“Who’s playing today?”
If you’ve coached hockey teams with more than one goalie then you’ve heard this question approximately one hundred thousand times, unless you like to stay ahead of the game by sticking to a rotation.
But this isn’t about coaches, it’s about parents and their goaltending sons and daughters. It’s a difficult position - some would say the sport’s most difficult - but no matter how you compare them with forwards and defensemen, there’s one universal truth when it comes to goalies.
Goalies face a completely unique set of challenges. Whether they’re on the bench or in a game or practice, goalies are ingrained with a specific set of mechanisms from an early age. Heck, most of them start playing goal because they’ve got, uh, a specific set of mechanisms.
Alright, before I go too far and I end up with a stalker in a goalie mask chasing me around this halloween, here are a couple mental hurdles goalies need to overcome in the next couple weeks.
Playing goal in a game is different than other positions because you’re left to your own thoughts during the course of a period. The mental discipline under varying amounts of shots is crucial. Goalies have to train their own minds to focus without the benefit of a coach instructing them between shifts.
While players compete for ice time with a handful of their peers, goalies normally only have one significant competitor: the other goalie. If your son or daughter is rotated consistently then that competition is diminished greatly, but as soon as the rotation is interrupted then it’s a not-so-subtle message that there’s only one net.
The face in the mirror. There’s only one net in games, but there are two nets in practice. For the past two years coaching major midget hockey I was blessed by the hockey gods to have two fiercely competitive individuals minding the twine in NSWC alum David Tendeck and Whistler native Beck Warm. Watching these two practice was nothing short of special. Our entire team would erupt in cheers watching them make ridiculous saves born of sheer determination and desperation. Sure, I designed practices to make life miserable for them, but they embraced the challenges of 3 on 0’s and net front battles and now both of them are playing in the WHL as 17 year-olds.
You’re going to drive an hour just to watch your son or daughter sit on the bench for an entire game at some point in their career. It might not be that much fun for you, but for them? Being on the bench and supporting your teammates is a situation that needs to be embraced. No, they don’t need to prepare for the event that the other goalie is pulled - is that really the type of support you’d want your child to receive if they were starting?
Heck no. Your child chose to be a goalie. This means they’re not going to be involved physically with every game.
Mentally, however, this is an excellent opportunity to focus on what you can control: things like your team spirit, your enthusiasm, and your ability to absorb lessons on the bench.
Being a goalie is the most unique position in sports, which is probably why the position attracts the most … unique… individuals in the game. I love watching goalies battle in practice, because there’s no position on the team that depends more on practice habits for in-game success.
So get your brain wired properly (whatever your definition of properly might be), and get ready to tackle all the challenges heading your way like a one-timer from the slot.