Coaches need to pay attention to their goalies

Another winter hockey season is well underway.

It’s also the time of the year when people are realizing what the coaches are or are not doing to improve the skill development of the goalies on their team.

Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, nothing is being done during scheduled practice times.

Steve Carroll leading goalie development clinic.

Some coaches believe that as long as their goalies are seeing lots of pucks during practices they are getting better. That’s not necessarily the case. Goalies need time to develop their individual skills in addition to being available to participate in team drills.

I believe more coaches need to change the way they currently do business and improve on how they work with their goalies. Coaches need to break out of their comfort zone, so goalie development becomes a priority during every practice and not an after thought.

Sometimes coaches think that somehow the goalies will magically improve during the course of a season and become that much-needed difference-maker in big games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way.

Some hockey association’s hire outside coaches to work with their goalies for periods of time during the season. This is certainly a step in a right direction. However, the fact an association provides goalie training periodically is not an acceptable excuse for ignoring goalie development during team practices.

The reality is, goalies spend considerably more time on the ice with their team than they do at any association goalie clinic. Constructive/productive use of a team’s practice time, in addition to any in-season goalie training progams, is the key to developing goalies.

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

Here are some goalie coaching tips that can help:

  • Assign someone to be the team’s goalie coach and encourage them to learn as much as they can about the position. Lots of resources available online.
  • Stick to the basics, most goalies need to improve fundamental skills. Successful goalie development includes quality repetitions.
  • Schedule 15-20 minutes of each practice hour for goalie coach to work with the goalies on individual skill development. Make sure to write this down on a practice plan so it doesn’t get forgotten.
  • Give the goalie coach time and space to work on the ice. The individual skill development can take place at any time during practice. Successful team drills can be run without goalies in the net while they are working on their skills.
  • Remind players (and coaches) that goalies are not shooting targets. They should be treated with respect.
  • Coaches should not be developing back up goalies. Kids sign up to play the game, not to sit on the bench. Look at developing a rotation where the goalies split games or split periods so they are involved in every game.
  • Set up the goalies for success. Control pace of team drills so they have time to get ready for each shot and into position to play rebounds.
  • Encourage goalies to be leaders and not followers. For example, move them to front of the line during skating drills. They will skate harder, feel more a part of the team. Do not put them at end of the line because they skate slower than others.
  • Teach goalies to treat every shot like it means something in practices and games and to be accountable for their effort and performance.
  • If an association holds goalie clinics, make sure the goalies attend and strongly recommend that the team’s goalie coach also go – taking notes and/or helping out on the ice. Coaches should build on what’s being taught at the clinics during team practices.
  • Encourage goalies to work on their puck handling and shooting skills.
  • Successful goalies compete, are consistent and play with confidence; build their confidence, improve their play, improve team’s win-loss record.
  • Think carefully about removing a goalie during a game for poor play, if possible make any change between periods.
  • Coaches need to control their reactions/emotions on bench when goalie gives up a goal. Goalies typically feel bad enough when they get scored on and it doesn’t help the situation when they look at bench and see coach upset and/or screaming at them.
  • Be good to your goalies and chances are goalies will be good to your team.

Coach Steve Carroll is a goalie development leader. He’s been running skill development programs in Minnesota and Iowa in the summer/fall since 1995. He’s a 2x NCAA National Champion, 2x All-American, Hobey Baker Award Finalist, and Hall of Fame goalie at Minnesota State and Edina (Minn.) High School. Learn more about his programs at