Optimizing limited team practice time for goalies is a continuous battle.
You've heard it before:
"The goalies are just pylons in practice."
"The goalies get no attention."
"The goalies don't see a shot for 20 minutes."
If you're a head coach, odds are you weren't a goalie and you identify more easily with the skaters on your team. The intricacies of the goalie position are foreign to you.
As goalie development professionals we applaud the coach who acknowledges his (or her) lack of facility with the position and seeks to rectify the situation...perhaps by budgeting for a goalie professional to attend some practices or designating a member of the coaching staff to mentor the goalies.
Typically, a goalie coach and head coach negotiate dedicated goalie time within the practice - usually 15-20 minutes. This time allows the goalies to work on 1 or 2 skill sets in a controlled environment and voila...everybody goes home satisfied....except...you were missing your goalies for a third of the practice.
There's another approach which could appeal to everyone.
You can practice as usual with minor modifications to your original practice plan by implementing some simple, drill-friendly adjustments which can give your goalie a real chance to improve over the course of the season.
All you need to remember is one simple thing...TIME.
Simply stated, a save at all levels has three components;
1. Pre-Save Preparation - everything the goalie needs to do prior to shot to put them in the best position to execute
2. The Save Movement - The actual response to the scoring opportunity
3. Post-Save Response - Following the rebound (no matter where it goes) and preparing for the next shot.
The emphasis and execution will change as goalies develop but the concept remains the same.
The Save Movement is, at most, 20% of a goalie's process yet it typically gets 100% of practice focus.
A goalie needs 3-5 seconds before the save to properly position and prepare for the incoming scoring opportunity and they need 2-4 seconds after the save to complete the process and follow the rebound.
In a game situation the response often becomes the next pre-save movement...but thats another blog for another time.
Coaches simply don't allot enough TIME in between drills for goalies to practice like they play. This is where poor habits are created and a lack of extended focus is developed.
If you do nothing else but allow 5-7 more seconds in between shots, reps or plays for the majority of your drills, you are allowing your goalie to work on what makes up 80-90% of what should be their development focus.
I understand there are drills that will be the exception, but as the director of the practice, you can make a significant impact on your goalie's development simply by allowing more TIME before and after each scoring chance.
And goalies...you are not off the hook.
Presently at practice you may initially make pre-shot adjustments and follow the rebound but, as the pace heats up, you typically stay at the same depth for every shot and concentrate not on the rebound but on the next shot. That is a logical response to the rapid-fire assaults which pass as drills.
But, if you are lucky enough to have a coach willing to adopt the idea of more TIME between shots, you'll be wasting this rare opportunity if you don't take advantage.
The responsibility is yours.
Pre Save movements and consistent mental self-cues prior to the shot are not easy to execute on every play for an entire practice. Following your rebound visually and physically is not easy for an entire practice. However, given the opportunity to develop more than 80% of your skill sets in a fairly controlled environment equates to a quantum increase in ability.
Your positioning, puck focus, spatial awareness, tracking and transition time will all improve. Not to mention your stamina and consistency.
We understand your team's ice time is precious. We understand changing your practice for large chunks of time to accommodate 1 or 2 individuals needs is difficult.
Remember: You control the whistle and TIME is everything.
Push your goalies to go through the entire save process on every play and allow them the time to do so.
Note: CGD offers Coaches clinics to non goalie coaches with our main objective to adjust any practice plan to make it goalie friendly. Please contact Charles McTavish at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.