Goalies should not be shut out from coaching

By Steve Carroll
Director of Carroll Goalie School

Every hockey season I am invited to speak about goaltending at several youth hockey coaching clinics.

My message to coaches is always crystal clear: They need to change the way they do business and make goalies first. They need to break out of their comfort zone, so goalie development becomes a priority and not an after thought.

If the goalies on their team have access to an outside goalie development provider, then I suggest the coaches find a way to supplement that training during their team practices.

I often wonder why is it that hockey goalies – arguably the most important players on a team – receive the least amount of coaching.

The answer appears to be simple. Many youth hockey coaches know very little about the goalie position or perhaps more importantly, take the time to get up to speed on what they can do to assist in the development of their goalies.

Reasons (excuses) often given for this are the coach never played the position, they don’t understand the latest goalie techniques, they don’t want to mess up a goalie who is working with a private goalie coach, they have to worry about the other 15 players or they assume their goalies get all the position-specific coaching they need at in-season goalie clinics or summer goalie schools they may or may not attend.

Therefore, adults often coach in their comfort zone, spending countless hours on Russian circles, breakouts and power plays while basically ignoring the development of their goalies. They hope that somehow the goalies magically improve and become that much-needed difference-maker in big games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way.

Some hockey associations turn to outside goalie development providers to work with their goalies. This is certainly a step in a right direction. However, not all associations offer this option.

Constructive use practice time, outside of any goalie clinic, is an important part of goalie development.

Figuring out how to coach goalies can a challenging and intimidating aspect of the job for many youth hockey coaches. However, it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some goalie coaching tips that can help:

• Learn as much as you can about goalie position so you can teach proper fundamental techniques and help ALL the kids on your team. Use the Internet to find articles about goaltending and videos that show a variety of goalie drills.

• Assign someone to be your team’s designated goalie coach.

• Allow your goalie coach time and space to work with the goalies.

• When developing practice plans, schedule 15-20 minutes for your goalie coach to work with the goalies on individual skill development. Make sure you write this down so you don’t forget about it.

• If your association holds goalie clinics, make every effort to attend – taking notes or helping out on the ice.

• Stick to the basics, most goalies need to improve fundamental skills.

• Successful goalie development includes quality repetitions; encourage your goalies to practice their movements over and over again; at first, they will have to think before reacting, eventually, they’ll react without thinking.

• Encourage goalies to be leaders and not followers; have them be at the front of the line during team skating drills, not at end because they skate slower than others.

• Goalies should be among the best skaters on the team; having them participate in the team skating drills is fine, but also give them time to work on their goalie specific skating skills and movements.

• Teach goalies to treat every shot in practice like it means something, and to be accountable for their effort and performance.

• Control the flow of practice drills so goalies have time to get set for the shot and get into position to play rebounds.

• Encourage goalies to work on their individual skills while team is doing other drills. You want goalies to make the most each practice session, so they improve every time they are on the ice.

• Pay attention to your goalie; make them feel like an important member of the team.

• Goalies are not shooting targets for players or coaches. They should be treated with respect. Coaches need to stop reliving their glory days as a player by blasting shots past their goalies to show everyone who is watching that “they still have it.”

• Talk to your players about not shooting pucks at your goalies’ head or when they are not looking. This rule should be enforced from the beginning of the year; nothing destroys a goalies’ confidence more than shots aimed at their head, this can also cause a serious injury.

• Do not allow your players to take slap shots from inside the top of the face-off circles; again, it’s about building up your goalie’s confidence.

• Teach goalies the four “R’s” of goaltending – READ the play, READY for the shot, REACT to the shot, RESPOND to the puck.

• Encourage your goalies to work on their puckhandling and shooting skills.

• Teach your goalie to talk it up and give instructions to their teammates.

• Try not to criticize the play of your goalies in front of their teammates. There are usually three to five other players on the ice at the same time who share the responsibility of preventing a goal. When you choose to discuss game performance issues, it’s best to do it on an individual basis and before the next ice time, when emotions are not part of the mix so goalies can give full attention to correcting mistakes.

• Think carefully about removing your goalie during a game for poor play, when possible make any change between periods.

• Make sure your goalie get a good pre-game warm-up with plenty of quality, stoppable shots.

• Encourage your goalie to develop a post-goal routine so they can mentally analyze what happened on a goal in a short period of time and refocus on stopping the next shot.

• Successful goaltenders compete, are consistent and play with confidence; build your goalies confidence, improve their play, improve their play, improve your team win-loss record.

• Be good to your goalies, and chances are, your goalies will be good to you and your team.

More information, including goalie development drills, is available at

Steve Carroll is an Edina, Minn., native who runs the Carroll Goalie School. He coaches college, high school and youth hockey goalies. Coach Carroll is a former All-American goalie at Minnesota State, Mankato. More information is available at