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Coaching the Crease

01/14/2015, 1:45pm EST
By Jessi Pierce

There really is no position quite like the goaltender. Being a goalie requires a different mindset and a different set of skills from the rest of the team.

Without a doubt it takes a special player to step inside the crease.

“No other single player can have as large of an impact on the team as the goalie,” said Kevin Reiter, goaltending coach at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. “It’s such a unique position.”

Reiter adds that too often, he notices that a goaltender’s skill development is pushed aside. On a team of 20, there are only two or three goalies on the roster, making it difficult to set time just for them.

But it’s that uniqueness of goaltending that makes it so important to know how to train and develop their specialized skills. Reiter, along with Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) coach Jeff Blashill, offer a few tips to ensure your goalie isn’t left unattended to this season.

No Experience Required: Just because you’ve never stacked the pads in the net, doesn’t mean you can’t coach your netminder. It can be intimidating to train a player in a position that you’ve never played, but it doesn’t have to be.

“A lot of reasons coaches are hesitant to coach goalies is because they aren’t familiar with the position,” Reiter said. “Most coaches feel they are implementing goalies into their practice plan by simply giving them more shots. That can be counterproductive in terms of development. Coaches need to understand the position to prepare and develop goalies more efficiently.”

Utilize your resources. Talk to your goalie, talk to former goalies in your association and check out the USA Hockey’s Goaltending resource page.

Keep it Simple: The most effective way to teach is by using simple drills.

“Obviously you’ll have to scale the drills up or down depending on your age level, but for the most part, the same simple drills can be done at every level,” Blashill said.

Easy stick-saving, glove and blocker drills instill the basic motions and ideas of goaltending. Those simple drills will make sure that goalies get a stick on the puck as much as they can to redirect rebounds. It also will help make sure they are filling as much of the net as possible with their upper body, gloves and blocker.

Set, Then Shoot: In a game you want your goalie to be set when the opposing team’s offense attacks him or her.

“I think what happens a lot of times, even in goalie-specific drills, is shooters shoot before the goalie is set,” said Blashill. “Every coach does it, I’ve been guilty of it, too. But I’m a strong believer that if you want your goalie to be set in games, then make sure their feet are set before the shot comes in practice.”

Teach your shooters to have more patience, especially in a drill aimed at working the goaltender. Allow goalies a couple of seconds to get their feet set in each angle you have a shooter coming down.

Again: Repetition is the mother of all learning and it’s the key to your goalie’s development.

“Make sure your goaltenders have the basics down,” Blashill said. “Always be working on their angles, skating, setting their feet and so on. Those are the types of things that will carry with (goalies) through their career. Work on them over and over again.”

Work the Rebounds: There’s a large portion of the game that is played solely around the net. Make sure your goalie is prepared.

“(Working the rebounds) will help the goalies develop instinct on rebounds and playing difficult situations,” Reiter said. “Additionally, non-goalies will have the chance to practice finishing plays and scoring goals.”

Crease Confidence: A confident goalie puts their team in a better position to win. Reinforce good play and help pick his or her head up after a tough goal slips in.

“The important point is to always have patience and try to instill confidence in (your) goalies,” said Reiter. “It is as much a mental position as it a physical or technical position.

“Above all, goalies need to enjoy making saves.”

Coach Your Goalie, Coach Your Team: Include goalies in team drills and make sure they get the same amount of one-on-one attention as the rest of the squad. Their performance will improve and so will your team’s outcome. Give them the attention they deserve. Your whole team will thank you.

For more drills and resources to help develop your goalies, visit USA Hockey Goaltending.

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Changes to the Registration Process for the 2022-23 Season

07/15/2022, 3:00pm EDT
By USA Hockey

Q-and-A with USA Hockey’s Director of Officiating Education Program Matt Leaf

The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.

Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.

USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?

Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.

The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.

USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process

ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.

USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?

ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.

Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.

Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.

USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?

ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.

USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?

ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.

For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.

USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?

ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.

Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.

With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.

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