Home > General, Technique > Keep Calm And Carry On

Keep Calm And Carry On

keep calm and play hockey - Image Credit: http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/topnotchposters/?_trksid=p4340.l2559Goaltending is much more mental than it is physical. There is an immense amount of pressure to always be perfect and there is a lack of understanding from your teammates, the referees, and the crowd. You are required to make split second decisions on a variety of things that can be the difference between going home a winner or getting a stiff neck from constantly reaching back to pull pucks out of the net.

Being a goalie, you already know that it is sometimes not easy being one. There are too many misconceptions that are out there among players to list, but the general concept here is that they do not understand what it is like to play the position. They are not aware of the amount of work we put in off the ice to be able to show up and stand on our heads every game. When a player botches a pass or misses the net on a slapshot, there typically is not a microscope on them. However, it is a different story for goaltenders. Many goals are seen as a complete failure on our part with nothing else taken into account.

Your role as a goalie is to keep track of the puck at all times and be hyper-aware of your surroundings. This involves being able to assess the danger level by seeing where opposing players are setting up and where your teammates are positioning themselves. As you follow the puck cycling around you also have to notice where players are shifting to. If you do not notice a player parked on your side, a pass can easily be made for a one-timer before you can react.

This might sound silly, but there is pressure when your team is up a few goals as well as if you are pitching a shutout. The last thing you want is for a few quick goals to be scored and the game is tied, or worse you are no longer in the lead. The momentum of a game can change in an instant, so you have to on your game from start to stop. As it gets closer to the end of a game and you have been flawless, the intensity mounts with each passing second to not give up a goal and preserve that shutout. This can cause you to over analyze the game situations and reduce the fluidity of your movements.

Depending on where the puck is you have to make decisions about how far to come out of the crease as well as making sure you are on angle and square to the puck. Once a shot is taken you then have to determine in a fraction of a second the trajectory of the puck and make the best save selection to prevent a rebound/goal. The difficulty level increases when you are being screened, have an odd-man rush, or a breakaway.

When a rebound occurs you have to anticipate before it happens the direction and distance away from you the puck rebounds to, readjust your position, and get ready to make another save. This is all happening while players are scrambling around trying to setup for another goal attempt.

In the event a goal is scored there are additional challenges that present themselves. You might get dirty looks or nasty comments from your teammates, the other team might taunt you, and you might get heckled by the crowd. Last but not least you also have to contend with your own mind and any negativity it tries to bring to the surface. If you allow all of the mental challenges to get to you it can be quite overwhelming, causing you to be nervous, overreact, and not enjoy the sport.

The trick to keeping your wits is pretty simple: Keep Calm and Carry On. The best thing you can do is keep your mind clear and your emotions calm during a game no matter what the situation. I mentioned before tips and techniques on how to clear your mind and stay focused. You have to find whatever works for you. Whether it be a mantra you repeat or a post tapping method, figure out what clears your mind the quickest and retains that state the longest.

Do not concern yourself with what the other people around have to say. They do not know what it is like to be a goalie and deep down they are envious and jealous of the things we are able to do out there in our pads. Break the game into small, manageable pieces. If the puck is in their offensive zone keep your laser focus on the puck but do not think about all the possible scenarios that could play out. Just focus on the movement of the puck. That is it.

When the puck makes it’s way into your zone, if you were paying attention to the puck from the start, you will already see the play unfolding before they cross the blue line. You know right away whether it is an odd-man rush or an even attack. Instead of worrying about what the players without the puck are doing, once again focus on the puck and use your peripheral vision and lightning-fast glances to see what is going on.

No matter what level you play at, trust your teammates to do their part. I know that sounds crazy, especially for some of you beer leaguer’s (like myself), but if you focus on the puck and do everything in your power to stop the puck and a goal goes in because of a breakdown from your teammates, you have to let it go. Even if they do not say something or show it on their face, the players know if they are responsible for the goal.

Learn to forgive yourself when you give up a goal or lose the game. Remember that hockey is a team sport. You win as a team and you lose as a team. Getting angry and frustrated with yourself, feeling like a failure, will get you nowhere. You have to find a way to re-frame what happened. In reality you did give up a goal. You chose the wrong save selection or you did not cut down the angle enough or you did not get over in enough time. However, you also were presented with an opportunity to learn and improve as a goalie.

On most goals you give up you almost instantly know what you did wrong. What if every time you give up a goal you play through your mind what you should have/wanted to do instead? Instead of beating yourself up and shutting your mind down you would be opening it up to learning better ways to handle the same situation in the future. Would you rather keep reinforcing a negative mindset that will only lead to unnecessary goals or keep getting better as a goalie, refining your technique?

Even though our position technically demands perfection you have to rid yourself of that mindset. Yes, we all want to pitch a shutout every game, but in reality we know that is not the case. What we all should be striving for is excellence over perfection and doing our best to keep our team in the game. If you can focus on putting maximum effort in each game, even if you lose, you can walk away after the game knowing you did all that you could and that is something to be proud of.

So the next time you start to feel your mind race in the middle of game remember this: Keep Calm and Carry On.

“Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and without panic; it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation.” ~ Vannevar Bush

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