Accel Goaltending Sunday Q&A #6
My son just turned 9 and as we head into the off-season, what are a few keys that you would focus on with a kid of his age?
Our philosophy, especially during our 5-day programs stem from 3 main fundamentals, which we then build upon:
The single most important aspect of building a proper foundation for a young goaltender, is their skating. Being strong on their edges, having proper balance and having the ability to be in control are all such crucial points to building a powerful base as a goaltender. Moving around the crease in the most efficient manner is paramount for goalies at all levels, and it must start as they take up the position. Understanding how to get from position ‘A’ to position ‘B’ and the most efficient way to do so, must be built through constant repetition, especially for a beginner.
Next, tracking pucks efficiently is so important at a young age. This will help a young goalie get through the stage where he or she is ‘puck shy’ and has a tough time keeping their eyes open to the moment of impact into the body.
It sounds crazy, but there is a habit that I see in a ton of goalies, that for a split second upon release, blink or close their eyes. Take note of your young goalie the next time they are on the ice during a team practice. Is the puck leaving the shooters stick, hitting the goalies body and then you notice them react? Are they standing up on their feet the majority of the time and just hoping pucks hit them? Chances are, they have never been properly taught how to track pucks and are probably struggling to come up with otherwise routine saves.
Lastly, controlling pucks is so huge. At a young age, my first two points are what is most important. After the foundation is there, having the ability to control the puck in practices and games is the difference between an average goalie and a great goalie. My motto with my junior and college guys is “see it, stop it, control it”. Having that mindset keeps things simple and the task becomes manageable.
Throughout the yearly evaluation process, which I am a part of with multiple associations and teams, one of the biggest things I look for is how does a goalie manage the game? Does he or she hold onto everything and get whistles for the team? Can the goalie sense pressure and steer a puck out of play with ease? Does my goaltender have the ability to turn a 35 shot night into a 25 shot night by not leaving any loose pucks around the crease and covering everything? These are points that although a goalie may be making saves, are they making things tougher on him or herself and on the team?
A goalie that can control the pace of the game is the one that I want as a coach. Learning these crucial skills at a young age is so important and is something that should be worked on any chance you get.
We see a trend in the goalies that come to us their first time, and that is a lack of basic principles that need to be instilled in a young net minder. If your coach is overlooking these 3 key elements, your goalie is going to be in for some rough times. We see a lot of over-complicated videos and social media trends taught within the position today, however do not ever overlook the importance of the above mentioned. Progression will become so much easier for a goalie once they have a strong understanding for the fundamentals of the position.