The secret to goaltending success isn’t really a secret. The problem is that the key ingredient to success is very difficult to attain. That ingredient is consistency. If you want to be a successful goalie, and by that I mean the best possible goalie you can be, you have to be consistent. Consistency itself is formed from other components such as, focus, desire to win, good habits, and hard work.
It seems almost pointless to argue over who was or is the best goalie of all time. When I think of the best, I think of Patrick Roy, Dominic Hasek, Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall, Terry Sawchuk, Ken Dryden, Bernie Parent, Tony Esposito, and Grant Fuhr to name a few. Each reader will have their own list, but regardless of which goalies you believe to be among the best of all time, look closely at your candidates. The first thing you may notice is that they all had or have different styles. None of the above goalies played the position the same way. Some were butterfly goalies while others were stand up. They all have different statures, as well. Some were (are) quicker and played a more reaction style while others played a more solid positional game. Although all the best goalies have had differences, they all had consistency in common. Thus, the main ingredient for greatness would have to be consistency.
So how does a goalie become consistent? Well, as previously stated, there are many components to consistency and we’ll touch on a few of the most important ones here.
HABITS. The first main ingredient is developing positive habits. We’re all creatures of routine and we have both good and bad habits. To become consistently good in goal, you must develop positive habits. That means that you have to perfect the fundamentals of the position so that in games, you respond to shots on goal with flawlessly executed saves as often as humanly possible. This is what coaches mean when they say the old adage, “perfect practice makes perfect.” When you consistently perform your saves without a glitch, over and over again, you have taken another step closer to consistency.
WORK ETHIC. Going hand in hand with perfecting your fundamentals is developing a solid work ethic. Since you will have to perform the fundamentals over and again to perfect them, you must have the desire and work ethic to keep the pace. Of course, your desire to be consistent is also of the utmost importance. The desire to improve and to achieve consistency will help your work ethic develop and it will also help make the task seem less daunting.
FOCUS. Lastly, a goalie must be able to maintain focus throughout practice and games in order to reach a successful level of consistency. Let’s not pull any punches here. Sometimes, depending on the team you play for, goaltending can actually get boring. At times, the mind begins to wonder and you catch yourself thinking about pizza and locker combinations rather than the puck. It as at these times, that the goalie has to bear down and keep his or her mind where it belongs, on the ice, on the puck, and thinking about reacting to make the very next save. At practice, if there is a lull in the action, discipline yourself to do something constructive. Work on an aspect of your game that you know needs fine tuning. Or challenge yourself to stay still and keep thinking about the puck and watch the play at the other end and see how long you can stay focused. The more you do it, the longer you be able to maintain your focus in games.
If you begin practicing toward the perfection of your saves through desire, a good work ethic, and focus, you will start to gain consistency, which is the key to longevity and even greatness as a goalie. But make no mistake, it isn’t easy. There are a lot of very good goalies out there who never reached the heights for which they seemed destined and the main reason is consistency. It is not enough to take the Randy Moss, Vikings’ wide receiver, approach of playing when you want to. Not if you want to be great. You have to do it night in and night out to reach the highest levels. It doesn’t do you any good to have all the tools and not use them.
Contributed by Darren Hern