Today marks the beginning of our summer goaltending celebration. It’s like Shark Week but with less biting and more feeding frenzies.
Being a goaltender is a unique position in so many ways. You’re out there on your own in the net, lonesome and left to your devices in games. In practice, however, there’s never been more support for young goalies. From on-ice training to off-ice mentoring and development, goalies are in good hands with position-specific instructors with expertise that simply didn’t exist at the minor hockey level a decade ago.
One of those instructors is Sean Murray. I sat down with Sean to get a wide range of information for Goalie Celebration Week. Our first topic was preparation. How do we get our goaltenders ready to face the pressure between the pipes once the season begins?
The answer lies in offseason work. Here’s 5 habits goalies should work on improving this summer before tryouts begin.
“I’m a big believer in active hands,” says Sean. “Catching the puck, using the blocker and getting used to how the gloves feel.” Working on the hands in the summer allows goalies to keep their upper body loose once the season starts so they can react quicker to shots.
2. Quick Feet
The father a goalie can react and reach pucks, the more pucks he or she is going to stop. Quick get can be improved both through on-ice skating routes as well as off-ice methods such as agility ladder work or good ol’ fashioned box jumps. Footwork also improves lower-body strength and endurance, a powerful asset when games to start to drag on in late January.
Working the body is an important step to take in the offseason, but for goalies, who rely so much on instinct, summer is the best time to hone technique. “They’re away from the spotlight, from the pressure of keeping the team in games, so the summer is great to work on small details so you don’t have to think once the season starts,” says Sean. Improving technique means cleaning up habits and improving weaknesses that can hold a goalie back during the season.
Summer is the best time for kids to be kids, but it’s also a great time to practice healthy habits such as eating properly and getting sufficient rest. Playing other sports is a handy way for younger goalies to stay in shape, while running and hitting the gym routinely is the preferred method for bantam, midget and junior-aged tenders. “Just keep in shape so you don’t have to start from behind the pack,” says Sean. “Go easy on the pop and chips no matter how old you are.”
5. Set a Game Plan
“One of the most important habits to adopt in the offseason is setting goals for yourself,” says Sean. “What team do you want to make? Where you want to play in the order? Do you want to challenge for the starter’s role this season?” Asking those questions will help focus a goaltender’s offseason workouts and give them clarity when approaching training camp or tryouts. “Putting that carrot in front of goalies puts the responsibility on them to take the necessary steps to achieve their goals.”
And for goalies everywhere, the mental preparation is just as important as the physical training.
Next in this series: Sean and I record a podcast about the difficult choices a coach has to make in order to do the most good in the sport. Stick around!