Goaltender Vision is Overlooked and Requires more Focused Attention
Often overlooked, vision and visual performance is key to goaltender success at all levels.
Hockey goaltenders across the world work tirelessly to improve their on ice technique, skating ability, and save selections.
They may spend even more time developing their overall athleticism off the ice. When it comes to the games, they make sure that they are ready to go...confident.
What many goalies don't realize is that their ability to follow, process, and interpret visual information is paramount to success.
When talking about a goaltender's vision, it is important to mention that seeing (reading 20/20 on a chart) is only one aspect of visual processing. Trouble seeing and blurry vision can be corrected by glasses, contacts, or by other means. So if a goalie can see 20/20, they're good to go, right?
At Canadian Professional Goalie Schools, we partner with The Vision Performance Center (VPC) at McDonald Eye Care in Lakeville, Minnesota. With over 25 years of experience working with athletes, they have identified additional areas of vision that are important for goalies of all ages to address. They are:
Tracking, Depth Perception, and Dynamic Visual Acuity - how well do the eyes physically move and track with objects, see movement clearly, and adjust to changes in depth?
Coordination, Perception, and Decision Making - how well does the goalie interpret the information coming in through the eyes and make a decision based on that info?
Effectively, they understand that being a visually elite goaltender requires not only clear vision but their eyes coordinate movements accurately. They must take visual information, process it, and translate it into a meaningful action. If the eyes are not coordinated in their movement, gaps in their vision occur. Similarly, if a goaltender cannot perceive the depth of the puck as it is shot or passed, the informational gaps occur again.
Bjorn Carlson, in a video produced by VPC, says that, “95% of all information we process goes through the eyes.” Most purposeful movements are visually guided. If a goalie has to think about their action, they are already a step behind.
Knowing that even the smallest gap in visual function or processing will affect the outcome of a play or shot, goalies of all ages should train their eyes. In addition to visual function, the eyes have to relay information to the brain in order to direct the body's movement. Essentially, this is “weightlifting for the eyes.”
Goaltending is all about making the right decisions at the right times to keep pucks from going into the net. If decision making is hindered by an inability to process visual cues, a goalie will struggle.
Goalies must also have spatial awareness of the body position and the puck they must interpret clues, recognize tendencies, and react effectively to stop the puck. At the highest levels of the sport, it is not good enough to just see the puck. Goalies have to make the proper reads on where the puck is going, and what the situational threats are.
Training in all visual aspects can be accomplished through drills as simple as a game of catch off the wall or with a partner, or professional training programs. Whatever effort a goalie puts into their technique on the ice, or athleticism off of it, equal attention must be paid to addressing the eyes.
After all, if you can't see the puck, you can't stop it.
VPC at McDonald Eye Care works closely with CPGS and UnLock Goaltending, providing the Goalie Training Program and their Vision Performance Training & Evaluations. Thanks to VPC, CPGS and UnLock students have access to elite, world-class sports vision training. VPC has trained directly with players at the junior, college, and pro levels, including four NHL All-Stars last year.