It’s starting to get a bit warmer outside, and for most minor hockey teams, the season is winding down. Hopefully you all created some great memories and had lots of fun this season. I know some of my goalies had greats seasons, and I’m very proud of all their hard work this year. It won’t be long now before the focus will shift to tryouts. It’s amazing how quickly it seems to come once the season finishes. Invariably, every year I get the same question: “what are coaches looking for when I try out?” The answer is, hopefully several things. Having been on both sides of this question, let me break down how I look at goalies during tryouts.
- Skating – I cannot emphasise enough how important skating is to a goalie’s game. I look for the obvious things like balance and speed, but I also look for the subtle things like precision. Does the goalie hit their spot every time, square and with good depth, in their stance? Are they leading with their head, eyes, and stick blade as they move? Can they stay in a position to react throughout their movements, or does it take them some time to get set? If you focus on developing your skating, your whole game will improve.
- Puck Control – If you’re trying out to play on a rep level team, I assume you’re already skilled enough to stop the puck. Most average goalies can get some body part in the way of a shot. What sets elite level goaltenders apart is that they control the game by controlling where the puck goes after they save it. Goalies who are putting rebounds out into scoring areas give coaches fits. Work on deflecting low shots into corners and holding onto anything in the top 2/3 of the net.
- Stop the Puck – At the end of the day, just like any other job, results matter. You can be the best looking goalie on the ice, but if you can’t keep the puck out of the net, it’s going to be tough to make a case to keep you. Just focus on being solid. Make the saves you’re supposed to make, and don’t worry about being flashy. Nothing is more frustrating than a goalie who makes the big windmill glove save, only to let in the next easy shot along the ice.
Those are the biggest elements I look for when evaluating goalies. Obviously there are other skills such as puckhandling that are certainly nice to have, but it’s the goalies who are great at the basics who really excel.
With that in mind, make use of all the ice time you have leading up to tryouts to get better at the foundational skills of the game. Be hard on yourself in drills. Don’t let any of the details slide.
When the tryout comes around, be confident and trust your preparation. Only worry about what you can control, and trust that the coaches will see your attention to detail.
Good luck! See you at the rink.