Mitch Korn wrote an interesting article titled “In the Crease: Spotting Confidence Problems With Goaltenders” back in 2015.
In that article he listed five different things that your goalie will do, signs if you will, that let you know their confidence is down.
The second thing he mentions is blame. That is what I want to dive further into in this post.
Why We Blame Others
Let’s first explore what is going on in the mind when we blame other people. Here is our goalie on a bad stretch of not making saves and letting in goals. Not what is required of the goal tender. They are supposed to be there and STOP any and all pucks, well the biggest majority of them, so their team can score and win the game.
If on any given day, in any moment, your goalie’s confidence in their own ability to stop that puck diminishes, because they didn’t make one or more saves, then rather than sit in and feel the hurt or sadness they feel as not having made the saves, they turn off the feelings.
Or perhaps another way to explain it is that they turn outwards and make it other people’s fault.
That is ultimately WHY we blame others. It is really because we don’t feel okay inside about what has happened.
The Self Impact of Blaming Others
What tends to happen when we blame others is that for a short period of time, at least, our own confidence is okay. Well sort of.
You know what it’s like yourself when you blame someone else for something that happened. It feels okay for a few minutes, then goes back to not feeling okay.
So the fact your goalie is blaming others is because their own confidence is not okay. They are not feeling okay.
And notice I say ‘feeling’, because anything to do with confidence is all about feeling and mindset.
Supporting a Goalies Self Confidence
Don’t let them blame others, and don’t blame others for them.
Whilst that’s an okay response, what is going to work much better is to talk to them about how they were feeling. Naturally, you can’t do this in the middle of a game when you notice their confidence drop.
You will likely have the conversation after the game when you hear them blaming their teammates or the coach for what happened.
Then is the time to gently stop them and ask them how they feel about their performance.
Be kind and explain that whilst it wasn’t perfect, it happened and perhaps there was something they could learn from the game.
Ask them what they think they might have done differently. Don’t use the word ‘better’ because they can have their mind tripping into the ‘I wasn’t good enough’ space, and that is a place we want to avoid at all costs.
Give them feedback of what you noticed. “I noticed you were a little slower raising your glove, what happened? And they might respond with “I didn’t see where the puck was”
Talk to them about using their senses to find the puck.
Listening as a Tool
There is a video drill that Phillip Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche was going whereby he was blindfolded, and pucks were shot at him whilst he was in the crease. It sharpened his ability to use his other senses besides sight to track the puck.
The other thing to remind them is that they are human. And no human is perfect. We all make mistakes. But, if we think of them as miss-takes and that we have an opportunity to try again, then we don’t harm our self-esteem or self-confidence.
And remember this is not about saying that the blame doesn't lie with any of the defensemen. The goalie handles his own feelings and doesn't blame himself for what happened. And, he doesn't blame others for what happened.
Bottom line is this is an experience; a learning experience. There is no way that a young goalie is perfect and going to make every save. Even the best NHL goalies let pucks through.
It is about knowing that on any day there is something to learn when the puck does get past him or her.
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches, players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.