Many times, coaches tend to overlook the importance of goalies and their development in a practice. Too often goalies are the target of numerous shots, with little or no time to set up, track, and follow each puck. In part 1 of how to incorporate goalies into practice, we will go over some of the finer details in what to really expect from a goalie in practice and how a practice can be centred around player and goalie development along with team structure.

In a typical practice, the goalie’s chore is reduced to making saves. He gets 150+ shots in a typical practice. And the message the goalie gets sometimes is what you give him at practice. If you say it’s goalie time and what follows is just this self-defense period where it’s nothing but shots, then the message is all you have to do is react well. And they don’t get the time in those rapid-fire shooting drills to work on their positioning, their stance and to prepare for those shots. Don’t feel like you haven’t given your goalie enough attention in practice so you just line up pucks and let the players take shots. This doesn’t benefit anybody and becomes quite frustrating for some goaltenders.

What you’ll also see in practice is that there is nothing between the people with the puck and the goalie. Just finding the puck in a game is difficult, and yet at practice, the abundance of the drills make it very easy for the goaltender to see the puck. And there are no options. Usually in practice you describe the drill. It may require a number of passes, but eventually the shot comes from one guy and the goalie is going to realize he doesn’t have to anticipate the passes, because he knows who is going to finally shoot. So with this, you are taking away a huge responsibility of the goalie. In the game, he doesn’t know who is going to shoot and that indecision changes the whole process.

The ability to stay with one puck for a long time during the game is the opposite of staying with many pucks for a short time during practice. Of course, you don’t want to do slow drills. You have to keep a pace, doing high tempo drills, etc. You can’t mold your practice to just the goaltender. But keep in mind that the price of that is the goalie doesn’t get a chance to set up between those pucks. He has no incentive to follow the puckafter he stops it. He just wants to stop it and move to the next one, then the next one. With this goalies can get very sloppy and lazy playing that way. Because in the game it’s the opposite. In the game it’s just one puck and you have to find it and know where it is all the time and stay with it after the shot.

We mentioned making decisions. A lot of times the whole practice is reactive for the goaltender. Something happens, the goalie reacts. And that eliminates those times where a goalie can purposely make the first move, feign a move, or force them with the puck to do something. So they’ve got to have the chance to work on their decision making and their ability to work under pressure.

Do not think that all practice their has to be drills just for the goalies. In part 2 we will discuss solutions to ensure that goaliesaren’t just there to face shot after shot. Understanding the position and treating the goalie as a hockey player will be some things that will be discussed as well in part 2.