6 goalie prep tips to help get you ready for the game
By Warren Tabachnick
It is often said that hockey is a mental game. When it comes to those who undertake the task of tending goal for their hockey team, that couldn’t be more true.
The sport of hockey is a team game, no doubt. As such, a win (or loss) can never be attributed to one player. But since a goaltender frequently comes under scrutiny, it is important for them to employ certain techniques to help them stay focused and in control of the game.
Here are 6 hockey goalie preparation tips to help get you ready for the game:
- Rest & Relaxation
- Pre-Game Meal
- Pre-Game Rituals
- In-Game Play (Hydration)
- The Mental Aspect
Rest & Relaxation
Being a great goalie demands total focus and concentration. It is sometimes thought that goalies have it easy, since they are not required to race up and down the ice like the rest of the team. But ice hockey is especially grueling for the goaltender; if fatigue is the enemy of the skater, it’s even more so for the goaltender.
Keeping your eye on a fast-moving puck can be most difficult. It can find its way to the back of the net from just about anywhere: a blast from the point; a bad bounce; a tip-in; or even a rebound from a blocked shot. Throw in the physical demands of making those saves, and it’s a very taxing situation.
Stay in control. Make sure you get plenty of rest the night before your game, and try not to overdo it the day of.
The Pre-Game Meal
While you work to keep the puck out of the net, you don’t want to be burping up that cheeseburger and fries you ate earlier. Be smart about your nutrition. Eat right throughout the day and consume enough complex carbs to help provide you with the fuel you need to perform at your best.
Some healthy examples of what to eat are: whole wheat breads and pasta; brown rice; barley; quinoa; potatoes and corn. Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes are great, and provide plenty of plant-based protein.
Goalies are a breed unto themselves. They often display what many consider to be oddball behavior, with their own set of pre-game rituals.
One goaltender that once played on my team would show up to the game bearing three sticks for his warm-up, along with another three for the actual game. Each was meticulously taped. There are those tenders who rock out with tunes pumping through their earbuds, while others will look to remain calm and in a Zen-like state. Then there are other goalies that are careful to put their gear on in a certain order… The sky’s the limit when it comes to goalie rituals!
Stretch Those Muscles
Tending goal puts tremendous demand on the muscles and joints. We can’t stress enough the importance of a proper warm-up before the game. Get some laps around the ice to get your blood flowing. Slowly (and carefully!) stretch your legs and groin muscles, and gently work your knees.
A good hockey goalie preparation tip for goalies is to work on some hand-eye coordination even before the on-ice warm-up: tossing a ball around with a teammate before heading to the locker room is what you sometimes see the pros doing.
Regarding the physical aspect, be sure to stay hydrated. Don’t let that lactic acid build up in your muscles and hamper your play. As for the mental component, focus is the magic word when it comes to peak performance as a goaltender. Don’t let a goal on a miscue or bad bounce set the tone for the rest of the game. Come back strong and stay positive.
The Mental Aspect
Finally, a lot rests on a goalie’s shoulders. Where they can be praised for a win that included several shots on goal, he or she can also be vilified for a loss by a single goal—even though their own team may not have put many shots on the opponent’s goal.
In order to be prepared for either (or both) situations, it is imperative that goalies prepare themselves mentally. There are highs and lows that come along with being a goaltender. A goalie must have the fortitude to weather both. And always try to leave those tough losses where they belong… in the past.