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Top ten tips on how to become a good street or ball hockey goalie
When you read articles about hockey or you hear it talked about, the debate about 'who is best' always seems to revolve around some forward, usually a centre. Goalies are almost always never in contention.
Yet, when you think about it a player is concerned good with a 20% shooting percentage. Sometimes lower if they get a lot of shots. Imagine if a goaltender was only successful 20% of the time!! They wouldn't win a single game. As a goalie the margin for error is slim and the potential for glory not much better. This is true in street hockey as well. Certainly people will want the goalie that they think will help them win, but what if you could take your play to the next level, and be talked about and praised after the game and fought over for your services?
Now most people aren't willing to make a huge commitment to something that is usually done on a casual basis with a bunch of friends, but you CAN take your game to the next level with just a few insights and tips and enjoy a new level of confidence in your play. Some of this may apply in a lot of ways to Ice hockey too, but it is intended for street hockey players.
1. Be flexible: Go to the library, or even your gym if you have a membership and learn good stretching techniques. Not just warm up stretches, but to increase your overall flexibility. You don't need to spend a ton of time on it each day, but over time you will increase your range and mobility within the crease and open up new options for yourself for stopping shots.
2. Know where you are: We've all seen it happen, even with pro goalies. A goal is let in because they didn't have the right angle and they 'lost the net'. Can be tough not to do when the net is behind you, and even harder when you don't have things like a face off circle to help orient yourself. There is one small trick to this. Some of you may remember a goalie named Ron Hextal. He had a habit of facing out from his net and hitting the goal posts with his stick before a game. This was usually considered a superstition, but it is also very useful. It connects a physical act and sensation to your relative position to the net. This will help imprint a sense of where the net is in your brain. The better that is, the better you can play the angles.
3. The ball has eyes: Try to imagine the ball has eyes. It can't hit what it cant see. This may seem silly, but having this mindset will be a huge help.
4. Too much of a good thing: As a general rule, it is a good idea to move out and face a shot square to the shooter. This gives a lot less net to shoot at, effectively blocking the 'eyes' of the ball. However, you must remember that the further out you come to cut the angle, the further you will have to come if the shooter manages to pass to an open player. If your defense is good, and you have confidence that they can block a pass across, then cut the angle aggressively. If not, then it may be wise to hedge your bets and compromise a little in favour of being able to move quickly from post to post. Curtis Joseph is a good example of a goalie who tends to play a little deeper in his crease.
5. Play the shot not the shooter: Some players will try to fake and fool you, but simply don't play along. No matter how good a player is, the ball still has to obey the laws of physics. The more you can keep the ball centered with your navel, and the less net it can 'see' the better your chances will be of stopping the shot.
6. Be aggressive and decisive with your stick: Learn to maximize your goal stick as a tool. We all know the value of a good poke check, but you can also use it to break up passes, block pass outs and wraparounds from behind the net and so on. Learn how to time these moves to take the opposing players by surprise. You will enjoy feeling less at their mercy, and they will learn that they cant dipsy doodle in front of you all day.
7. Have no shame: Release your inner Haskek. Be one with the power of Tim Thomas. It is good to know a technically sound butterfly, but at the end of the day it is all about getting yourself or some part of yourself in front of that shot. Never worry about how it looks and always make the attempt. It may look and feel less than graceful at times, but nothing makes you look better than winning.
8. Never make 30 saves: Think about it. If a professional hockey player were to take thirty shots on you, probably a good chance a lot would go in. I mean we do this just for fun right?
Well what about only one shot? That sounds more doable. It might take a bit of luck, but you'd have a decent chance of stopping one shot right? Then why not think of every shot as that 'one shot'. This will help you focus on what you need to do, and not worry about what came before or comes after in a game.
9. Practice right: Find someone willing to help you work on your goal tending and not just their shot. Have them bring a few street hockey balls and take moderately easy shots on you one after another. Get used to how the ball moves, and how it reacts when it hits you. Try to absorb the ball or even 'pulling' it off to the sides like a batter pulls a ball in baseball. This will help with your anticipation in following the play as well as helping you control your rebounds. From there you can move on to harder shots once you're warmed up and work on your reflexes and reaction timing. Finish with a few rounds of breakaway practice.
10. Don't catch what can hit you: As exciting as that big glove save can be, if you are reaching to make saves more often than not either you, your defense or possibly both are not doing something right. If you have to reach for a shot, that probably means you are out of options if you give up a rebound. Stay centered and square to the ball and keep it's 'view' of your net blocked. Then if they get a rebound you can still flash out the glove, or kick out a pad sprawl into a snow angel and so on as you work through your save options. Just don't give it up all at once.
Good luck and happy goal tending!!