Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Goalie Guidance with Steve McKichan

I recently had the privilege of talking on the phone with former NHL goaltender and goalie coach Steve McKichan, owner of FuturePro Goalie School.  I posed a question to him that has been gnawing at me for some time.
Are kids so busy practicing, playing games and traveling to tournaments that they no longer WATCH hockey anymore?
Anecdotally, it seems that watching elite level goaltenders play the game is a great way for a young goalie to learn and implement critical techniques into his or her game.  Some may argue that doing is better than watching, but Steve had some very interesting thoughts on this topic.  He was kind enough to put them into writing for us.  Below is a piece Steve wrote exclusively for us here at Hockey Goalie Parents.  

Practice More! Play more Games! Do more Privates!

Of course! We all know that our precious little smurf is well on their way to a D1 ride or a starting spot ahead of Lundy in the Rangers. Especially, if they can practice every night of the week that they are not playing, going to their trainer or doing private lessons.

Let's take a step back and digest this:
  •        Doing more private lessons won't get you any closer to the NHL podium.
  •        Doing a million practices can actually make you worse.
  •        Playing a ton of games won't necessarily give you the required experience and results.

As counter-intuitive as this sounds stay with me….

Many goalies work their technical game to a refined sharp point during private lessons. And in my experience, in the absence of the advice below, rarely it is maximized in game performance delivery.

The overwhelming majority of practices make the goalie worse with: poor gap in drills; little time to follow pucks post-save; and super unrealistic drills like 2-0s, endless non-pressured breakaways and the classic one-timers from a man shooting from the ladies' tee.

Simply playing a ton of games is not helpful, especially when uncorrected errors pervade and when fatigue causes sloppy effort and cheating in certain situations.

Here is my prescription and the hidden point from above:
  • Be a kid. Practice less, Play less games and do fewer private lessons.
  • Spend more time with friends.
  • Spend more time on serious effort on your studies.

If you earnestly do the above three suggestions and follow the advice below you will be FAR ahead 5 years from now. 

Calculate your time spent in the car, time at the rink and time on the ice and MATCH that time with critical study of other people's hockey games.  Don't just watch other games. Study them with cause and effect in mind.

For instance, turn on an NHL game and use your DVR to go through all the scoring chances and puck handling touches. Ask yourself what the situation was. What happened? Why was the scoring chance successful? Why was the scoring chance denied?

Consider this: A goaltender does not stop a mid-speed rim. The puck continues on the the half boards where your winger lets you down. The puck ends up at the point. Then it is slap passed to a guy on the back doors and he one-times the puck bar down.

Now the goalie can blame the players and indicate that he had no chance because it was a sweet shot. But........cause-and-effect observations reveal the entire drama train could have been prevented, not with a huge back door save, rather if the goalie simply stopped the rim dump successfully in the first place.

Learning what you are actually looking for is a learned skill but it needs to start now.  So stop playing and mindlessly watching so much hockey. Get your "thinking brain" on and start critically analyzing games. Dedicate equal time to this as you actually give to the physical playing of the position.

In the future you will thank me and offer me game tickets instead of offering me fries with my chicken wrap.

There are many ways to achieve the kind of critical analysis Steve mentions in his piece. DVR games, as he suggested. The announcers often replay key goals and saves and offer an analysis of the play. Take your goalie to watch your local pro, semi-pro or college team play live and watch with an analytical eye.  If you don't know the game well enough to analyze it, buy a ticket for your goalie coach and ask him to come along.  Social media offers a wealth of information.  Steve posts great content on Twitter at @FutureProLive.  Greg Balloch (@GregBalloch) posts his "Six Saves" on Twitter every night in which he posts short video clips of the best saves of the night in the NHL.

Whatever method you choose, remember that it is critical to allow your goalie to not only execute physical motions but to LEARN and UNDERSTAND the game.  This is truly one of the foundational skills necessary for your goalie to take his or her game to the next levels. 

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