Monday, January 4, 2016

Taking it to the Next Level, Vol. 4.1: Communication on the Ice

For part 4 of our series, we invited frequent HGP contributor, Tony Raffo, to discuss the importance of developing good communication skills, both on and off the ice.  Tony is the director of IGT-Intensity Goaltender Training and currently serves as the goalie coach for Hockey Thurgau in the Swiss NLB Pro League.  

Whether on not a he sports the captain's C, the goalie plays a critical leadership role on the ice.  Often, he is in the best position to observe the play development and can communicate critical information to the rest of the team at key points during the play.  Here's what Tony had to say:

Communication is such important element in taking your game to the next level.  Most importantly, a goalie must lead, direct, and yell to their team during practices and games, and NOT yell at their teammates after a goal. That's another subject, but what a goalie says and does during play, as well as during stoppages, will help to make a good goalie great, and a great goalie "overwhelmingly awesome", to steal a line from a colleague, Steve McKichan. So, DO the following in practices and games: 
  1. START AND KEEP TALKING: The hardest part for a young goalie is getting started. As a parent, you can help your child to speak and yell in a positive way. You can have some fun with them role playing to start, maybe with their siblings and friends. It doesn't have to be hockey related. Just get them used to speaking and yelling in public. Attending school plays, theater, and other live performances will help. It's a great way to connect with your children and get them to put the phones away!
    For older, more experienced goalies, coaches and teammates must hold them accountable for doing this, and doing it loudly. A good D man will demand that from them, because many times it is difficult for a defenseman to focus on the play going on behind them. For example, if your D goes into the corner first after a loose puck, a simple: "ON YOU", or "TIME", or "CLEAR", can be helpful.  These should not be long sentences! Use quick, short words and phrases. Remember, t
    his does not have to be a normal part of their personality.  It is a skill that can be developed. Many performers are very shy and reserved, then hit a switch when they go on!
  2. SAY ANYTHING: In the beginning, it really doesn't matter what you say. Just start talking and yelling, and keep it up in practices and games. Lead and quarterback the players during practices and games. For example, many coaches run simply shooting drills, 1 on 0. I'm not a fan of this, but it happens A LOT.  Even in shooting drills, the goalie should be yelling at the player to skate fast and shoot, not deke.  Keep it simple.  Yell "SKATE" or SHOOT", just to get used to talking a lot.
    At higher levels, goalies should lead and direct their team. In a 2 on 1,it does little good to yell:
     "I GOT SHOOTER" Better options would be: "STAY UP" or "GET BACK.  Shouting "RELEASE" is also good when a goalie wants the D to solely play the pass in tight, leaving the shooter to attempt a close shot, or to try and cut across the net where the goalie can be aggressive.
  3. OWN THE STOPPAGES: It's very important for the goalie to manage and control breaks in play, especially with a defensive zone face off.  The center must be sure the goalie is ready before they step in. Players must be positioned properly to defend. I recently had a situation with our junior team in which an opponent had a player wide off the far side post and our team did not adjust.  The puck got to him off a quick shot for an easy rebound goal. In that situation, our goalie should have not allowed the center to step in UNTIL we had proper coverage.
    Goalies should also take every opportunity to slow the game down when things are not going well. Take stoppages and stall for time when your team needs time to regroup. When things are going well, he should move the puck when appropriate, let the clock run to speed the game up or set up the play to eat up the clock at other times. All of these things are under the goalie's control, manageable, and very important in leading their team to victory!
  4. MANAGE BODY LANGUAGE: How a goalie prepares and conducts herself off the ice, in the locker room, as well as on the ice in practices, warm-ups, and games, speaks volumes to her team, coaches, and opponents. For example, when I see a goalie step on the ice slowly, skate slowly, and "stretch" for long periods of time, sitting on the ice or down on one knee, that looks bad. There is never a reason for a goalie to be on the ice doing nothing. If he is not needed in the net for a drill, he should be working on his own, getting some water quickly, or speaking with his coaches and teammates. If she is tired, she may skate around, shake her legs out, shoot some pucks, makes some passes, and PRACTICE what she has learned from all the GREAT coaching available today.  A goalie can go to the best goalie camps and take private lessons from the best coaches in the world, but if they don't put into practice what they learned, it means nothing.
I'm an old school coach, but the reward for that was having had the opportunity to see current Flyer's GM Ron Hextall play and train live. That was an aggressive, intimidating show. Some of you may have caught the end of his career, and perhaps you've seen old clips on YouTube, but in his mid '80's prime, he could lead and carry a team like no other goalie I have ever seen. He was always a bundle of energy and emotion and at practice he never stopped.  Even when resting, he had a puck, skated, shot, AND when in goal he battled and fought to stop every shot.  In my opinion, that is missing with many today in our "cookie-cutter" (Steve McKichan again) world of 12 year old goalies with moves like Jagr, who don't, or can't, stop the puck! 

Volume 4.2 preview: Verbal & Written Communication

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