What is the"how to" for a successful career as a goaltender?
Goaltending is a difficult and complex position. It requires a tremendous array of technical, psychological and physiological abilities. There is little question that the goaltending athlete that pursues excellence in each of these areas has the best chance of success.
With the above said, it is also crucial for this passionate goalie to also know when to simplify the game. This seems to be a paradox. On one hand, speaking of the complexities and on the other, specifically requesting that goalies keep the game simple.
This is about building a personal vision.
There are movement skills, positional selections, tactical approaches, transitional abilities and much more on the technical front. Over time, many of these skills become second nature... they are fulfilled without thought... they are fullfilled subconsciously. This is the key. This is why at a younger age, goalies must be extremely passionate about skill and athletic development. It is this transition from focusing on the "array" of skills to focusing on the "key" skills of your game.
As a goaltender progressively gains set skills that they implement into their game, they must maintain strict practice habits. Strengths and weaknesses must be built upon and improved with a dedicated effort every ice session. For example, a goaltender that takes a practice off from maintaining attachment to the puck on a post-save response to following rebounds creates a disillusion of how they will respond in a game.
The search for excellence must always be maintained. This statement should never be trivial as repetition of proper execution leads to a consistant and automatic response that is required.
For example, doing 10 repetitions of a movement drill with 7 correct and 3 incorrectly done can lead to an inconsistent manner of moving in a game.
The goaltender that has a constant pursuit of dedication to 10 precise and correct movements every time they practice will develop and maintain strong habits.
Habits turn to character. Depending on what type of habits you develop they may or may not lead to success. Goaltenders that achieve success strive everyday from their strong habits, that are not lost, due to the constant repetition.
Every goaltender should know and understand their strengths and weaknesses. As a goaltender has an arsenal of strengths, they must all have a constant approach to them.
About a month ago I had the chance to speak with Mel Davidson, the 2010 Womens Olympic Gold Medalist Head Coach. Asking her for her opinion on the state of goaltenders attitudes and approach to todays game she insisted that the work ethic that they present must be stronger then it is now. Two examples she gave related to off-ice conditioning and one's performance in practice.
Relating to team development, if a goaltender doesn't apply themselves in practice and doesn't care - the team is decreasing in their offensive abilities. Scoring at will won't happen in a game, therefore it shouldn't in practice. Goalies must challenge their team in practice to enhance their ability to produce in a game.
This being said, it is the dedication and utmost effort of learning new skills, training your body off-ice, practicing, and creating more stressful environments in practice on a consistent basis - to make games easier and subconscious.
Mike Dita once stated that "the one's who want to achieve and win championships motivate themselves." In Bruce Boudreau's - Confessions of a Hockey Lifer - he claims that coaches must "preach team, team, team. Out of that each individual will find individual success. " Adding both of these together, it is evident that motivation towards team success leads to individual achievements.
As tryouts and training camps are now at a close, leading into the season - honor your commitment to your team. Stay dedicated to your position, as each step you take now, helps direct and determine your future.