Just about every save to the glove side was being made in this manner and it can cause huge problems with balance and rebound control. The worst consequence if excessive rotation is that GOALS will be scored because the shoulder or glove will rotate AWAY from the puck, allowing it to sail through, or glance off and be angled into the net. Squared up shoulders, will afford the goalie MORE BLOCKING AREA.


Scott has always had a great butterfly with awesome rebound control...but not any more. He was stretching for shots, stick flailing about and falling forward after making saves - the first major signs of this common mistake. This is also one of the hardest things to get kids to understand - MOVEMENT TOWARD THE PUCK. If the goalie learns to make very short lateral movements toward the puck, rebound control becomes much easier, recovery becomes much easier and positioning will vastly improve.

I teach goalies that they need to have their body centered with the shot - belly button lines up to the puck - for best coverage and control. Most young or untrained (or in this case, trained but forgotten) goalies, simply drop down and throw limbs out to make saves, this doesn't work very well and opens up a lot of holes in their coverage. By teaching simple 6" lateral pushes, the goalie will be covering the net much more efficiently.

The hardest part of this is getting the goalie to understand A) the reason for the lateral movement and B) understanding that they only need to move a VERY SHORT distance to make the save - too much movement will leave the net unattended as they slide out (past and/or through) of the desired blocking area. Flurey in Pittsburgh had a real problem with overplaying, when he entered the NHL and has worked hard to improve this problem, although his rebound control is still suspect.

The third problem is a direct result of not moving into the path of the puck - overstretching and stick control, resulting in a loss of balance. When a goalie chooses to 'drop and stretch', rather than using a short lateral push, the results aren't pretty.

Falling to the knees and then quickly trying to fully extend the leg toward the puck will result in bad balance and increases the risk for injury. After the save attempt, the stick usually pops off the ice and the goalie falls back onto their butt or forward onto their stomach. Teaching short lateral movement will improve rebound control, recovery, positioning and most importantly - result in more saves.

I will see Scott and his team again during playoffs and wish them all the best in the stretch run.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Absolutly Ridiculious!

I was at my son's team practice the other day and what I saw made me feel so badly for the kids, all of them, but in particular the goalies.

Just to clarify things; this is an 'A' level competitive Bantam team and every player on this team, won a City Championship last year.

The coach (new guy this year) was on the ice by himself, now this guy has very little hockey knowledge and God bless him for trying, but he shouldn't be allowed on the ice because he doesn't know any drills or how to deal with the kids, but I'll leave that alone for now....

For the first 10 minutes, 3 or 4 kids came onto the ice and skated around, shooting pucks and generally screwing around, no coach - he was busy playing games in the dressing room with the kids, by blocking their way out the door....So 10 minutes wasted.

When the team finally got out onto the ice, the kids did some skating for a couple of minutes, the goalies were made or allowed to skate like they didn't care and didn't skate in stance or work on their form or technique, at all.....another 10 minutes wasted

Then the team did some really lame around the circle drill at a pace that was like watching paint dry, most of the kids were so bored, they couldn't have cared - one even skated over and asked his dad if he could leave. Meanwhile the goalies were flopping around and doing what they wanted, which involved shooting pucks into the air and spinning around on their knees making cool marks in the snow.....another 10 minutes wasted

So THIRTY FRICKEN MINUTES INTO THE PRACTICE the goalies had their first shots, which amounted to about 7 or 8 shots on goal. Then the coach decided that the kids aren't working hard enough and pulls them off the ice and he goes home.

40 minutes of ice and 7 or 8 shots on goal!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, I gotta be honest here, I'm pretty PO'd that I wasted my time coming over to the rink to watch my son practice and saw this. First off this guy can't coach, second, he won't let anyone help him - I offered and his response was "ya, we don't know much about goalies". But he has never asked or responded to my offer to help - so HIS EGO IS IN THE WAY of him doing what a coach is supposed to do - help the kids develop.

Now I'm not the typical whining parent here, I want to help and I know every player on the team because I have coached all but one kid on this team, so I know what they are capable of. They have won 4 regular season games this year and have DOUBLE the next closest team in the league for goals against, both goalies had averages around 2:00 last year and not both are around 5:00.

I is so hard to stand back and watch and egotistical b#*t*rd ruin the kids season, confidence and their love of the game.

Once again - COACHES, please let people help you, don't let your ego in the way of the kids development. Remember; THE KIDS ARE WHY YOU ARE THERE!!!!!

OK, whine over...for now.