One of the biggest differentiators of success between the pipes for goalies is simply how to prepare. There are a few key elements to hockey goalie preparation. On ice training, off-ice training, eating the right food, proper warm-up, and hand-eye coordination.
Finding success as a goaltender can be very challenging even for the top athletes in the world. We’re going to take you through the ideal hockey goalie preparation scenario before a game, as well as a few tips for how you can prepare after the game is completed.
A lot of the times coaches don’t spend enough time with the goalies this is due to the fact that most coaches don’t have the experience of playing the position of goalie. This can be very good and very bad for two reasons. First, because they can bring in an expert to teach the goalies and two they can just forget about the goalies in general. What I see far too often is coaches not paying enough attention to the guy or gal standing between the pipes.
This is why more goalies need to start taking matters into their own hands and learning themselves. If you’re struggling with your game, consider downloading our Goalie Training App. The app is designed to give goalies the resources they need to start taking matters into their own hands, by working on their game whenever they get the chance. The app gives goalies a list of constantly updated drills, different game scenarios, nutritional advice, and more.
This article is here to help you in pre and in-game preparation from the mental to the physical side of playing the position.
Goalie Game Day Preparation
Gameday preparation is vitally important in one’s performance. As a goaltender you want every advantage possible to win a game, this all starts in the pre-game routines.
How does a hockey goalie prepare for a game?
A goalie has to be very conscious about what they eat on a day to day and across the course of a season. Little goalies realize the importance of creating a nutrition plan. Your body needs a large amount of energy to play this sport and if it isn’t getting the required energy you will be in trouble. I suggest staying away from high sugar foods in the days prior to game time. I also suggest having high protein and high carbohydrate diet so that your body can repair itself and have the energy to play the game.
Hockey goalies have to be very well hydrated in the days before and day of game, this is just being smart and there is really no other options. It may be hard for many goalies to stay hydrated, but you have to force yourself to get enough liquids in so that your body can function properly.
Sleep is a very critical aspects of the pre game routine that will help you perform at the best of your ability. Hockey goalies should be getting a sufficient amount of sleep leading up to a game, this is different for everyone, but it should be anywhere from 7-10 hours the night before.
One way you can prevent yourself from tossing and turning all night is by putting your phone or tv away for the night at least an hour before bed.
My pre game routine starts out by being physically prepared and I do this by waking up the day of the game and going on a light walk or jog to get my muscles moving.
I then like to stretch my muscles out after a little bit of physical exercise so that I don’t tear or pull any muscles. I also add in some foam rolling/massage gun time to break up any tight or tangled muscles.
The majority of teams played will be physically prepared so make sure your team isn’t the only team not prepared.
Hand eye coordination
Hand eye coordination is very important for goalies and hockey players. This is what can make or break a goalies game.
Ways to Improve Your Hand Eye Coordination
I improve my hand-eye by working on it a ton during the off-season, playing other sports helps this a ton, since I don’t play other sports so I throw balls around daily to fill this space. We’ve written extensively on the topic of developing hand-eye skills as a goalie elsewhere on our website.
I suggest buying some blue racquetballs from Walmart and throwing them and juggling them to gets your eyes and hands warmed up.
I also like to break out my glove and throw either tennis balls or racquetballs to make sure I am fully prepared for game time. Make sure you are creating a difference between you and the other players by having a solid hand eye routine because this is a vital part of the saves you will make. Every shot taken requires hand-eye skills, otherwise, there is no point of being on the ice.
How Goalies Should Stretch Before A Game
Hockey goalie preparation is largely based around stretching. A proper warm-up should involve dynamic stretching and static stretches.
Dynamic Stretching Routines
Dynamic stretches includes stretches that you do moving such as lunges or something that keeps you moving. Generally speaking, dynamic stretching routines for goalies will help the netminder get loose, prior to moving into static stretching exercises.
While developing a dynamic stretching routine is largely on the athlete itself, here’s a great video going through a dynamic stretching warmup that we like to use with our goalies.
Static Stretching Routines
Static stretching involves stretches that you hold out for a set period of time anywhere from 10 to over 40 seconds. An example would be a butterfly stretch or a hamstring stretch. Static stretching is generally performed after the goalie has gone through a dynamic stretching warmup, where they will have the opportunity to focus on individual muscle groups.
Static Hip Stretching Exercises for Goalies
It is very important to develop a routine that you can save into your brain easily enough and remember it each and every day.
Most importantly and most often overlooked is the pre-game mental side. The goalie has to be mentally focused and dialed in from the time the puck drops to when the final buzzer buzzes. There are a few ways to work on the mental side of the ice and, hint, just prior to game time is not one of the best times. It’s important that when it comes to your mental preparation, you’re working on this the days and weeks leading up to game play, not just the minute before you hit the ice.
How do you mentally prepare for a hockey goalie?
I like to create my focus by meditating and relieving and pre game stress that may have built up over the past few days. I remind myself to control the things I can and not worry about the rest because that is out of my control.
A goalies mind has to be clear and ready to roll because your mind is very complicated and studies have shown that multi tasking greatly reduces ones focus.
Visualization Techniques for Goalies
To prepare at the best of my ability I visualize the entire game before the puck even drops.
I do this by visualizing in my mind what will take place and what I can do to contribute. Im my earlier years of playing goalie I have developed a sufficient visualizing routine that works best for me, I suggest every goalie out there to do the same.
While visualizing I think about each and every play and each scenario that could or will occur from there. You have to think about each and every detail from the weight of the the gear to the feel of the ice and the smell of the arena. You have to think about every shot and how you will make that save.
Keep in mind there is many things will arise that are out of your control such as how the ref is calling the game. Another scenario that is out of your control is if defense just lost the puck at the far blue line and now there is a breakaway coming your way. The only thing you can do at this point is stop the puck, so don’t go raging at your team, because everyone is human and things transpire every second. The only thing that happens when you get mad at your teammates is you playing even worse.
Mental Preparation During the Game
Although pre-game routines are incredibly important, in-game mental stability is the most important.
Although every goalie on the planet wants to stop every single shot faced in a game, let’s face it more likely than not a goal will be scored against you at some point. I can personally relate to the energy in the building at a home game when I let up a goal at a crucial point in time. This energy is most likely not a great feeling.
What one does to counteract a goal scored on you is what will determine the end results of your performance.
A Tip for Developing Mental Stability In-Game as a Goalie
Immediately after a goal has been scored I like to run it through my head once or twice to understand what happened and make sure it won’t happen again. Don’t over think this though as many goalies like to think way too much then it just hurts them in the end.
Your performance is a large factor in who wins a hockey game. Though as a goalie you have to push this aside and have fun.
Post Game Recovery
As almost every goalie knows ones hips and knees take a lot of pressure during a hockey game.
To start my post game recovery as a goalie I like to have a dynamic stretching routine that includes stretching all the leg muscles first then moves into the upper body/full body stretches. I also use a massage gun to break up any tight muscles.
I spend a ton of time stretching and working with my hips because as a goaltender you rely on them day in and day out.
I personally get quality game videos recorded so that post game I can review each goal and scenario and try to work on that the next practice so that it doesn’t happen again. I also know many goalies that aren’t as fortunate and don’t get their games recorded and play just fine. So don’t feel bad if you aren’t recording your games right now.