Player development should always be at the forefront of coaching priorities. In many cases, it is helpful to use data to drive the process and shape the environment for your athletes.
In Part 1: shooting, I showed an example of a practice from the 2019/20 Curry College hockey season. We created a station-based practice with the intention to improve “game-like” shooting. The results were surprising and revealed new questions and lots to consider.
The conclusions from our shooting data took us to what seemed like the next logical question: what does this mean for our goaltenders? How many shots are they getting in a practice and how does it affect their workload.
On the day we decided to track the goaltenders, our practice theme happened to be special teams and transition. With the intent to mimic the experience of a game, we mixed the special teams situations throughout practice in between game-like transition drills.
With a coach in the press box, we tracked how many shots our goaltenders faced and how many times they dropped to their knees into the butterfly position and got back up to their feet.
Drill # 1: Crease movement patterns warm up (0 Shots, 10 Butterfly)
Drill # 2: Cross-ice 2v2 (8 Shots, 13 Butterfly)
Drill # 3: Special Teams In-zone (3 Shots, 6 Butterfly)
Drill # 4: Forecheck (2F vs. 1D) into Offensive Transition (10 Shots, 14 Butterfly)
Drill # 5: Full Ice Special Teams (0 Shots, 0 Butterfly)
Drill # 6: Full Ice 2v2 Rush / Tracking (5 Shots, 8 Butterfly)
Drill # 7: Special Teams 5v3 (1 Shot, 2 Butterfly)
Drill # 8: Neutral Zone 5v5 (0 Shots, 0 Butterfly)
Drill # 9:Full Ice Special Teams: (2 Shots, 3 Butterfly)
Drill # 10: 3x 1v1 (5 Shots, 13 Butterfly)
One of our goaltenders received 35 shots and dropped to the butterfly position 69 times.
Given the game-like nature of the practice, 35 shots was an appropriate volume as it was slightly higher than our 30.8 shots on goal against average. The integrity of the shots was strong as they came from situations that mimic game-like conditions.
The breakthrough information for me came from the fact that our goaltender dropped to the butterfly 69 times. When you consider the physical demands on the body from this type of activity you start to realize that there is more to consider than just the number of shots a goaltender sees in practice. This is likely intuitive to goaltenders everywhere but having never played the position, this was a huge moment of understanding for me.
Hip and knee issues are common for goaltenders. I began to consider if can we do a better job managing our goaltender’s physical demands to support their durability for the entire season and length of their career?
Of note, there is often an expectation from coaches that goaltenders have extra ice-time with a goaltender coach before practice. When practice ends there is often an expectation from players that they stay out to play “rebound”, take breakaways or one-timers. In many cases, the goaltenders chose to participate in the after-practice fun willingly because they enjoy it!
How many extra up/downs and shots are they facing and how does that compound over the course of a season and career? What is the impact on their physical health related to their hips and knees?
A person-centered player development approach is underpinned by the overall health of the athlete. It is a first principle of coaching – make it safe.
The number of shots a goaltender receives in practice is not the only measure of workload. There is a physical demand of going down and getting up that puts stress on the body.
Individual Development Plan
The information we discovered by tracking the goaltenders helped inform the individual development plans for our goaltenders. The physical demand is one aspect of player development and needs to be married with the mental, technical, and tactical aspects.
To create an optimal individual experience inside the team environment the head coach, position coaches, athletic trainers, and strength coaches need to be aligned to determine the best plan. Integration and breaking down silos between coaches and support staff is critical.
When you put it all together in a holistic manner you can find ways to appropriately challenge and support your athlete in order to bring the best out of them.