Goaltending Coaching for the Mental Game
“I play a position where you make mistakes. The only people that don’t make them at a hockey game are the people watching.”
“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”
“In practice it’s 90% physical and 10% mental. However, when it comes to competition the numbers flip. It becomes 90% mental and 10% physical.”
Train Smart Not Hard
“Goaltending is a normal job, sure. How would you like it in your job if every time you made a small mistake, a red light went on over your desk and 15,000 people stood up and yelled at you?”
5-time Stanley Cup Champion
“Do everything you need to do to keep the passion alive and never forget that it is a privilege to do what you love”
2-time Olympic Gold Medalist, 3-time Stanley Cup Champion
As a former goaltender and goalie coach/scout in the National Hockey League, Western Hockey League, Alberta Junior Hockey League, U Sports and NCAA, I can really appreciate the quotes listed above from the true legends who have played in my opinion, the most difficult position in sports.
I have been working as a goaltending coach with Goaltenders for approximately 35 years as a goalie and mental coach. Over that time I have had the great privilege to see many of my clients win championships, make all-star teams, win individual accolades such as the Vezina, CHL goalie of the year, MVP in the World Junior Championship, first and second team all-American team selections and NHL/AHL- MVP’s in all star games.
The general public often mistakenly thinks that these individuals have “ice-water” running through their veins; that they have never experienced any challenges during their goaltending career. I can unequivocally tell you this is not the case.
More accurately, they have had to deal with a tremendous number of obstacles and setbacks along the way. At the end of the day, however, my clients understand the bottom line, as New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belicheck would say: “Do your job, know your job, and enjoy your job – STOP PUCKS”
As Tony Robbins eloquently states, “Long ago, I realized that success leaves clues, and that people who produce outstanding results do specific things to create those results. I believed that if I precisely duplicated the actions of others, I could produce the same quality of results that they had.” Over my lifetime, I have studied the best goaltenders in the world, and I believe I have found the two key foundations that allow goaltenders to thrive despite the daily challenges they face. These foundations are The Performance Wheel and The High-Performance Equation.
I personally believe that most goaltenders train very hard but not smart. Check out this recent interview with Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers that highlights the key components of “The Performance Wheel” and the SMART GOALS (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Relevant, Time) that each goaltender must address in their training plan if they wish to play at an elite level.
In order for goaltenders to advance to the highest levels they absolutely need a balanced approach with regard to their training and honing their skills. The first foundation/framework that I discovered is called “The Performance Wheel”. This key mindset took many years to develop, and I must admit it was discovered by accident over many years of trials, tribulations, and errors while working as a goaltending coach. I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with some of the best goalies, mental coaches, vision and strength trainers, nutritionists, sleep experts, goaltending and hockey coaches across the planet. While working with these elite mentors, I discovered the key actions and thought patterns that allowed goaltenders to succeed whether the goaltender recognized these thought patterns or not. Early on my coaching career, I made the big mistake that most goalies and goalie coaches still do now. I only focused on the technical and physical side of the game. As “The Performance Wheel” quickly illustrates there are 5 key components with regard to becoming the best goalie you can be. Most goaltenders and parents have never heard or realized that the tactical and mental part of the game could be trained. You will often hear NHL coaches or players comment on the importance of Hockey IQ and/or Mental Toughness.
“I’m happy for [our players] because they played as a team, and they had a tremendous amount of will. That’s mental. That’s not a talent, that’s not physical skills, that’s mental toughness.”
“Being strong mentally we have to see as a skill. It’s huge… We talk a lot about the technical things on the ice, but definitely your attitude and mental toughness are a huge factor.”
“It is pretty tough for a goalie when you look at it. You’re always the last line of defense. If you let a goal in, you can’t go to the bench and hide between the guys or anything”
“I don’t fear stopping a 100-mph slap shot. I fear not stopping it!”
In fact, some will go as far to say these skills are innate or God-Given. The Philadelphia Flyers aren’t a franchise known for a rich history of goalies. There are three who instantly pop to mind, and they’re Bernie Parent, the late Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall. But Flyers fans are hoping the long drought since having a top-notch goalie ends with 20-year-old rookie Carter Hart, who’s making his mark in Philadelphia right from the jump.
“It’s a beautiful thing, because for a 20-year-old kid, he has what you call a God-given talent,”
Parent, who led the Flyers to their only two Stanley Cup Championships in the ’70s, told KYW Newsradio.
“You can’t teach that. And what I mean by this is his anticipation is incredible.”
“Carter’s a young goaltender who has improved throughout the year, he’s got a great relationship [with goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh]. They really work on his knowledge of the game and understanding the reads he needs to make.”
Coach Alain Vigneault
I have great respect for Mr. Parent assessment of Carter’s Hart ability because he is a great goaltender, however, I 100% unequivocally disagree with his statement regarding his ability to read the play. This is a skill that he has worked very hard on for more than a decade. The ability to read the play and develop your anticipation skills and Hockey IQ is 100% trainable. Likewise, the mental skills that allow the elite NHL goalies to shine on a nightly basis can also be developed and trained.
Our Goaltending Coaching Program
The Cognitive-Perceptual and Mental Game Coaching Program for Goaltenders offered by Zone Performance Psychology not only prepares and allows its clients to face and overcome the many challenges that can often threaten their career. Some common examples are: a lack of goalie coaching, negative comments and behaviors from the head coach, getting pulled, getting traded, getting injured, dealing with a major illness or sickness, not getting played, losing championship games, playing on a last place or poor defensive team, hostile crowds, getting cut from teams, death of family member, friend or teammate, bullying or negative comments from your teammates.
Yet these events can teach valuable life skills such as focus, visualization, self-control, work ethic, discipline, and persistence that can be used in the classroom, obtaining their driver’s license, improving relationships with the peers or family members, or dealing with the many challenges that life inevitably hands everyone.
For the first time ever, Zone Performance Psychology in conjunction with three of the elite Cognitive-Perceptual Training companies in the World (Neurotracker, Senaptec, and Vizual Edge) would like to provide the critical Tactical and Mental skills that have been traditionally only offered to the Elite and Professional goalies. That is why I have created this program, and the foundation of this program is premised on developing what I have called the 7 C’s of Mental Toughness:
Goaltender’s participating in this program will learn these key mental skills by developing a daily breathwork, mindfulness meditation and mental rehearsal practice in their mental gym.
In addition to developing these skill-sets, goaltender’s will also learn and develop the necessary tactical skills to maximize their “Hockey IQ” (e.g., Understanding of the Game, Ice Awareness, Pattern Recognition, and Problem Solving). At the heart of this program is Cognitive-Perceptual and Eye-Hand Coordination Training. In fact, it’s my opinion that if goaltenders are not doing this type of training, they simply won’t compete with the goaltenders who are doing this type of work. Why do I make such a bold statement? Simply put, the senses dominate brain function. With 80% of sensory information coming in through our eyes, the condition of an athlete’s visual system is directly related to their performance on the ice. It’s no coincidence that the most successful hockey players in the world possess superior visual skills.
For example, the latest research from the leading cognitive-perceptual training companies in the world not only demonstrates that there are significant differences between an amateur goaltender and pro goaltender with regard to visual skills and brain processing speed but also between the backup and the starting goaltender. More importantly, however, in my opinion is the research that demonstrates that these skills can be significantly improved within a reasonably short period of time. With the advent of this type of training goalies can now really train their brain and eyes to process and see the subtle things that they need to be paying attention to at much faster rates than ever before.
At the end of the day, I believe my job as a Goaltending Coach and Mental Performance Consultant is to empower each client with tools they will use for their entire lives. The program is designed to teach my students regardless of their age and/or level so that they can become self-reliant and mentally-resilient, which in turn, would allow them to self-regulate themselves to be happy, healthy and strong.
“There is no position in sport as noble as Goal-tending.”
– Vladislav Tretiak