5 Off-Ice Activities to Improve Your Game

5 off-ice activities goalies can do to help improve their on-ice game

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    The world of goaltending, hockey, and athletics in general is changing rapidly. Gone are the days where training camp was to get players geared up for their season. Gone are the days where you could show up to the rink and just play. Nowadays, what you do off the ice to supplement your game is just as – or maybe even more important – than the efforts you put in on the ice. Also, ice time is unfortunately minimal and may not offer the proper amount of time to work on the things you need to work on. As important as it is to work on the fundamentals of movements and save execution, what else can you be doing away from the rink to get to the next level?

    Video

    Goaltending is a very unique position in sport, and probably the closest comparable would be a football quarterback. Not only must you know the fundamentals of your position, but you must also be aware of what your teammates are doing and potentially will do, and the same goes for the opposing players. This requires a goalie to really be a student of the game. The best way to do this is to watch video. Game film of yourself, of the other team, of your team; it all helps to identify areas of improvement and strength, to pick up tendencies and patterns, and to better understand situations.

    This situational awareness is what sets the good goalies from the great. A lot of times, this is referred to as the “sixth sense” that goalies develop as they get more experience. They are able to use their surroundings to anticipate the play, what players will do, and where the puck will go. By using video, a goalie can better understand how they currently play certain situations, and what can be improved the next time they find themselves in that situation. It can provide insight into if a goalie is not adapting to certain situations. For example, watching video of a back door goal can show that the goalie didn’t recognize the threat back door, gained too much depth (came out too far from the goal line), and therefore left themselves too long of a push to get back door and ultimately couldn’t get there in time to make the save. You can then practice doing better at identifying threats, such as shoulder checking and peripheral vision work. This can also help you to identify the need to work on their depth choice in these situations.

    Another benefit to watching video is picking up tendencies of players, both friendly and opposing. Do you notice one of your defensemen always takes the player with the puck on a 2 on 1? Play the two on one with less depth because the pass is more likely to come across to the weak side player. Does the team you’re about to play like to funnel pucks to the point to their defenseman with an absolute bomb of a shot? Now you know to gain some more depth and get set early on that pass up top to provide more net coverage. Is the star player from the other team known to set up for one timers on the back side face-off dot on a powerplay? Play a little deeper to get across quicker, and shoulder check to see where they are, and if you have time and beat the pass across, challenge them with a step out towards them to cut down the angle of their one-timer. All of these things can be picked up by watching video, and help you to understand how the game is unfolding in front of you.

    There are countless – and I mean COUNTLESS – situations a goalie could and will find themselves in during games. This is why video is such a crucial part to helping improve your game. It doesn’t always have to be your video, or video of the opposing team either. Watch the pros, or the major junior goalies, or even other goalies playing at your level. Find out what they are doing successfully, or what they could’ve done better on a goal against. See how they read the play in front of them, how they communicate with their teammates. You’ll be amazed at what you find once you break it down.

    If you would like a professional break down of your game or practice footage to help get a better sense of what you are doing well and what you need to work on, sign up for our video breakdown program.

    Training Your Body

    One of the quickest ways to end a goalie’s success is through injury. Given the unnatural movements that occur while playing the position, goalies are highly susceptible to getting hurt. What you do off the ice to help condition your body for the rigors of goaltending will not only help to prevent injury, but will go a long way in improving your performance as well.

    One of the big myths about goaltending is that it is all about flexibility and stretching. Yes, stretching is a very important aspect of the position, but the thing that is very underrated is the strength training component. A goalie who is super flexible but has weak muscles will have a higher likelihood of something going wrong. Your body relies on muscles to help support joints, ligaments, and tendons. Without having strong muscles (especially key muscles groups such as the core, back, and lower body muscles), the risk for injury increases and the potential for high performance decreases.

    Instill a balanced approach to training your body. Flexibility training to help retain elasticity in your muscles to move in awkward positions, and strength training to help support the joints and prevent your muscles from being over exerted. You can get some tips on where to start with this article.

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    Cognitive Training

    Much like what was discussed in the video section, goalies are put through a lot of different scenarios on the ice during a game. Being able to process information quickly is a big key to success as a goalie. With upwards of 11 other players on the ice, there are a lot of moving bodies and a lot of potential outcomes with bounces, shots, passes, dump-ins, blocked shots, etc.

    Being able to process the information around you, such as the open guy back door, the left-handed forward in the slot, your defenseman who fell in the corner, the puck that bounced off a shin pad, is going to help determine how well you play. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to increase your processing ability, and reduce the time it takes to process information. Much like a muscle, your brain can be trained to get faster and stronger.

    Any sort of cognitive exercises that help to train your brain will help improve your cognitive function, aka, make your brain quicker and stronger. Something as simple as performing a concentration grid on a daily basis, or by using some more complex products, such as Vizual Edge, can help your brain begin to be a better version of itself.

    Memory activities, puzzles, word and number games (like crosswords or sudoku), riddles, etc. These are all types of activities you can be doing to improve your cognitive function. This will help lead to better situational awareness and quicker reaction times. Two things that make a big difference in a goalie’s game.

    Tracking

    Tracking goes very much hand in hand with cognitive training. Since your brain uses mostly visual information to process the world around it, being dialed in with your ability to use your eyes track items (more specifically, a puck) can go a long way in improving your game on the ice. The best part about tracking is you can be getting better at it off the ice, and it has a large impact on your on-ice game.

    Something as easy as bouncing a ball of a wall and watching it into your hand (make sure your hand is in front of your body!) as you catch it is a great starting point. You can start to progress from there to make things more complicated, such as facing a wall and having someone behind you throw a ball over you to bounce it off the wall and catch it. This makes it harder to have to pick up the ball.

    There are also lots of training aids you can use such as reaction balls, eye-hand coordination sticks, Senaptec Goggles (use code DIYGOALIE15 or DIYGOALIE50 for elite strobes for a discount), and plenty of other options. These training aids can help to make tracking items harder and improve the speed at which your brain processes the visual information it is given.

    Remember that when you are working on tracking, you are keeping your eyes fixated on what you are tracking. A lot of goalies on the ice track past their save, meaning they are already looking to the corner for a stick save rebound, or looking at their blocker for a blocker save before the puck has got there. This usually results in missing the puck and either allowing a goal or giving up a bad rebound. Keep the eyes on the prize!

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    Cross-Training

    Cross-training basically means escaping the net. Find a sport or hobby that keeps you active but is different than what you do as a hockey goalie. One of the best ways to improve cardio, strength, flexibility, etc., is when you don’t even know you are working on those things. Cross-training is great for this, as it allows your body to be performing tasks and movements that it may not get a chance to while playing the position of goaltending.

    Former NHL goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was noted to be an avid tennis player in his time off. Tennis is a fantastic sport for eye-hand coordination, cardio, leg strength, and many other skillsets that can help on the ice. Golf is a very popular sport among the hockey community. What it can teach is patience, focus, and mechanical consistency. Playing hockey as a forward can help see the game from a different perspective as well as work on stick handling abilities and cardio.

    The list could go on an on. The big benefit though is offering your body a chance to build on its skillset in an environment different than what it may be used to. Escaping from the crease every now and then is also a good way to give yourself a mental break and to refresh a little bit when it comes to the goaltending position. It also offers a fun and exciting challenge to try and get better and excel at a new sport or activity. Find something that interests you and that helps to compliment some of the areas you find you may need to improve upon on the ice.

     

    Be deliberate with what you do off the ice. Ice time is limited, and goalie-specific training is limited. Use the time and resources that you can off the ice to make a difference in your on-ice performance. The commitment to improving yourself off the ice is what will set you apart from your competition. Find the routines that work best for you and stick with them. Commit to the art of getting better, and your on-ice game will be better because of it.

    Sign up for our email list to receive three exclusive videos to help improve your game as well as monthly tips and goalie specific practice plans!

       

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