The Offseason Looms
Good day friends.
Across North America, goalies find themselves continually in a different spot than everyone else.
Some of us are finishing playoffs. Others never got started. Our Junior goalies are still going with regular-season games!
But with the looming offseason, we all typically take inventory of where we're at and where we want to be. We think about what the future is going to look like, and recover from what has been a year full of adversity and unknowns.
When you think about the upcoming spring and summer, what do you want to make of it!?
That question depends on where you're at in your goalie journey. The needs and goals of our youth goalies are different than those in Junior and college.
The core principle to follow when thinking about your offseason: Think about your end-goal, the next big hockey event, and how you want to feel leading up to that time. Then work your way backward. Reverse engineer your desired future.
I'll break it down in 3 categories, and give examples for each.
Youth Goalies - KEEP IT FUN!
For our "youth" definition, I'm including anything younger than bantams. Maybe you 2nd year bantams can look to the High School / Midget plan below.
Youth goalies: I'm talking to you now. Keep the offseason fun. Try new things. Play other sports. Do other things away from hockey.
Because we want to win long-term, not just right now.
I know of a lot of guys growing up who absolutely got after it while they were young, but ended up burning out because at some point, they'd "done it all". They'd played against all the best competition. They'd traveled all over North America and the world already. They'd felt the pressures of highly competitive tournaments and travel teams.
What left was there when you're 12 and feel like you've already done it all?
Not saying this is you, not saying that this is the path if you do choose to get after it even at a young age.
All I'm saying is that if you want to continue being successful (long-term) then you'll need to maintain a level of joy and fun and happiness. Hockey can't become "work" too young.
Sometimes, playing other sports or holding other interests reinvigorates your love of hockey. Sometimes being away from it reminds you just how much you love it. Some of us have learned that during the Covid pandemic for sure.
So, in summation: Young goalies, please have as much fun as you can, while building a solid athletic foundation. Build new skills. Try new things. Stretch your comfort zone! You never know what you'll get into.
Sure, go to goalie school camps, play on a tournament team, explore what it's like to work like a professional for a short while...and then remember to build other skills and make sure you're having fun!
High School & Midget Goalies - Assess Your Goals
This might feel like a cop-out of what could be an easy to remember, simple answer. But if you're in this category, I really can't tell you what you should do without knowing what your goals are.
So step 1: assess your goals.
Find out what you want with hockey. Ask yourself how much you're willing and able to train. Ask yourself what lengths you're willing to go. Dig deep within yourself to determine (for yourself) what it is you want.
If hockey is just fun, where you hang out with friends and keep active, then great! Don't spend too much energy in worrying HOW you'll train. Just show up to any skates you want, whenever you want, and have fun doing it.
Sometimes, things are more fun when we're good at them, so maybe you do want to hold things loosely, but want to get better at the same time. Great!
Maybe you realize that hockey is what you want to pursue, so you drop other sports. Or maybe you realize that another activity is what you want to pursue, so you drop hockey! Fantastic! Your life is yours to live, but your goals and dreams and desires will determine how I answer the question: what should I do in the offseason?
If you do want to get after it and make the most you can with hockey, then it's time to get after it when you're playing midgets & high school. You're now in the years where puberty is really kicking in, so adapting to and building your body are of primary importance.
Absolutely get after your workouts. Go hard. Harder than you thought you could.
Play other sports or cross-train too! Building other skills that translate to goaltending are always great!
And finally, ramp up the intensity with which you train and prepare. Each skate, each workout is an opportunity to get a little closer or a little further from your goal. Get closer. And closer.
Junior & College & Beyond goalies - Take a Break
As much as sometimes we think we need to stay after it all the time, all you guys at the higher levels need time away to refresh, relax, and reload for when the competition kicks off again.
Your brain does much of its learning and processing after the fact, not during.
This makes intuitive sense. While you're playing, your brain has to coordinate your body's systems, movements, reactions, and thoughts. There's not much time for learning or rebuilding neuropathways when your brain is constantly focusing on executing.
Taking a break allows your brain to build these pathways, away from the rink. Your brain is always finding new neuropathways to improve the efficiency of the timing, coordination, and power output of our muscles. Sleeping, recovering, and taking advantage of time away helps us build these brain connections.
Here are a couple of links to resources to learn more:
So, take a break. Step away.
Your ego might make you fear that you'll lose a step, that you'll end up worse than before, that there's something to "maintain".
But that's just a lying ego. You'll never "forget" how to make a glove save and track a puck any more than you'll forget to ride a bike!
Turn the ego off, take a break.
To sum things up, I'll just key in more on the last point I made: Turn the ego off, take a break.
Whatever you choose to do, if you do it with a purpose and deliberately, it'll be the right thing. If you plan out what you want your future to look like, and then execute on that plan, then you'll more or less end up where you want to be.
But avoid judging yourself about your decisions, unless they're made against the plan that you've constructed.
You don't NEED to do anything special to be a happy, healthy goalie. If you want to move on and up, there might be more ways to improve, but don't diminish or demean yourself for slipping up.
Pick yourself back up, dust off, and reevaluate where you're at and if your end goal is still your end goal.
If it is, then get after it again!