Nobody is perfect. For some reason, goaltenders are expected to be.
The goaltender might be the loneliest position in sports. For sixty minutes it is up to you to stand tall in front of your team’s net. When you let in a goal it gets recorded on a big, bright, 50-100 foot scoreboard. If you’re lucky enough to be the on the road, you can be treated to a building erupting with
thousands of people cheering your mistake for their team; accompanied by a choreographed student section chanting your name to remind you of how bad you just blew it. Now, that’s way better to accept than committing a flaw at home in front of your own fans and you get the “Ugh” gasp of silent breaths being taken. It’s almost like your mom or dad telling you they aren’t mad, just disappointed.
Players can get away with mistakes. At least to an extent.
Come on, to an extent?! Sure, you might get yelled at because you fronted the puck, again, and got stripped and turned the puck over. But, at least you get the chance to go back to the bench to be yelled at. You might even get to go back out and try and play better in a shift or two. Relax, players, I’m not hating on you, I’m just pointing out that goalies are lonely. They’re also some of the weirdest human beings on the planet. Treat them well, stop at the net, and clear rebounds.
In The Zone
Maybe you are on a three game in four-night span where by game three you are looking at a pea guarding a soccer net behind you. It happens. You were named goaltender of the week the previous week. Your rebound control was on point and your stick was getting deflecting far pad shots eliminating scoring chances. You were in the zone.
Instincts Take Over
You were comfortable contributing to the backend of your team because you weren’t thinking, you were reacting. It is easy to sit back in the crease, play scared and passive, and think about where you went wrong after pucks continue to get through. It is hard to react without thinking, facing shots when you don’t trust your brain’s save selection in that split second.
It’s a Choice
Being a goalie is a choice. Making that choice comes with the automatic acceptance that nobody will ever feel sympathy for you when you have a bad game, other than other goalies (#GoalieUnion). Only they will understand what it takes to make the game seem easy, like a duck calm on the top of the water, while kicking like a mad man below the surface to stay afloat. They would understand how hard it is to track a 120kmph slapshot while moving left-to-right through the blue.
Take a Minute
This all sounds scary, but getting out of the mindset of looking at a pea instead of a basketball is not as hard as one may think. It just takes some patience, some muscle memory, and a student mentality. Instead of letting the puck passed you, looking down, turning your back to the play and squirting water beads in the sky, slamming your stick, or exerting any more negative energy than you should; take a minute to sit and look back at the path that puck took, look at where you are in the crease, and then refocus on the water beads dropping from the sky.
It’s Like Home Work
Goalies that take goals against as lessons to grow from instead of failure will be ready for the next barrage of scoring chances. It’s like goalie homework. What is your read on shots going by? Where are your hands? Are you too deep? Do you need to lean with your head and shoulders a couple inches to the left? All of these questions can be answered by watching video or communicating with your goalie coach.
Nobody is Perfect
Chasing consistency will be a goalie’s career breaker. You need to limit the amount of storage space in your brain for weak goals and a maximize the amount of space for learning. Nobody is perfect, be a team guy, and your teammates will accept you for who you are; a goaltender, not a robot.