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by Coach Brad

With spring hockey teams popping up all over the place like dandelions in your neighbourhood fields, I would like to address the often asked question: What's your thoughts on spring hockey?

The following is a quick caption pertaining to MY thoughts - and not necessarily my staff - on having goalies join these “AAA”, “Elite”, “Platinum”, “Gold”, “Top Tier” etc. spring hockey teams.

I will start with saying that there are some good quality programs available that offer great development opportunities, in our case goaltender specific training with a QUALIFIED goaltending coach. I would like to warn you here that anyone can buy a track suit have "<insert catchy name> Goaltending”, run some drills they found on youtube and call themselves a goalie coach. I say this to simply remind parents and goalies that there isn't a governing body that oversees that all goalies coaches are necessarily qualified or experienced, not is there any official certification. Unfortunately, this is a reality and one of my frustrations as I see many families spending a lot of money on their child's development and too often it is not with qualified instruction. Don’t be afraid to ask coaches what their qualifications are to work with your young child, their experience, or where they played.

Without proper coaching, weaknesses compound by allowing goalies to continue repeating improper habits without any correction. In practices, goalies tend to get bombarded with shots raining in from all areas of the ice at breakneck speeds with no time to set, recover, or receive any essential feedback. I pose the question, is this how goalies at a young age are suppose to develop a strong foundation?

Spring and summer is the time when goaltenders of all ages and levels get significant opportunity to make the necessary changes to their games based on their individual needs. These adjustments require hundreds of reps in order to be learned so that when evaluations and the season get under way, these adjustments have become an automatic piece of their overall elevated game. If goalies are not offered the opportunity to improve their game, both technically and tactically in these formative foundation building years, then what is the reasoning for putting them on a spring team if it is in fact your goal to develop your child in this unique position.

Sports experts have raised the concern that kids are quitting hockey as early as 13. The questions we must ask, is why?

Are they burned out? Injured from overuse? Are they not having fun anymore? Or is there too much pressure to being perceived a “golden” goalie? Perhaps they are missing out on the enjoyment of other sports? Keep in mind many of which actually work on their game as a goalie:

Soccer = direction change, acceleration/deceleration, eye/foot coordination.

Tennis = as above with hand eye added, badminton, lacrosse, martial arts. The list goes on.

Sport training has taken a very significant shift from just sport specific training to being an all around dynamic athlete. This is even more true for goalies.

Are you getting the most bang for your buck?

If the main reason for putting your goaltender in spring hockey is to help them develop into a better goalie, ask yourself - what plan does the program have in place to achieve that?

I want to be clear here that there are many well-run programs that do have a goaltending element. My question is do they truly get the time required to develop a goalies game each practice?

The average cost associated with most of these spring hockey programs is in excess of $1,000. I can’t argue that the kids look great in their jerseys, t-shirts, track suits, bags etc. But, imagine the development that one goalie could achieve with that amount of money working solely on goaltending technical and tactical elements with a qualified, professional and experienced coach.

A goaltenders development differ's greatly from players, especially in the early years as these are critical times where they need to build a technical foundation to achieve success in the position.

Understand I am not saying “do not do spring hockey”. I am simply saying choose wisely and know why you are putting your child in the spring program you are choosing. Research and asses the program for the best quality and get the most bang for your buck. There are now many, many, many choices for you. Be selective and ask the necessary questions of the coach or GM as it pertains to your goalies development and progress.

Don't get snowed this spring,

Coach Brad

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