Thursday, December 31, 2015

Taking it to the Next Level, Vol. 1: Be An Athlete First, Goalie Second

Be An Athlete First, Goalie Second

Many goalie parents have the highest of hopes for what their child will accomplish as a hockey player.  Their child has dreams of one day playing in the NHL, or at least at the highest possible level.  As parents, we do everything in our power to facilitate that dream.  We make early morning drives to the rink.  We spend a fortune on travel hockey and private coaching and off-ice trainers.  Thousands of goalies are working hard to make the dream a reality, but what does it take to ACTUALLY MAKE IT COME TRUE?  It doesn't happen by chance, that's a certainty.

So I posed this question to one member of our Hockey Goalie Parents group.  Renowned goalie coach, Steve McKichan of FuturePro Goaltending has coached many a college, olympic and pro goalie to success over the years.  Here's a video showcasing just a few. Suffice it to say, Steve knows a bit about what it takes to make it to the Big Dance.

First topic up:  What's the best pathway to success as a hockey goalie?  Here's what Steve had to say:

Be an Athlete First – Goalie Second

One of the key things that NHL scouts look for are multi-disciplined athletes. If an athlete can learn and excel in other sports with different skill sets and physiological requirements than it bodes well for their ability to play the current sport at the higher professional level. An argument can easily be made that mutli-disciplined athletes have a far greater chance of success at the pro levels than one that doesn't.  I have been an NHL and junior scout and know first hand this is the reality.

The biggest issue I have witnessed in over 2 decades coaching goalies and running schools is the fact that too many athletes focus entirely on one sport. In this case, many goalies specialize in their position early in their athletic development, risking their future success.  We have all observed this early specialization in other sports. Amazing skills and feats are highlighted by 9 and 10 year olds on You Tube. It is cool to see the little boy execute perfect chip shots on the golf course but where will he be in 10 years?

I have several reasons for this opinion and it is important to walk through them and understand how early specialization can cause the opposite result from the one most parents want.

The first reason early specialization should be avoided:

“Young athletes who participate in a variety of sports have fewer injuries and play sports longer than those who specialize before puberty.” (Brenner 2007)
     Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

If an athlete focuses entirely on goaltending before 15 – 16 they put themselves at a significantly higher risk of injury.  As well, 22% of athletes who specialized before high school, completely dropped ALL athletic participation once they were in high school. So putting all you eggs in the goaltending basket will see increased risk of injury and a significant risk of athletic burnout.

The second issue that arises in this discussion is the misguided belief that parents have with their children’s “careers”.  They don’t have careers…yet.   And too many parents see their childrens' participation as financial investments hoping that specialization will see their money returned when their kid gets to the NHL. They mistakenly believe that a strict focus on their chosen position and sport will increase the success rate of becoming a pro. This is wrong.

Using goaltending as an example, here are my personal guidelines:

  1. Maintain your goaltending passion and hunger by not stopping pucks year round.
    Play during the winter and hit a camp or two in the summer. Play other sports and meet new friends in the spring and summer.  If we can ignore his personal transgressions for the moment, Tiger Wood’s actually had the perfect father for his development. On the driving range, Tiger would beg to stay longer because he loved practicing so much. He had to stay longer. Earl Woods would have none of that. He always left well before Tiger wanted to. This always left him wanting more.  Too many parents tell me that their kid loves hockey so much they really want to play all the time. By not allowing your goalie to play as often as they want is actually helping them instead of stunting their growth and development as a goalie.
  2. Diversify into other sports so there is some latent learning that translates into helping your goaltending. In the new NHL athleticism is key to get to your positional targets and in the battle for loose pucks. Sports like lacrosse, tennis, racket ball, and soccer have great physiological inputs and hand / foot eye benefits that will easily translate into a higher save percentage.  Modern goalies are now growing up addicted to process and technique. Obviously they are important areas for goalies to develop but not at the expense of athleticism and plain ugly battling.
    By scrambling around in a squash court or lunging to score an amazing goal in lacrosse, we create an athletic diversity that will surely pay dividends down the road.
  3. Once you reach the age of 15 – 16 then a more refined approach can begin and specialization will become a welcomed approach.
    When legendary goaltending coach, Mitch Korn scouted me as a junior he was very interested in my participation in other sports. I was a starting quarterback, played soccer, baseball and golf.

To reach your goaltending goals you must maintain hunger, passion and become gifted multi-dimensional athletes. Your goaltending development should be secondary.

Did you ever notice that the Vezina trophy winners are invariably dynamic, athletic and are not rigid cookie cutter goaltending robots?

UP NEXT:  What Are Scouts Looking For?

No comments:

Post a Comment