GTP TV: Ep 15 – How to train young goalies

Hey, gang it’s Maria here from Goalie Training Pro TV, welcome to episode 15!! Today we’re talking about how to train an 8 year old hockey goalie. ‘Cause I get the question a lot and sometimes parents they apologize. They say, “And I don’t want you to think I’m a crazy hockey parent because I’m asking.” And I don’t at all.

Sincerely, I don’t because you’re asking. You’re asking because you know you’re not sure, you’re probably getting a lot of messages from different interests, let’s say, and you just wanna make sure you’re doing the right thing for your child so that they have a long, successful, happy, healthy career as a hockey player, whatever that’s gonna be for them. So, don’t worry about it, I know you’re not. The crazy ones don’t ask, they’re too busy making their kid do stair running and stuff like that. They don’t have time to ask.


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So, the number one thing is your gut is right. The key for their success, even their long term success is that its fun, that hockey is a treat that they get to go play. Not something that they have to do. Because, really, if they have the skill and the talent to have a long and fruitful career, even play professional, they are going to have 20 years or 10 plus years of grinding it out hard to train, to be able to play at that level.

So, what we wanna do is keep it so that it’s just like hockey is in my heart. There’s a commercial here in Canada, I forget what it’s for, I think it’s for Tim Bits Hockey or something and the NHL does it. And at the end it’s got this little boy, he’s talking to Christine Simpson and he’s probably 7 or so and he’s like, “I just fell in love with hockey.” And it’s like, “Yes! That’s what we want.”

So, that’s all that matters and make it a special, fun treat and even if they’re gonna do some exercises. I will show you some exercises. I don’t train little kids. One reason is they don’t have the aptitude for it nor the patience. I can’t help but train the way I train our high school and elite athletes. But the other reason is it’s not necessary.

Sidney Crosby didn’t become a great player because he was doing squats and training like a pro from the time he was 8. Wayne Gretzky didn’t become the greatest hockey player there ever will be by doing that stuff. They got it by shooting pucks into the dryer, playing on the backyard rink till mom said no, you gotta come in and go to bed so, that’s what’ll get the most mileage.

And then the other thing is, you guys will email me and be like, “No, no, but they really wanna do it, they really, really wanna do it.” Well, there are things that we really wanna do as kids that are kinda dumb. And things change.

So, when Paul was probably 7 he literally wanted to be a fire truck. When you grow up what do you wanna be? A fire truck. And luckily that changed. When I was probably around, yeah, 7 or so we had this and I’ve told this story before but I had, it was my older sister’s hat, where it was one of those toques, you guys, if you weren’t born in the ’70’s you won’t have any idea what it is but it has a long, long tail on it, so it’s like a pointy hat but it’s knit and it has this long tail.

But I wanted to wear that hat literally all the time. Like middle of summer so thank god my parents were like, “No, no, no, no. You won’t be wearing that hat to school in September.” So, don’t be shy to be the parent. So, love the sport, you’re the parent, there we go.

Then I think the second best thing you can do is get them involved in different sports because when kids are young, their nervous system is plastic and so that’s exactly why we never forget how to ride a bike because we learned to ride a bike when we’re a little kid and it just becomes hard wired.

As we get a little bit older, even into our teenage years, those patterns become more hard wired so it’s like I learned to ski – I started skiing when I was two years old. I feel as comfortable on a pair of skis as I do in my sneakers. You see someone who learned to ski as a late teenager or an adult they can do it but it’s never quite the same and as fluid because they don’t have that ingrained motor pattern.

So, any kind of different movement patterns you can get them in. So that would be even soccer, baseball, great for hand-eye coordination, acceleration, lacrosse, but not playing goal, gymnastics, martial arts I think is fantastic. So, expose them to a lot of different variables and movement patterns and again, just try to get them to love being an active person because they’re gonna be a hockey player or a competitive hockey player for so much time. They’re gonna be a normal schlepp like you and me for a lot longer than that.

So, again, I’m so thankful that my dad would throw a football with me and we played road hockey every day, the kids around school. I did martial arts, it’s like ’cause I just love to be active.

If they must train, ’cause I was like your kids, my dad, we would go jogging. I’ve told the story lots of times, I won’t tell it again, which I loved. It was my time to be with my dad. Then there was a guy named Ed Allen and he would do exercises on TV and my dad would come home and this was in the ’70’s, matching Adidas tracksuits with the stir-up pant, and my dad would do his Ed Allen exercises. But I would just want to do those with my dad, but he was never like, “Now we’re gonna do our Ed Allen’s Maria.” It was just like I was just dinking around, and I wanted to be with my dad. So, I totally get it.

So, one of the key ingredients, (I say key ingredients a lot, there a lot of key ingredients today), but I think if your child is gonna do some extra then you better be prepared to get down on the floor and do it with them and make it a fun parent-child time. Not for you to coach them but to say, “Hey yeah, mommy would like to do some stuff too,” or “Daddy wants to get a little stronger too, let’s do this together.” And keep it in that spirit.

I want you to know straight up that advanced training, elite training, even if your kid has a 100% save percentage, they’re unbelievable, having them train like an elite athlete or like an advanced athlete isn’t gonna make them elite. And it’s absolutely the wrong thing to do, so they’re just gonna work on basics and then play a bunch of different sports and love life, be a kid.

So if you must train, or they must train, we’re gonna stick with primal movement patterns pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, those kinds of patterns. We’re gonna use mostly body weight. Not that weights are gonna stunt their growth or anything like that but what happens when you put out weights well, what do you automatically … Want to see if I can lift the heaviest one.

So, my next door neighbour, Doug Cameron and I, he had a set of those old barbells in the basement. He had brothers who were a lot older than use, like probably 10 years older than us and so, he had one of those old barbell sets in the basement, those Weider ones and his were the steel plates, not even the plastic ones filled with cement like we had. But yeah, for sure, we’d be down in the basement dinking around and be like, “Let’s see how much we can lift over our head.” And we’d be like dropping the weights, and his mom would be yelling, “What are you guys doing?”

So, that’s the reason it’s why let’s just try to keep them away from weights for now ’cause kids will do stupid things and sometimes it gives them an injury. So if we look at pushes. We’re just gonna do a nice push-up, and it doesn’t matter if it’s from their knees or from their toes.

It’s like me saying, “Well, we’re gonna do dumbbell bench, so if you can’t do the 55’s then what’s the point.” It’s like, maybe they can’t do 55’s, but they can do the 25’s. Let’s start there and build their way up. The most important thing is that its good form because I see even high school players and athletes who just do the crappiest push-ups like their bottom is in the air, or they never really bend their elbows very much, ’cause they’re so saggy in their back.

So, it’s a great shoulder and core and hip stabilization exercise, but they have to come down, elbows out to the side at about a 45 degree angle. And all the way back up. And you don’t have to touch your chest to the floor, but you wanna come down until your upper arms are kinda making a straight line out to the side.

And then if they get down fine but they kinda have to do the worm to come up, they’re just not strong enough to hold a stable torso. So, take them to their knees. Their muscles don’t know the difference. It’s still works perfectly well.

If we’re gonna talk about a pulling action. Again, let’s just try to keep the dumbbells out of it for now, but you could do a dumbbell one arm row, but I like to do sort of a resistance band row because here I can get low in my legs, so I can be building some stamina and work on my pulling pattern as I row.

When you row, you wanna make sure that they’re just squeezing their shoulder blades back a little bit not driving the shoulder forward, sort of opening their chest as they row, getting a little squeeze between the shoulder blades. So, there’s your push, there’s your pull then we go to a squat pattern.

So again, we get students in high school or high school athletes that come in that don’t have a squat pattern and when we work with teams we see 75% of kids on the team, if we asked them just do a squat with your body weight. And they have no body awareness, no awareness of their patterns.

So, you wanna teach them, you’re gonna sit back with your bum, you’re gonna keep your spine long. That doesn’t mean straight up and down. Your torso has to angle forward otherwise you just fall over backwards. If you keep your back straight up and down, which is what a lot of us were taught in high school then your heels have to come off the ground.

It works but it’s really, really hard on your knees, like really hard on your knees. It doesn’t target these big pushing muscles and you’re not gonna be doing that with a barbell when he gets to be 16, he or she gets to be 14 or 16.

So, teaching that pattern, teaching them to feel that they’re using the right muscles. And then I have no problem going into a little squat-jump pattern. So, down, up, down and teaching them to land in that good position again. Explode, land. So, we’re getting a little bit of leg power there too but still teaching good lessons.

I should mention from the front as well. When we squat, a huge percentage of kids will bring their knees in especially goalies ’cause they’re like, “I’m a goalie. We’re gonna squat? Awesome, I’m a goalie.” And it’s like, okay, you can be a goalie when you’re on the ice, I don’t want you to be a goalie when we’re squatting. So, we gotta teach them, keep those knees right over your ankles.

Now, when we go to jump, again, it gets harder for them to control it dynamically. What you’ll see is it might look good but then right when they go from deceleration to acceleration, their knees will pinch in as they come up.

So, those are some of the key ingredients to look for there.

Then we’ll go into a lunge pattern. So again, how can we get the most benefit from this? Well, if we do a three way lunge matrix, if I come forward, a little lunge, again, my knee just stays over my ankle, it’s not coming away far forward, it’s got good alignment. Now, I’m gonna push up but I’m gonna find my balance point.

Then I’m gonna come out to the side so my shoulder, hip, knee and ankle are lined up. I’m gonna push back up to the standing position in a balanced position then I’m gonna come backwards, drive up into that balanced position.

So, what am I getting? You’re getting some single leg strength as I push and balance. I’m getting some dynamic balance, which is important for a goalie because if I push post to post, yeah, I need to use force to get going but I also need to decelerate and land in a balanced position so then I’m ready to make my next movement. Plus again, we sort of open up our groins, we get working those hip muscles in all different planes of motion.

Then stretches. Again, I don’t like … Kids are pretty bendy anyway. Now, when they start to grow it’s a bit of a different situation so things might change then. When I worked at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, these are some of the key stretches that we gave people who had … Teenagers who came in with knee pain and that kind of thing.

So, I think if we kind of teach them to do these now, make it part of the routine, we might help reduce the risk of them getting some of that knee pain as a teenager. So, the hip flexor stretch. If you get almost any kid and you say, “Stretch like this.” (Hip flexor stretch) They’ll overextend because they feel it then. But really they’re in a big lumbar extension. They’re not stabilizing their pelvis so you wanna teach them to stay tall here and just tuck their bum underneath to feel a little stretch where they need it.

Now, if they’re like, “Nah, I still don’t feel it.” Do not let them go too far, if they’re like, “No. Here now I feel it.” Don’t let them do that ’cause again, it’s teaching them that hip extension is the same as lumbar extension. If they’re here and they’re like, “I don’t feel it,” then just say, “That’s awesome ’cause then you’re not super tight there. So, you’re not really feeling a big stretch.” Perfect.

The next one is a quadriceps stretch. So, you can do it standing up, working on balance, just make sure your thighs are side by side. Don’t let your knee come out to the side. And then the other thing is keep your bum tucked underneath you. Don’t again … They’ll have a big extension, keep your bum tucked underneath. And they should feel that in their thigh.

For hamstrings, I think the easiest is just put their foot up on a step and they might be really tight so it might need to be a lower step but again, the most important thing is stay tall in the torso and if they need more stretch just pivot forward from the chest a little bit. Leaning forward too far is just stretching your back, not really getting your hamstrings. So, your chest stays tall when you’re stretching the back of your thigh.

And then the last one I would do with them is calves. So, I would do it with a straight knee. So, I make sure my foot is pointed straight ahead, my heel is on the ground. I’m feeling a stretch sort of in the bulk of my calf muscle like that as I do this one. I would do that one for about 30 seconds and then I would step in and now I’m bending my knee.

So the first one is a straight knee. It gets more of the big bulk of the muscle. Gets more of the big bulk of the muscle here. The second one is bending that knee and I’m gonna feel it more as just a tightness down lower, not the same kind of big stretch in the muscle. But again, that’s important for in their ready stance, getting that good angle, getting their edges into the ice.

So, those are a few that I think will help. Cardio I think… just play different sports. Play road hockey. I really don’t think a kid, unless there’s some medical issues needs to be on the treadmill or the bike, things like that.

Like you wanna bike, go outside and bike. Get a couple of friends and go outside and bike.

For speed… speed is a skill and if you have the right person who can teach it, who wants to teach it to kids, it can have a benefit because, again, your nervous system can lay down but I want it to be taught like a skill not like boot camp, not like a bagger.

At the end of a true speed session, you should be like, “Was that really hard? Are you exhausted?” And the kid should be like, “Nope, not really.” That’s true speed and the coach should be checking their technique, spending time working on ankle position, things like that.

So, some of ya, I know, probably have that. I know there are some coaches that specialize in it but otherwise, some of these speed camps, they’re just a bagger and it’s not really making them faster, it’s making them tired. And if they like it, that’s fine too.

Then the other thing is, tons of time on skill development. Again, trying to lay down those nervous system patterns so puck handling, power skating, figure skating but really, again, with the emphasis on learning the right technique not just the coach says, “We’re gonna do it this way,” and you see your kid does it a completely different way but no one ever corrects him or her.

Hand-eye work, playing hockey in the driveway, seeing all kinds of shots. Just working on passing the puck even as a goalie. You see how important that … You’re always trying to think too how is the game gonna evolve? So, you look ahead and you see, wow, those puck handling goalies, those goalies that can make a sauce pass up across the blue line.

Woo, that has an impact so get very good at puck handling and puck control. But always under the guise of play. So, not like, “Well, did you do your puck handling today?”

If Johnny’s like, “Oh, I really wanna get better.” “Okay, well, why don’t you go and do some puck handling and that’ll help.” “Oh, great. Great idea. Away I go.” It’s never sort of you telling them.

And finally I guess just from the one who has no children ’cause I’m scared of them… remember you’re mom and dad. If my mom and dad hadn’t told me “No, no, you’re not wearing that stupid looking hat to school,” I probably woulda got more wedgies in the playground. At the time, I really wanted to wear it but I’m pretty glad they told me I shouldn’t do that. Make sense?

Okay, so, this has been Goalie Training Pro TV episode number 15. How time flies? It’s awesome.

This is how you should train your 8 year old. See ya.