Teaching young goalies to read the angles

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

One local hockey parent and coach noticed that young goaltenders were struggling with the basics of playing the position and decided to develop a program which he is offering to all young goalies in the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association (FFMHA).

One of John Homer’s sons and his daughter have both played as hockey goalies and when he coached he noticed that many goalies were not getting a lot of valuable instruction from coaches who didn’t want to interfere with their development because they don’t know how to coach the position.

“I’ve been a coach for the last eight years, four years as a head coach and four years with girls hockey as an assistant, most of our coaches were never goalies so a lot of coaches resist working with goalies because they don’t know certain drills or they don’t know what to do with them, so they don’t want to screw them up.”

With that in mind and having coached his own kids at the position some Homer started researching to prepare his own goalie coaching program which he named Angles 101.

Homer says he took the Hockey Canada goalie coaching course as well as started doing research on how to better coach goaltenders.

Many players will choose a long-term position in hockey as they get into the U11 age group but the FFMHA has struggled to have enough in recent years.

“We have a huge hole in Fort Frances with young goalies,” Homer said. “We’re getting less of them and then when we do get them they don’t stay as a goalie very long because there’s not a lot of teaching.”

When goalies are not taught to play the position well this leads to trouble stopping pucks which leads to trouble with their self-confidence at the position.

“These kids are athletic and everything else and they want to be good at their position because if they’re not good at it, then they don’t want to do it,” Homer said. “They hate it. They feel they’re letting their team down. So there’s mental side of goaltending as well, even at a young age.”

The name Angles 101 comes from the fact that a lot of goaltending is about cutting down the space of the net that attacking forwards have to shoot at.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s U15, U11, U9, or even older goalies, most of them when you watch, they’re missing the basic fundamentals,” Homer said. “There’s a shooting triangle from from where a shooter shoots and that moves depending on where the player is, so I developed this program based on angles and based on depths or where they are in the net because most of the young kids are small so our program is to make them as big as possible in the net with as little movement as possible.”

Part of Homer’s process is making sure the goalies can skate well. Contrary to popular belief, playing in goal is not just a position for kids who can’t skate.

“We work on skating with them and everything to start with,” Homer said. “Because skating is huge, it’s something that gets missed. It used to be years ago you’d stick the kid who couldn’t skate in the net and that’s the way it was.”

The hope for the young goalies learning the position to get a grasp on the positioning that makes it harder for shooters to see the empty spots in the net, but hit the goaltender instead, and then move on to making more difficult saves.

“So in this program we talk about angles and depth, depth control and being square to the puck,” Homer said. “If they do the basics and the fundamentals, it puts them in a position for the puck to hit them a lot more. Then their team’s happier, they’re happier, they’re enjoying the position more and then after they get a bit older we can move on to the glove saves and the blocker saves and more technical stuff.”

Homer’s current group in conjunction with FFMHA started last night with a video session and pizza at the Causeway Insurance boardroom reviewing footage of professional goalies and how they play the game.

The program goes on for the next five weeks with four on ice sessions and one dryland session. If you’re interested in having your child get this instruction you should contact FFMHA or check out the facebook page Causeway Goalie Training.

Homer has his own son who is a U13 AA Canadians goalie to help demonstrate drills, as well as other young players like Homer’s other son Jonah who is a defenseman, helping out to take shots on the goalies in the program.

Homer has already noticed improvements in players that have gone through this clinic, and parents and coaches are seeing differences too.

“I’ve gotten many texts from coaches and parents and they’re very happy with what they’ve seen so far,” He said.