Getting Your Goalies Working Together

Perhaps the greatest and most overlooked aspect of any successful team is getting your goalies working together, to properly develop an effective goaltender tandem.

Coaches fail to employ a more productive team approach when coaching their goaltenders. Within the initial tryout process goaltenders are encouraged to be competitive so they show their best during the selection process, to the exclusion of the other goaltenders. However, once the team has been selected most coaches neglect to construct a more favourable environment which promotes the selected goalies working together.

From the beginning the formulation of a sound goaltending duo starts with how the coach intends to play them. Whatever the playing schedule, it is important that the goaltending duo be made aware of what the coach’s plans are to be.

Some coaches play their goaltenders until they fail. Some coaches give their goaltenders a set percentage of games while others will specifically determine which goalie plays which team. Still others will switch their goaltenders evenly in the belief they deserve to stay sharp. There are so many different approaches. The key in any situation is for the coach to ensure that a healthy cooperative situation is instilled.

Goalies must be working together if they are to improve and it is in the coach’s best interest to make sure that they set up this strong relationship. The key to a successful goaltending duo lies in responsibilities and the proper assignment of such.

Goalies Working Together – Game Activities

A goaltender who isn’t scheduled to play needs to be actively productive in a game. The key phrase is productive! Opening a door is not the most productive use of a goaltender. It is a far better use of a back-up goaltender’s time to have him observe the game so as to provide the in-game goalie with the info needed to improve. When the period is over and the in-game goaltender comes to the bench or into the dressing room both he and the back-up should be consulting, reviewing the period and analyzing those things that could be done more efficiently.

Stats are the best way for a back-up goaltender to observe the game. Goalie stats come in many shapes and sizes depending on what you are trying to measure and what is the age and maturity level of the particular goaltender.

The back-up goaltender can do goalie specific stats. These stats can record shots on net, map where they were shot, indicate what type of shot was taken and which ones were goals. They can note which opposing player took the shot. They can also use a net chart which plots where each shot hit or scored on the net itself.  Another way the back-up goaltender can help is by keeping a game journal which describes each play situation. With these types of info the back-up provides vital feedback for the in-game goaltender. This information can be important when goalies are working together preparing for the next game or encounter against a specific opponent. That is the main objective. A coach should be insuring their goaltenders work on continually preparing themselves for each game and for each and every opponent.

Goalies Working Together – Practice Activity

In practice, an effective goaltending tandem both encourages and pushes each other to raise their game. Setting the tone in practice is the responsibility of the coach. The coach should be ensuring both goaltenders strive to improve continually. Some coaches will use the practice to make their decision on who should play the next game. The most important thing the goaltending duo or tandem should remember is that by doing their best in practice they force their teammates to perform at their peak. An effective goaltending tandem can also lobby the coach to do special practice drills with the intent on improving their skills. This strong tandem, i.e. goalies working together, can insure they receive the attention they need in practice to improve.

When the coach is busy working on drills with the rest of the team the goaltending duo can work together on skating or movement drills. They can provide specific feedback which they can then use to enhance their play. Having each member of the duo analyze their partner helps them to develop their game sense.

Goalies Working Together – Tandem Building Activities

As soon as the coach has made his goaltending decisions the chosen goaltenders should be allowed and, in fact, encouraged to interact is such a way as to develop a tight bond. The first step towards this bonding process will be their initial meeting with the coach. The purpose of this first meeting should be so the coach can lay out his aims and objectives for the goaltenders for the upcoming season.  The coach should also be quite clear with his plans regarding playing time. As I mentioned before, playing time will often depend on the ability of the goaltenders. If there is a definite number 1 goaltender the coach should spell out how he intends to play the duo. Equal rotation, playing a set percentage of games, playing specific goaltenders against specific teams etc. the coach should be clear and should be certain the goaltenders are absolutely clear on their expectations. The coach’s purpose should be to develop his goaltenders in such a way as to improve their play and to have them at their individual best when the team needs them to be.

Once this meeting has concluded the coach should set tasks in place which will require the goaltenders to work together performing specific tasks. Some tasks could be:

  • Have them interview each other to learn as much as they can about each other, then have them present their interview results to the coach or to the team
  • Have the goalies working together watching and scouting an opposing team from the stands in a game with a set scouting form which they are required to fill out together
  • Require the tandem to create a scouting report on each opposing goaltender (i.e. strengths & weaknesses) which the coach can then use to better prepare his team
  • Encourage them to socialize away from the rink
  • Initially, when the team is away from home have them room together, eat together and sit next to each other on the bus or plane

A big part of creating an effective goaltending duo in minor hockey involves the parents. Getting the parents to recognize the importance of goaltending teamwork will help immensely. The coach should be sure to relay this to the goaltending parents encouraging them to formulate an alliance that results in both goaltenders improving rather than in allowing unhealthy competition to arise. The purpose should be to encourage the goalies are working together properly developing.

Remember when all else fails the goaltender has only one person who understands what he is going through – the other goaltender!

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