The majority of sports experts and countless studies argue that multi-sport participants are the best athletes (click here for the latest). I agree and have preached forever that playing hockey twelve months a year is a detriment.
Goaltending development is primarily a function of athleticism and focused practice. I can train a goalie to do all sorts of wonderful things on the ice that will improve his or her performance, as long as he or she has the athletic ability and is willing to work. Goaltending requires speed, agility, reflexes, flexibility, strength, stamina and reads. The best way to improve these athletic traits is to expose oneself to a variety of activities that will challenge one to adapt performance. When an athlete repeats the same activity over and over again twelve months a year he remains in a comfort zone, which by definition does not stretch his boundaries. Furthermore, accessing the same motor patterns year round creates excessive joint stress and can lead to injuries as explained in a past discussion I had with Dr. Mike Prebag. To view the video click here. Finally, stagnation is the antithesis to growth; humans get bored and stagnant when doing the same thing without adequate breaks.
When athleticism is accompanied by dedication to working on one’s game, goaltenders excel. Practice alone will not maximize potential, only smart practice will do so, which is why it is essential to get good coaching. Quantity is important but so is quality. From my experience – 30 years of teaching goalies and helping to develop a number of kids into NHL stars – I believe a goalie should play as often as he can during the season. I don’t even have a problem with a goalie being on the ice seven days a week. I played for two teams (school and city) and would sometimes play eight times a week. My advice is to play a lot and then take a break when the season is over.
The spring should be spent away from the arena and summer hockey should include only dedicated goalie training; two to three weeks is ideal. Scrimmaging, tournaments and team practice drills in the summer do nothing for development except create bad habits – the product of an environment that is less structured than the regular season. Goalie camps provide weeklong instruction during which every required skill is worked on. They are invaluable opportunities for education and to secure repeated movements for improvement and muscle memory.
There you have it, a year-round schedule for goaltending success. Play hard, play often during the hockey season; get involved in other sports during the spring and summer; and dedicate two to three weeks of intense goalie training over the summer months.
Getting parents to heed this advice, well, that’s another article.