So, you want to be a goaltender? It's an age-old question, one that has challenged youngsters and their parents alike. Why would anyone volunteer to play a position generally considered one of the toughest in sports, a position where you can only lose games, not win them?
Much like having the top quarterbacks, the performance of goaltenders is often the difference between winning championships.
It's the most important position on the floor and the one most responsible for league and tournament success and failure. The reason why becoming a great goalie is such a difficult challenge is because there are so many skills to master, some of which players are born with and others that require years of training to polish.
Not only are there plenty of physical attributes required for success, a great amount of mental toughness is also needed to enjoy a lengthy career.
Let's look at a breakdown of what makes a perfect goaltender from players of today and the past.
This is the "fighting spirit" that often separates average goalies from good goalies, and good goalies from great goalies. You often have to fight for position, or fight to find the ball. You can't shy away from contact, or other challenges that your opponents present. You have to embrace it.
There are many times throughout each game when goalies cannot see the ball. This is why good positioning is so essential.
Positioning also helps goaltenders stop deflections that occur within a few feet of the net. Good positioning goes a long way in making sure the ball stays out of the net when it cannot be seen or takes a sudden deflection. It also helps goalies fill the net and take away open areas in the net for opponents to target.
Another part of positioning is awareness. Being aware of your surroundings and identifying which players are in a position to score are crucial to a goalie's ability to react quickly.
Male - Dana Carnegie
Female – Laura Guiducci
Size, of course, isn't everything. You have to be able to move, and move quickly. Some goalies take more quickly to goalie-specific techniques, but everyone can improve to the point of behind a serviceable backstop with the requisite effort. Still, each of us has a certain level of natural athleticism, and the great netminders are usually granted an extra measure.
A common display of athleticism is moving laterally from post to post, which often happens on two-on-one odd-man rushes and one-time shots on the power play.
The old saying "you can't teach speed" doesn't really apply for goaltenders. Improving athleticism can be accomplished with many on- and off-ice exercises and drills that focus on agility and lateral movement.
Male – Bill Dark
Female – Carol Zaborski
We have seen far too many goaltenders with the requisite physical tools to succeed fall short because they simply didn't have the resolve to put in the grueling hours to maximize those gifts. Many of them could talk the talk, but they wouldn't walk the walk. Great goalies know that practice is where the difference is made.
The first rule of goaltending is that you're going to give up goals. The key is how you respond to those goals. There are good goals and bad goals. But they all count the same, and the key is to not let one bad goal lead to another.
Another underrated trait. Whether it's flopping to quickly, or being too aggressive, impatience is not the goalie's friend. By the very nature of the position, you have to let the play come to you. That requires discipline, but patience will serve you well.
Male – David Di Gironimo
Female – Joann Cortese
Some goalies are naturally confident. Others gain a measure through hard work, repetition, and experiencing the success that often results. Confidence isn't arrogance. It's a belief that, no matter shots may have gotten behind you, the next one won't. And it's not enough for a goalie to be sure about his or her own abilities. They have to exude confidence
The notion of "taking ownership" is vital for goaltenders. As great as some goalies are, they have one job, and that was to keep the ball out of the net. Goalies need to accept this reality. If they do, their teammates will play harder in front of them.
Male – Bruno Pullara
Female – Danielle Bailey
Toughness/Passion/Sense of Humor
The ability to handle pressure is paramount. You're going to get knocked down. Few goalies go through life without giving up bad goals. And these days, when goalies are becoming so dominant, and goals are even harder to come by, the pressure to be perfect has never been greater. Dealing with that requires intestinal fortitude.
A goalie has to "want it" to be great. Passion is what drives a goaltender to work hard every time he or she is on the floor. Passion means taking care of your gear, getting to the rink early, helping your teammates. Simply, it means doing whatever it takes to win.
A sense of humor is one of the most underrated traits for a goaltender. You have to be able to enjoy it. Our experiences show us that the more fun players have, the less likely they'll burn out. This is really about perspective.
Male – Paul Zarnett
Female – Katherine Padmore
Good eyesight/Hand-eye coordination/Reflexes
Most would agree, "if they can see the shot, they can stop it." That's why you'll see so many forwards crowding the slot.
Hand-eye coordination. Having 20/20 eyesight is a good start, but you've got to be able to react to what you see. Hand-eye coordination is the ability to translate what you see into action, and get your body (or another piece of equipment) behind the ball.
Reflexes are closely related to hand-eye coordination. Ball hockey is a game of speed. With the advent of composite sticks, even at the intermediate and youth levels, players are shooting the ball harder and faster all the time. Being naturally quick is an enormous advantage.
Male – Paul Reid
Female – Karen Nesdoly
Despite the improvement in goaltending gear, getting hit with a ball can still hurt. A goalie has to accept that they will occasionally get a stinger. Knowing that, and still bearing down on each shot without flinching, while remaining cool and calm, takes guts.
Good goalies are usually students of the game. During actual games, a sharp goalie will pick up on tendencies of the opposing team and other details – is the attacking player a right shot or left? – that help with positioning and instructions for the defense. "Read and react" is the goalie's mantra.
Goalies must learn to be "on point" the entire time they are on the floor and remain focused.
Male – Jamie Falle
Female – Jalene McCulloch
So there we have it. The seven goalies that would be used for parts to create the perfect ball hockey goalie.