Mike Leach, the Washington State University football coach, popularized a succinct maxim: “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”
It’s a no-excuses accountability reminder.
If a player isn’t executing properly, you’re either coaching it that way or you’re allowing it to happen. If the results aren’t acceptable, it’s the coach’s responsibility to create change.
This also applies to hockey coaches in all the usual ways, but uniquely so in the realm of coaching youth goaltenders. Too often, they’ve been left to their own devices, floundering without coaches willing to take an active role in developing their specialized skills. But when too many pucks slip past, who’s really accountable? If a coach isn’t taking an active role in properly prepping the team’s goalie, it’s not the goalie’s fault. As the sign in Leach’s meeting room reminds his staff, “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”
Fortunately, an increasing number of youth hockey coaches throughout the United States are embracing a new, more actively involved training relationship with their goalies. USA Hockey helped lead that revolution with the creation of new goalie development resources and a nationwide boots-on-the-ground coaching effort led by Phil Osaer, American Development Model manager for goaltending, and his roster of regional goaltending development coordinators.
Events across the country have helped boost this focus on grassroots goalie development, the most recent of which occurred Saturday and Sunday in Minnesota. Osaer, along with fellow ADM manager Emily West, USA Hockey National Coach-in-Chief Mike MacMillan, Minnesota Hockey Goalie Development Coordinator Steve Carroll and other goalie development gurus led the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program high-performance goalie coaching clinics. These events, which included both classroom and on-ice sessions, were designed to help youth hockey coaches of all skill levels understand how to effectively teach and develop goaltenders.
Approximately 80 coaches participated in the clinics, honing goalie-coaching skills and learning how to implement specialized goalie training into their teams’ practices and games. Saturday’s clinic was held at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center; Sunday’s scene shifted to the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center.
“Minnesota is a state that is rich in hockey knowledge, and it showed during the clinic,” said Osaer. “I liked the coaches’ enthusiasm for learning and expanding their skills. You can tell they’re dedicated to helping all their players become the best they can be, which is awesome. My favorite part of the clinic was how we challenged the coaches to create their own drills and lead our guest goalies in a goalie practice. We were able to work with the coaches in a hands-on environment and then go back to the classroom with them to review the drills they created.”
Coaches who attended the clinics earned a level up in their USA Hockey coaching certification status, not to mention a leg up on their competition.
“Everyone knows good goaltending is critical to winning, but having good goaltending isn’t just some happy accident,” said MacMillan. “It can be developed, and it should be developed, and our goal through clinics like these is to empower youth coaches with the understanding and confidence they need to actively coach their goalies. Not only will that help young goalies progress toward their full long-term potential, it’ll also help teams succeed, so that’s a win-win.”