Spotting Goaltender Confidence Problems

The life of a goaltender is a complicated one. We always teach and stress physical skills. From skating ability as a goaltender to handling the puck, from 2 pad slides to use of the gloves, the goaltender is continuously coached on
the physical efficiency of his physical skills.

Don’t forget, the mental skills are important, too! In fact, at the pro level,
because almost everyone has exceptional physical skills, the difference is made
up with one’s mental skills. Reading and reacting, choosing the correct save
selection, cutting down angles properly, anticipation, mental toughness, etc.,
are all mental skills that directly effect the goaltender’s performance.

But, all these mental skills are greatly influenced by the goaltender’s “MENTAL
STATE,” specifically his CONFIDENCE. It is amazing how fragile a
goaltender’s self confidence can be. I’ve seen goalies play several solid
games in a row, have one bad period, and lose their “confidence” for a
week or more.

Confidence is a vital ingredient. Coaches do not realize how they can ruin
a goaltender’s confidence with harsh words, bad practice drills, or “yanking”
the goaltender to cause an embarrassing moment. That’s not to say
that a goalie need not be “mentally tough.” He must overcome the negatives
(giving up bad goals, being yanked, etc.) and rise above to excel. Self
confidence is critical.

Sometimes a goalie is very “cocky,” and that upsets coaches and teammates.
Well, it’s ok if the goalie performs well . . . learn to accept the “cockiness”
because it may be a big part of the goaltender’s formula for success.
When a goaltender loses confidence and is playing poorly, a number
of “defense mechanisms” kick in, which should be a dead giveaway to the
coach or parents of the goaltender. They are used as an attempt to hide the
confidence problem. Here are some very common examples:

1. Equipment Problems - Nothing seems to be right, and the goalie
makes sure everyone knows. Whether the stick is wrong, the skates
are not sharpened correctly, or the arm pads aren’t comfortable or
protective enough, the equipment gets some of the blame.

2. The Defense - Placing the blame elsewhere is common. It is somebody
else’s fault or there “was no way to stop that one.” Again, it’s an attempt
to protect one’s self confidence. Goalies should never point the

3. Positioning Changes in the Net - When a goaltender is struggling,
he changes his positioning in one of two ways. First, he may stay very
deep in his net . . . receiving security from being close to the goalposts.
Goals will be scored because the goaltender will be too deep.
The other extreme is the goaltender comes out way too far, often “running
at shooters”, sometimes to the hash marks. This will be very evident in
a pre-game warmup.
The goalie, having lost confidence believes that if he cuts down the angle a lot, a shooter cannot score. What happens
in this case is that the goalie gets caught out of position, often moving
forward at the attackers.

4. “Mood” Change - Again, there are two extremes. Either the goaltender
gets real quiet, somewhat “feeling sorry for himself” or overly
cocky. This “over cockiness” is very common with goalies in an attempt
to “convince himself and everyone around him that he is good!” Sports
psychologists tell me this is very common.

5. Flopping Much More Than Normal - When the goaltender is unsure,
the first reaction is to leave his feet early, …guessing….thus leaving the
goaltender very vulnerable. Often the goalie ends up “swimming” on
the ice.

Overall, everybody is different with varying degrees of self-confidence and
various ways in which they lose, regain, and keep that confidence. One thing
is for sure, a goaltender cannot excel without it!


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