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Posted by on in Alexander
Oddities of 2018 NHL Playoffs

This year's playoffs have been one for the ages.  With the conclusion of the semi-finals last night we've seen some real oddities.  Both losing goaltenders are Vezina trophy finalists.  Both were younger goaltenders (Andrei Vasilevskiy (limited playoff experience), Tampa & Connor Hellebuyck, (no playoff experience) Winnipeg.  But, both highly touted to take their respective teams through. And, both losing teams in the semi-finals (Winnipeg & Tampa) were likely picked by most to move on (and who would have predicted Las Vegas & Washington to be in the Stanley Cup finals). I am not going to comment here on the play of either goaltender or whether they were a factor in their team losing.

But, the lesson here is that things don't always work out as predicted or planned and that we, as goaltenders, should never lose sight of this.  Hockey is at best, unpredictable.  And, we need to be able to deal with it.  Many of the articles I have written throughout the past season have covered the uncertainty of the position and how we should approach it. Hopefully, you've all been able to gain some insights from those articles that you can use in your goaltending travels.

As an added point to the oddities of the game, after having no shutouts in the regular season and starting the playoffs as a BACKUP, Braden Holtby recorded back-to-back shutouts in do-or-die games to propel the Capitals into the Stanley Cup Final.  It shows we can never tell what the future will bring.  So just hold on to your dreams, work diligently & with motivation and never give up.
 
 
 
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Posted by on in Alexander

You always perform at your best when your mind is calm and free of distractions.  A calm mind allows you to focus and react smoothly to what is happening around you.

The opposite of that of course is a mind filled with thoughts with one competing with one other for attention and giving off different signals.  That causes indecision.  So now, that low shot to the blocker side that you normally handle with ease becomes a challenge.  Should I angle the puck to the corner, try to stop and cover it or???? Your body becomes tight and your right arm (or left if you are left-handed) refuses to move at the same speed it normally does, the puck slips through and the red light flashes!

Generally, there are two major elements that cause indecisiveness.

I think a lot has to do with trying to do things perfectly (take it from a former perfectionist)  You put so much focus on the "how to" or the technical part of the action that you tend to neglect the fact that the outcome is what is really important......STOP THE PUCK!

Another cause might be thinking too far ahead.  You worry about the final score and forget to live and act in the moment.  So, throughout the game, your mind wanders to the outcome at the neglect of the present.

If you find this happening to you you might try these couple of tips to help you:

1. Don't second guess yourself....stick with your "A" plan. (generally your first thought is the best one)

2. Trust what got you to where you are.  Trust that all your training and hard work will see you through even though you might encounter rough patches.  Don't worry about being perfect. The minute you start questioning your abilities you are at a disadvantage. 

In the words of the Nike commercial...."JUST DO IT" 

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Posted by on in Alexander

I am sure every one of us who has a goaltender son/daughter has given thought at one time or another to the potential for them to have a legitimate shot at playing beyond youth/minor hockey perhaps at Junior A, Major Junior, Prep School, University or the Professional level.

And, the dream is exactly that for most every goaltender.

The unfortunate part is that, for the majority of us, at some point, those expectations meet the realities of the situation and it becomes evident that it might not happen. So parents & coaches need to become proactive in their approach.  Certainly, it is not the time to dash anyone's hopes and a well thought out plan of encouragement can keep everything on a positive note.  

Here are a few thoughts as to how to approach a situation like this.

I think, whether a coach or parent, the first thing you need to be is HONEST.   

For the goaltending coach, you need to explain where the goaltender's skill development level is presently and then, where exactly it needs to be if the goaltender is to move forward along the path to their goal.  The conversation about what "needs" to be done is an absolute necessity.  From there the ball is really in the athlete's court.
They must provide the effort and motivation and hard work with coach & parents providing direction and support.

In any event, everyone need to understand how steep the climb is to the top. The numbers who "make it" are extremely small by comparison to those who start out. The hockey pyramid is very wide at the bottom, but becomes so much smaller as it nears the top.  Hockey is now a global sport and once you leave Minor or Youth hockey, competition for spots on high level teams could come from almost any corner of the planet. 

Here, as well, I say to parent and goaltender go and see games at the next level and above where your son/daughter presently plays.  Sit at the side of the rink as close to the boards as you can.  There you are going to get a sense of the speed of the game and how quickly the puck moves, how hard the players shoot, how skilled they are at executing fakes, how quickly goaltenders react and able to read situations and on and on.  If you do, I think you will find it is a real eye-opener.

At any rate, it should point out the level the goaltender needs to be and just how big a gap there is between where they are skill wise and where they want to be.  Hopefully this will be the motivation factor that spurs them on.

And, finally, I point out, it is not always about skill, and that a positive attitude, work ethic, competitiveness, being coachable and a good team player are all attributes that are meaningful to coaches at every level.  

Many times it is the goaltender who possesses these 
intangibles who will improve more rapidly and can make the move up to the next level. 

There is never a good reason, no matter what, to not try to be the best goaltender you can possibly be, at whatever level you play.

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Posted by on in Alexander

Much of the off-season focus should really be on the physical plus time (refer to our e-mail from last week) taken for technical development and improvement.  This will still leave you plenty of time to play golf, tennis, or some other sport as a non-competitive activity.

So, here is what a potential training period could look like.  The number of training days per week will be determined by the program/trainer.

May 1 to the middle of August if you are Professional, University or Junior
(approximately 16 weeks)
May 1 to the middle of August if you are Midget, High School, Bantam or Prep School
(approximately 12 weeks)
June 1 to the middle of August if you are younger
(approximately 10 weeks)

Among other things, here is a short list of some basic elements you need to key in on during "The Most Important Season".

 

Speed & Agility
Allows you to start & stop, change direction & shift momentum all while maintaining good balance

Leg & Lower Body Strength & Power
Gives you explosive starts, sharp stops, hard slides & pushes.  Allows for smooth transition from skates to pads & pads to skates and from side to slide in a lateral slide

Core Strength:
Gives you well developed abdominals, oblique & back muscles for smooth, quick, efficient movement in & around the net.  (Core muscles are first to contract when we initiate goaltending movements)

Quick Feet:
Allows for speed of foot movement in and around the crease for single or multiple directional changes or save sequences

Flexibility
Gives you the ability to initiate movement outside the normal range of motion; especially useful
in scramble situations or when caught out of position

High Fitness (Cardio) Level:
Gives you great anaerobic capacity and all-round conditioning

Hand/Eye Coordination & vision training:
Gives you the ability to co-ordinate limb movement to intercept the path of the puck effectively
on every shot

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Posted by on in Alexander

For most of you, the 2017 – 18 hockey season will wind down over the next couple of weeks. Whatever else you do, make sure you take a little time to stop competing and relax. If you are a younger goaltender, you may choose to play “spring hockey” before shutting down while others will gravitate to another sport immediately after season.  However, whatever you chose to do make sure you play an alternative sport(s) during the off season. Try to pick a sport that will help you develop your overall athletic skills which, will, in turn help you to become a better goaltender.  (tennis, volleyball, soccer are among the better)  

But, if you play at a competitive or developmental level, you may also want to devote time this next month to plan your strategy for improvement throughout the summer with your parents or a trusted coach.  At this moment next season’s tryouts might be the furthest from your mind, but, trust me, they will be here before you know it.  So, prepare early and prepare well.

Here are our thoughts about the seasons of hockey:

In-season – regular season & playoffs
Post-season – recuperation/relaxation time (minimum of 1 month)

Off-season – between post & pre-season
Pre-season - training camps, tryouts etc.

Our view, however, is that the off-season really should be renamed "The Most Important Season"
 Why?  Because it can't be time "off", in the literal sense, if you play at a developmental/competitive in Minor Hockey or Junior or above. 


Here you have an opportunity to retool, refine and develop your physical tools, mental skills and, at the same time, make corrections to your on-ice game with goaltender specific training at a camp or clinics.  

Most definitely, you need to keep your skates on the ice a minimum number of times during "The Most Important Season".  But, don't associate playing "pick up hockey" with improving your game.  I can say the same for programs which are not goaltender specific.  Both might develop your compete level (or not) but do little to nothing to develop your technical skills.  And, for the most part both these expose you to many situations you will never find in a team game. Pick up hockey is strictly for FUN and a bit of socializing. 

If you are serious about your development, we strongly recommend you take part in an on ice weekly structured development program during June & July. Add a week long professional training camp and you have your goaltending on ice specific training covered off during those 2 months. That leaves you time prior to and after this training period to do other things (and maybe even play some pick-up hockey).

Approximately 2 months should be quite adequate for you to refine, develop new skills or make changes to your technical game 


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Posted by on in Alexander

A couple of weeks ago we talked about "net presence" and the impressions goaltenders give by their on ice demeanour.  And, there, we offered up a couple to tips as to how you might check on your own "net presence".

Today we are going to take a quick look at a couple of ways you might differentiate yourself from other goaltenders in your league/division and stand out from the crowd.  Here it is worth repeating the comment often heard from recruiters and scouts...."at some point in time, they all look the same".  So, here are just a couple of things to help you NOT "look the same".


Work at becoming a better all round athlete
- most pro goaltenders today are excellent athletes and some such as MA Fleury, Jake Allen, Jonathan Quick & Pekka Renne are exceptional.  Being a better athlete will also enhance your ability to execute technical skills

Become better at puck handling - a goaltender who can handle wide rims and dump-in shots and make passes efficiently are worth their weight in gold and are a coach's dream

Battle harder - put 100% effort into covering every loose puck; make the impossible save at least once per game

Calm & focused - remain calm and focused when confronted with adversity or when things become chaotic.  No emotional ups & downs

Develop your consistency - attempt to keep your play consistent throughout the entire game and from game to game.  Coaches/recruiters like to know what to expect

Continue to develop all the position's fundamental skills - a solid base of fundamental skills is a pre-requisite for top performance

Show a positive attitude - win or lose, no matter what the situation

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Posted by on in Alexander

Some time ago I did a short survey with a goaltending coach who had worked at a Midget AAA, Junior A and University level & also, a goaltender (not from the same team) who had played through each of these levels.  My intent was to attempt to get a perspective, outside of my own, on some of the major skills & attributes necessary to play "up" at each level.  My question was, "list 5 - 6 things you feel a goaltender must have or develop as they move up those three levels.  

Here are their responses:  


(Coach Perspective)

- need to develop their anticipation of play in the defensive zone

- ability to recognize and be able to react to opposition systems such as (PP) zone entries etc.
- excellent rebound control
- ability to find loose pucks in traffic (the amount of front net traffic increases as you move up each level)
- the physical strength to handle traffic to fight for loose pucks when play is in tight to the net (not only is there more front net traffic, but the players get bigger as you move up each level)

(A goaltender's perspective)

- able to balance (time management) all facets of their life

- keep the different aspects of their life separate (hockey time is hockey time, study time is study time, off ice training time is off ice training time etc)
- confidence in their skills (confident that all the work & practice will make for a successful transition to the game)
- a short memory (live the game in the present)
- deep motivation to succeed 
- knows game time is battle time

I think you can see, from the responses, there are some key things you need to understand about moving from level to level.  One thing, I would like to add is "SPEED".  Everything gets faster moving from level to playing level...shots travel faster, passes are quicker, players skate faster, plays happen faster.  The whole game moves faster.

And to quote the goaltender who helped me out, "many times, especially at the start of your first season at a higher level, it is as much about being able to "keep it all together" as it is about how well you stop a puck" 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Producing a successful result in a game is not centered around one big or “impossible save” that stands out from everything else, but is a series of smaller details that produce a positive result which may not necessarily produce a positive game outcome.  So, here are some thoughts on playing a “successful” game

- remember, you will never play a "perfect" game.  Set your sights on playing an "excellent" game...no goalie ever played a perfect game. And, anyway, who needs the added pressure of being perfect 

- game time is not the time to improve your skills, that is what practices are for.  Trust that your work in practice will give you the best opportunity for game success

- it is okay to make mistakes.  Every game is full of them.  But, learn from yours and work hard to make corrections next practice

- don’t worry that your technique is not quite where you'd like it to be 

- share the load...you don't have to win the game all by yourself

- focus on the goals you have set for the game, not on the score

- stay positive. Think about being successful. Don’t think about avoiding mistakes or failure

- do whatever it takes to play well, even if it’s "ugly" or imperfect. Sometimes you just must play "ugly" to win

- keep your thoughts simple. Don’t over-analyse.  You will only psyche yourself out

- when on ice, focus on your performance as an athlete, not the score, mistakes or goals that go in

- play for the team, but TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PLAY

- don't worry about what others may think about your performance, there will always be critics 

- don't ever assume you know what others or your coaches are thinking, 9 out of 10 times you will be wrong

- take the game seriously, but have fun

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Posted by on in Alexander

Your Net Presence

A couple of months ago I was at an evaluation camp as an interested observer.  There were many goalies at the try-out with a wide range of skill levels among the group.

Aside from the skill level, there was one other thing that struck me as I watched.   It was how each "presented" themselves - the difference in "net presence" of each goalie and how it affected my perception of them.   


A few goaltenders were super aggressive and, as a result, over played shots and seemed to be continuously scrambling and chasing the play (were they in a little over their head or just simply attempting to impress with aggressiveness).  I saw goaltenders who never left the blue paint of the crease & others who spent most of the ice time at or near the net (were they lacking confidence or was it a passive personality).  At the same time others were calm and focused.  And some, believe it or not, appeared disengaged or disinterested (were they really or just attempting to convince themselves this really didn't matter, and they could care less if they made the team or not).  


While I don't pretend to know what was going on in each goalie's head, I do know that each left me with a distinct perception based upon their appearance & actions (or lack of action).  I have seen goaltenders go through these phases from time to time.  Sometimes it's just the pressure of the moment.  But then again, is it their "normal"? 

So, what should we take away from this? 

Well we need to understand just what image we project when we play.  Do we appear confident, ready, and capable, or the opposite?  As a goaltender, one might do well to view a self video and see how you stack up against other goaltenders in that regard.  Or, elicit the help of an unbiased, reputable coach to give you an honest opinion of just how you project yourself in the net.

Remember, perception is reality - to the observer.  Remember, also, no matter where or when you are playing, 
there most likely is someone (coach, scout, recruiter, or friend of) watching.   

So, never underestimate the importance of your "presentation".

 

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Posted by on in Alexander

A recent conversation with one of our long-time clients prompted me to dig this out of my files and share it with all of you.  The conversation cantered around having a different goaltending coach from the previous year and that coach looking to make some changes to his play.

Mostly, I think this happens simply because each goalie coach has his/her own perception of what is technically correct or how a goaltender should approach/react to game situations.  And I suspect, this is not uncommon.

From our (Alexander Goaltending) perspective once you go beyond the basic foundational technical skill, there may be more than one option to achieve similar results.  Providing, of course, in all instances, that the results are positive.  It doesn't necessarily mean one is right & and the other is wrong.  However, as a coach we need to understand, that because every goalie has different mental & physical attributes (size, speed, strength and so on), what will work for one goaltender may not necessarily work for another.  It is the coach's responsibility to make the best use of those attributes the goaltender already has.  


We, as professional coaches, are entrusted, among other things, to teach the technical skills of the position. Just as important is to ensure our students understand why we suggest a particular method.   Simply put, we are providing a goaltender a tool for his/her "toolbox".  Hopefully they realize the benefit, but, how and if they use it is always their choice.  As long as, whatever they choose allows them to perform at the highest and most efficient level given their particular technical, physical and mental skills.   

If you do find yourself in a situation where you are being asked to do something goaltending related that you feel uncomfortable doing, you need to open a dialogue with the coach to try and understand where the issue is.  Hopefully he/she is not looking to make changes just for the sake of change.  The role of the goalie coach is really all about developing and improving skills, analysing performance and solving performance problems.  

If a change is being recommended to how you are presently doing something, the question here should be "WHY”?  Why change?  Is what I am doing holding back my development?  Is my action (or non-action) causing goals?  How will it improve my performance?  I am sure the competent coach will be able to show you how this change will/could work to your advantage and help you move forward to improve. 

At the same time, however, we do feel it is incumbent upon the goaltender to, at the very least, give something new a try.  Not to do so might be depriving him/her of an opportunity to make a change that improves and/or develops his/her game beyond where it is presently.     

A very high profile national level coach once told me a good coach should always be able to answer the "WHY" question with a positive reply and back up their answer with examples or results.

Note: Research shows it takes between 300 - 500 repetitions to gain competency (many more to be proficient) in a motor skill (trapper save) and 3000 - 5000 repetitions to correct a poor/incorrect muscle motor pattern (need to un-learn and then re-learn).  

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Posted by on in Alexander

Because we try to support our student/clients at and away from the rink, we like to stay in touch with both they and parents as frequently as we can.

Some (just a few), hold a belief it is important for their son/daughter to play up beyond their present skill/age level in order for them to achieve long term success.  They feel, that, if they don’t, their son/daughter will never reach their (?) goals.  I find this to be a bit unrealistic.  Simply because, everyone will develop at their own pace.  As a parent, all you can really do is provide your son/daughter the opportunity to play, expose them to the best QUALITY training available, (notice the emphasis on quality) encourage them and support them.

Everyone has a different development curve which is based on several factors of which some are controllable and some not. We will always have those few (very few) who are ahead of the normal curve, the average (a majority) and, of course, the “late bloomer” (very few).  And, no amount of wishful thinking will propel any of them beyond what they are physically and mentally capable of achieving.  

When your son/daughter is younger, it is easy to get caught up in the allure of skipping a step & jumping up to a level beyond their age group in the hope they will develop faster and quicker.  And, even at higher levels (Junior & above) the same idea exists.  I must admit, I may have been one of those people.  Even today, I look at some of our student/clients and wonder if their development would not be better served by playing up.  But………

REALITY CHECK HERE!

There really isn’t anything wrong with “testing the waters”.  Say trying out for a team (if you are able) that competes above your son/daughter’s present playing level.  But, unless your son/daughter is very mature & can be certain they will see enough “net time” (nothing erodes confidence more than sitting at the end of a bench game after game) to develop & improve their game skills, they are much better off “staying the course”.  

Here are a couple of reasons to “stay the course”:

- it allows them an opportunity to experience growth as a player
- it gives them more time to develop their skills because they are not always trying to play “catch up” with stronger, more experienced & older kids & team mates
- different social dynamics will come into play at the next level
- they might be looked to for a leadership role which, in turn helps them develop as a person
- it could serve to build their mental toughness & character because they could become (if not already) the “go to guy or gal” who logs all the hard minutes in tough times

IT’S ALL ABOUT PATIENCE

It is my belief (as a coach and long-time scout) that if you are good enough, you will be “found”.  No matter how deeply a goaltender is “buried” they will hear of you and find you.  I do understand the concept of “timing” also enters the picture, but, have the patience to continue to work smart & hard; search out & use every resource possible to improve ALL aspects of your game; refine your skills to perfection.  And, hopefully you will become the best goaltender you can possibly be at the level you are supposed to be.  And, who knows where that will lead. 

 

I know that not everyone will agree with me simply because, unless you have experienced it, it is difficult not to look for the “silver bullet” that gets you on the fast track.  Unfortunately, very, very few who ever get on the “fast track” train will ride it all the way to the station.

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Posted by on in Alexander

How do you practice??

Let me begin by telling you that the old saying "you play like you practice" is exactly true....if you give your best effort in practice you'll do the same in the game; if you don't pay attention to details in practice you won't in a game; if you don't track the puck in practice you won't in a game...and on, and on.

So, here are some quick tips for an effective and productive practice:

- prepare; make sure you are warmed up and stretched before you get on the ice.  Time on ice is meant for developing skills, not really for warming up and stretching

- do you need to go to the drill explanation each time the coach whistles players in?  Ask the coach to signal you in only if you really need to be a part of the drill.  Otherwise use the time to work on some aspect of your game such as puck handling, inside edge work skating or lateral slides/recoveries; sealing off the post in a VH or RVH etc.

- have a plan; you need to go on the ice with some goal in mind. Perhaps it is something you want to improve on from your last game such as keeping your hands ahead of your body in stance, keeping your stick on the ice and in your 5 hole.  Basically, anything you want to become better at

- get your skating in first.  As soon as you step on the ice, head for a crease and do your skating drills.  As a goaltender you must be the best, confined space, skater on your team....you need to work on skating every practice.  If there are pucks on the ice I'm sure your team mates won't mind just using one net for shooting, as you get in some skating.  I would suggest, though, that you ask your coach first

- always practice good visual puck tracking; watch every puck as it comes into your body as you either smother or catch it or direct the rebound away. (tip: keep your nose pointed to the puck)

- follow rebounds at least visually if you can't follow them physically (sometimes the spacing between shots doesn't permit time to physically reposition on rebounds)

- battle hard to stop every shot.  Even those you know you don't have a chance to stop.  This will translate into your game play and help you make that "game saving" stop from time to time

- handle pucks at every practice.  Make it a point to get out and stop any rims or pucks that come near the net and join in, where possible, for any team puck handling drills


"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going"

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Posted by on in Alexander

Confidence!  It is a corner stone on which successful goaltending is built.

Confidence inspires you to play at a top of your game; playing at the top of your game inspires confidence.  The question is, which comes first?  Perhaps it is a bit of both.  But, make no mistake, self-confidence is crucial to performing at your highest level.

If you are confident, you'll be better able to handle difficult situations - those times during competition when things go wrong.  Your demeanour both on and off the ice will reflect that confidence and your attitude will be "play to win" and not a "try not to lose" mentality, which will influence your team mates & inspire confidence in them as well.

On the other hand, when you aren't confident, you'll struggle with mistakes, likely become frustrated and play too cautiously.  You become tense, your movements are no longer smooth, you "fight" the puck, you create rebounds and overplay situations.

So, if we understand how important confidence is to our performance, why do we struggle with confidence issues from time to time, and more importantly, how do you acquire/maintain/regain confidence.

From our experience, confidence seems more evident when the goaltender focuses on his/her strong points (what are the things I do really well) and not their deficiencies or weaknesses.  There is no room for negativity if you are to perform at your best.  

Confident goaltenders concern themselves only with the the things they can control (emotions, preparation, attitude, thoughts).  We also note that, generally, the more prepared the individual is, the more likely they are to play with confidence.

And, that leads us to one of the most important elements that will affect confidence - PREPARATION.  We've talked about pre-game preparation in a previous article & we are firm believers that the better prepared physically and mentally you are to play, the more likely you will play with confidence.  There is something about routine and familiarity that gives us a feeling of comfort and preparedness.  So, doing all those "good things" which motivated athletes do away from the rink plus a positive pre-competition routine will start you off on the confidence route.

If you noticed, all the things we mentioned in the previous paragraph are controllable by the goaltender.  Make a list of what you can or can't control and don't worry about what you can't control.

Remember, also, there will be ups & downs in your game and it is natural that you will struggle with confidence at times.  The secret is to understand that it will happen, but, to also believe in yourself, and, that what you are doing will bring positive results over the long run.  

Understand what got you to where you are (hard work, motivation, dedication, on & off ice training, good personal choices).  Understand, as well, that your skills don't just "suddenly" leave you.  They don't say "that's it, I'm done" and go away.  More likely, you are hi-jacking your skills with negativity.  Our experience is that, goaltenders get into trouble with confidence when they start thinking the game, thinking about mistakes, the referee, missed opportunities, what their team mates think, what the coach thinks, what the fans think....the better able you can control that "little voice" inside your head the more likely you will play with confidence. 

No one can "give" you confidence and no one can take it from you.  Your confidence (or lack of) is in your hands (or, more exactly, in your head)  Understand the things (negative thoughts, unmet expectations, mistakes etc) that affect your confidence level and focus on replacing those thoughts (the little voice inside your head) with the notion that you can get through this because you are doing all the "right things" and that this is just one small bump in the road in your journey to becoming the best goaltender you can be.


Confidence is preparation.  Everything else is beyond your control. - Richard Kline

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Posted by on in Alexander

Perhaps some of you have heard the saying “the devil is in the details”.  (meaning something that is taken to be simple will require more effort and time than expected or inattention to details will cause failure or small things, thought to be insignificant can cause serious problems)

How true in goaltending. Because successful goaltending is all about the “details” and far too often I see goaltenders neglect them.  The result of inattention to details is to forgo long term success for the sake of a few moments of glory.  

So, what are these dang details? Well, by this time I’m betting you are thinking they are all about those technical skills that are part of the goaltender’s tool box. True, but only partially true.

Details are in your training on and off ice.  That last rep doesn’t matter.  I’ll just to 9. After all, is there any real difference between 9 & 10. Yeah, I can skip this workout and take in a movie with my buddies.  After all I’ve already trained once this week.  Don’t want to tire myself out too badly, plus I can make up the work out next week.  Stopping a little before the blue line won’t hurt anything, and I’ll get through the drill and get back before the other guy.  That’ll impress coach for sure.  

Details are in your nutrition.  What’s a plate of “fries” before my game going to hurt anyway? So, what if I skip a meal here and there, I can still perform at peak whenever I want to.  

Details are in personal habits.  Hey, 11 pm or midnight, what’s the big deal?  I’ll can perform just as well with 6 hours sleep as 9. Nothing wrong with a little road hockey before practice is there.  Or a spin on the “quad” or snow machine on game day. 

Details in technical skills.  My skated blade doesn’t have to be on the post every time I t-push back from the top of the crease, does it? What if I don’t track puck carries behind the net.  I’m fast enough to get to that pass out.  What’s up with check the net front when the puck is below the goal line.  I can’t see where it serves any purpose.  And, keeping my stick blade in position to cover the 5-hole in a lateral slide.  I’ve never done that and can’t see any reason to start now because I’m doing ok.

These, folks, are just a small sample of the day to day details that are part of the making of an above average goaltender.  

Yes, the attention to details require discipline. But, understand that, from attention to details (or not), you develop habits whether good or bad.  And that strong, good habits formed from mindful attention to details are the foundation of a successful, elite goaltender.

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Posted by on in Alexander

The world of a goaltender can be harsh at times.  It's no fun being on the long end of 10 - 1 loss or a 7-game losing streak.  Those can really test your "mental toughness".  Besides everything else it's embarrassing and, no doubt, a jolt to the ego.

So, let's look at somethings you might do to get a bit of your that "mental strength" back after you get knocked down.

Don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself.  Really, self-pity is not going to get you anywhere.  And don't look for anyone else to sympathize with you (except maybe your family) or a very close friend or coach.  Don't continue to focus on the problem....what you need is a solution.

Maybe what you need is to just get back to basics.  All the good things you did that got you to where you are. 

Maybe what you need is a change.  A change in your routine; a change in ATTITUDE.  Whatever.  Change is not necessarily bad.  To be a successful as a goaltender you must be able to adapt.  

Different year, different team?  New challenges for sure.  Are they going to adapt to the way you play?  Maybe not.  Maybe you must make some small adjustment to your game.  If the game has changed are you changing with it?  Are you willing to change?

Don't get all out of whack about things you can't control.  If you can't control it, you need to let it go and move on.  What you coach does, how your team plays in front of you, the calls the referees make.  You cannot control any of that.  So, discover what you can control (habits, choices) and spend your good time making sure those are right.

Stop worrying about everyone else thinks.  (something else you can't control) At times, you just have to simply do some things that others don't like.  They'll get over it.

Doing the same thing day after day and expecting different results does not make a lot of sense.  Don't repeat your mistakes.  Learn from them, "park" them and make a change.

Don't expect immediate results.  Everything takes time.  Your development as a Goaltending and likewise developing mental toughness is a process.  It doesn't happen in a week, a month, or a year.  YOU NEED TO WORK ON BOTH!

Don't get frustrated because you aren't where you think you should be.  Understand where you are at this moment and then plan and work the plan diligently to get where you want to be.  Get help with your plan.  Going it alone makes for a tough journey.

At the end of it all, nobody owes you (or me) anything.  Sure, we might not think it is fair, but, it is what it is.  Make the best of it.  Give what you have everyday and don't dwell on what you think you deserve.  

(as a side note, I recently read the book "GRIT" by Angela Duckworth.  Her many years of research (and of others as well) lead to a proven conclusion that "grit" or mental toughness is the main contributing factor to success)

What is your "Grittiness" index?  


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Posted by on in Alexander

It happens to all of us at one time or another in our goaltending career - we get benched.

I've been there when I was actively playing competitively, you've been there; it happens to the pros.

It's not a pleasant situation. Perhaps you aren't even having a bad game. Maybe the
coach just wants to "shake things up".  Hopefully that is the reason, but even if it is, it's a shock.  And, it's embarrassing!  Fans & parents are looking on, not to mention your team mates.

And, then the thoughts start going through our mind: why? It was just one goal and it went off my defenseman's stick (of course coach didn't notice that); the whole team is playing badly, why signal me out? Am I going to get my next regular start? What are my team mates thinking?

And then the frustration and even anger can kick in.  It's difficult to keep your mind in the game, and perhaps you really don't feel like cheering on your team or for that matter, your playing partner.

Understand this is nothing to do with you personally and whatever the reason, you really can't change it.  Once done it is done.  You can either move on and stay prepared in the event you are called upon to go back in the net or sit there with your negative thoughts and emotions which really doesn't do anyone, including you, any good.

The best approach, and only productive one, is to take it as a learning experience: an opportunity to study players or the opposition goaltender.  And, maybe there, see some things you could incorporate into or add to your game.  Or, is there something in my game I need to improve so this doesn't happen again.  

One thing for sure, being benched will definitely test your mental toughness.  But, with the right ATTITUDE, you'll come away a stronger more resilient goaltender who can deal more readily with the pressures of the game and the ups and downs of goaltending in a positive manner.

Perhaps one piece of advice to leave you with is to be prepared to be benched.  It will happen! And, sometimes it just comes right out of left field without any warning.  So,
think about it before it does.  Try to set in your mind what you will do; what your reaction will be and how you will turn it into a positive.

And no matter what the circumstances, be supportive of your team mates.  At some point sooner or later, you will need their support.

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Posted by on in Alexander

Recently I spent a bit of time with my son who works with the Blues in St. Louis. And, fortunately I was able to take in a couple of NHL games plus spend some time around the rink.

It’s been a few years since I saw a live game and it didn’t disappoint.
  Not surprisingly, today’s game is incredibly fast.  Speed of puck movement, shot speed & accuracy are all at the highest level.  However, what impressed me most was how quickly players & goaltenders make decisions and choose between the available options. 
 
I’m sure some of what I saw is a product of the player’s individual experiences moving up through the hockey system, but you must believe that the majority of what we see is a direct result of an incredible amount of time spent practicing their skills, off season training, hard work and time management.
  And, this applies not only to reaching the NHL but also to staying there.  
 
On the trip back home, I mused about what I had seen and wondered what the impact would be if every goaltender could see what goes into a “day at the office” for a professional goaltender.
  How many would commit, and dedicate the time & resources necessary to become the best they could given any physical limitations.
 
Understand, hockey must and should always be fun and up to the point of a goaltender’s teen age years. Throughout those times, it’s all about developing the basic physical and mental skill requirements of the position. But, at some point after, things need to change (the fun still needs to remain though) for anyone who aspires to play at the highest level they can.
  
 
However, after all my years of working with goaltenders, it totally amazes me the numbers that appear to have absolutely no idea what it takes to be an elite athlete, and, more importantly, who don’t take the initiative to research & understand how to become one. 
 
When you consider we live in the information age, it’s really no ones’ fault but theirs.
  Perhaps they are just among the “want to; would like to; wish I could” group.  Or perhaps they just “follow the crowd” thinking that, if everybody else is doing it, it must be right.  Still, it disturbs me to see the talent wasted needlessly.  

I say, take responsibility for your development! Carve your own path! Lead the way!

 
At about this time I can hear people saying how much you will need to “sacrifice”.  And I remember using that word in my last e-mail.  But on reflection, I now believe this word is totally overused when it comes to explaining what is necessary to become an elite or above average athlete.
  “You need to sacrifice to be the best” is absurd.  It is only a “sacrifice” if you are giving up something and are not completely committed to the task.  There isn’t any “sacrifice” involved if you make a choice about what you want to do and ‘go for it”.
 
At the end of the day, our choices define us and ultimately will determine the level to which we will rise.
  MAKE GOOD CHOICES! 

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Posted by on in Alexander

As we enter the first couple of weeks of hockey season, and now reflecting back on the tryout period prior to the season, it has probably been a stressful time for a lot goalies (and parents too)

And, I am sure, some of you didn't make the team you tried out for.  Believe me I've have personally experienced being cut and, recalling those days, it wasn't the most pleasant of times.  So, I thought I would pass on a little advice which I hope will help out a bit.

I know the first question that comes to mind, when it happens, is WHY?  Truth is, sometimes, it doesn't make a lot of sense, even when you get the answer.  Maybe it was just that the competition was really tough (a lot of exceptionally good goalies in your age group) or you didn't perform up to the expectation of the coaches or your skills were lacking.  Or maybe, "politics" came into play.  Maybe it was your demeanour, how you presented yourself in the net, your size or the coach just felt more comfortable (confident) with other guy (or girl)  Whatever the reason, you have to move on.  You can't hang on to the thought that the coach didn't like you or they didn't see you at your best or because you allowed fewer goals than the other goalie(s) you should have been selected.

Understand, that, unless we do fail from time to time, we will never become the best we can be.  Most top end athletes (goaltenders) will tell you that fear of failing is what has driven them to become successful.  And, they learned from the failing experience because they were able to "move on", understand their deficiencies, and vowed to work diligently on those to make the necessary corrections and improve.  And so, failing is a necessary part to improving your game.

So, what are YOU going to do about it.  The first thing you need to do is take an honest look at your game and identify the parts that need to be improved .  If you feel the need for outside help to do this, enlist a trusted coach to sit with you to make the review.  Just remember, if he/she are being  honest, you may hear things you don't want to hear.  However, if you REALLY want to get better, then the need for honesty.  During the review, identify 3 or 4 areas for improvement, put those into writing plus what you want to accomplish for each and how you plan to do it.  Again I highly recommend you enlist the help of a coach or your parents in the plan.  But remember it's YOUR plan and not the responsibility of Mom or Dad or a coach to lead you along.  They can help set you off in the right direction, but the ball (puck) is in your court when it comes to providing the motivation, dedication & hard work.  

If you truly WANT (not wish, like to, would be nice) to be a top end, above average or elite goaltender then it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to put in the work, provide the motivation and MAKE THE SACRIFICES necessary  No one else can do it for you!

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Posted by on in Alexander

Within the next couple of days or maybe, even already, you will be heading off to one of the most stressful times of the hockey season. ..........try-outs.  But, it need not be, (with the exception of the usual "butterflies") if you invest some time developing your own personal strategy.

First, you need to prepare for each ice session in the same fashion you would for any game.  Go through the same pre-game prep routine you always did during season.  (If you don't have one, contact me & I'll send you a sample)  As humans we all like things we are familiar with, so, by following the same pre-game routine & structure you always do, you will automatically feel more comfortable, at ease, & relaxed.

Secondly, in the heat of try-outs things are apt to go wrong (a puck hits your glove & trickles in; pucks goes in off defensman's skate; you lose your angle & goal is scored)  What you need do is NOT dwell on these, especially your mistakes.  If you do, it will only magnify the problem and hurt your confidence.  The more you dwell on an error or mistake, the more you will play trying to avoid making more mistakes.
You will play your best, if you continue to play through with the understanding that mistakes do happen.  It is human and all part of the game.  Focus on the positives of your performance and don't be afraid to take risks.

Here are a few other thoughts for you to consider:

- show you are motivated to make the team through hard work
- be enthusiastic & upbeat...a tryout is no place for negative talk or reactions
- don't be intimidated by others.  They may look relaxed & care free, but, on the inside, they are
just as nervous as you
- project a confident image...head up, shoulders square
- battle to stop every puck & never give up on a shot
- watch the body language...throwing your hands up on a goal, snapping your stick against the post, shrugging your shoulders or glaring at your defensman will NOT earn you "brownie" points
- DO NOT shoot pucks or go into some elaborate skating drill while waiting for your turn to receive shots.  Simply, grab a knee or move into a butterfly position & work on adjusting you upper body posture or hand positioning until your turn comes up - relax
- listen more than you talk 
- BE ON TIME - ALWAYS

A couple more pointers:
 

-        Be intense but under control

-        DO NOT attempt to change your game from how you did things all season just because you're in a try-out

-        Maintain puck focus when the puck is on your side of the centre red line even when you team mates have possession anywhere in your zone including behind the net

-        Never give up on a shot even in your “goaltending only” ice sessions

-        Give your best effort every game and practice

-        The number of goals you give up is not as important as HOW THE PUCK WENT IN

-        Stop all pucks you should; stop a few you should not

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Posted by on in Alexander

Some time ago I happened upon an interview with the “mental skills coach” of the New Zealand “All Blacks” famous rugby team.

The article begins with the headline “Make Mental Strength Your Strongest Skill”.  In the article, he attributes the team’s phenomenal success, for the most part, to each individual’s “mental toughness”.   Understand that the “All Blacks” are a premier professional team (and so not unusual to find a “mental skills coach” as part of their staff).  But, when you think of the disproportionate amount of the time & effort we, as coaches, put into physical skill & technical development versus the time, on average, a goalie spends developing his/her mental skills it is easy it is to understand why many a goaltender can go through extended periods of time playing well below their capabilities if these skills are not developed.  I am not saying that better mental skill training and mental toughness is the answer to every goaltender’s performance issues, but, when you think of the number of above average skilled goaltenders who have never developed to their full potential because of lack of mental skills it is easy to understand how important these skills are for success.

The position of goaltender, has some unique pressures which very few, if any, who have not played the position fully understand or appreciate.  It is really the weight of expectations.  And is it a very, very heavy load.  But, fortunately, one that most goaltenders enjoy having the opportunity to play such an important role in the success of their team.

So, what really is “mental toughness”.  Mental toughness is described in the following as the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges, and
perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves. 

Mental toughness is not something that everyone is born with.  It is developed over time and through experiences.  It is understanding that one must “stay the course”.  Giving in is not an option.
It is understanding what the reality of the situation is and exactly what your job is.  It is maintaining focus and dealing with one moment one after another & not getting ahead of yourself spending precious time & energy thinking of consequences.

In the “heat of battle” here are some quick things we can do when our “Mental Toughness” is challenged

  1. Let go of the miscue/distraction and stay in the present (park it!)
  2. Take a deep breath, relax your body part by part (I'm not one much for the "water bottle squirt" bit) and reset by recapping in your mind what happened and how you might have prevented it from happening (or not)
  3. Eliminate any negative thoughts & focus on the present

So how do we develop “Mental Toughness”

Well the first thing we need to do when we are faced with adversity is understand that by facing and accepting the challenge head on, we are strengthening our coping habit & developing mental toughness and our ability to deal with future adversity and, at the same time, develop our resiliency

Secondly, we need to just “get over it” and focus on the next challenge

And, thirdly, understand what we need to do in a physical sense & mental sense to meet those future challenges

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