In goalie terms that means something than in life. Every time I go to get in the water and actually practice I think about my goalie half. In Pennsylvania men and women’s water polo is in the same season. So as a goalie we always trained together regardless of gender. My goalie half was the women’s goalie. Same grade but more experience than me. I probably wouldn’t have ever amounted to anything as a goalie if it hadn’t been for her. She was stronger than me in most ways and could out work me on my best day. Also when you’re a goalie there is a certain understanding that only another goalie can have. They are the ones you can talk to honesty post game and they are the best at getting you out of your own way. You spend every day for most of high school suffering for hours together and a bond forms. One I miss every time I get back in the water. And as I prepare to put this old and broken body through an hour or two of old fashioned hell I wonder where she is and what she’s up to.
Then I remember she’s training for the Olympics in bobsledding. Yeah, I won the goalie lottery on my other half. And if you happen across this, I hope you’re kicking ass.
As a goalie, it is impossible to succeed more than you have failed. Unless you shut out every single game you have ever played and your team has managed to also win all of them there is no perfect. Even in a game that your team comes out the victor you likely made mistakes in the course of that game that cost your team points.
This is a great thing about this position. You have to know how to lose, how to live with your mistakes, how to isolate a mistake so one action doesn’t turn into a snowball effect.
In life this is very important. Many people allow one bad thing in a day to ruin their entire day(I can’t say that I don’t do this as well at times) but what you need to do is be able to move forward and put that one moment behind you. Learn from it if you can, but move forward regardless.
This one was touched on during a survival tip, however it is in the foundation of what I teach goalies. I explain early on that I will train them in situations that either are always or never, but there is no such thing as always an never. Like the Yin Yang, there is a splash of the Yin in the Yang, and the Yang in the Yin.
There way be situation where 99.9% of the time one option is correct, but there will be that one time where defying all logic it is the right option to do the wrong thing. In the beginning they have to treat the situations like they are black and white, but as the seasons go by they slowly learn when it is the right time for them to defy the always and never. The tricky part is I can’t train them to see that since each goalie is different they have different occasions to break the norm.
In life we are taught that all situations are black and white, right and wrong, but everything tends to be a shade of gray. It is up to each of us to decide when we need to go against the grain to do the right thing.
I do my best to never set impossible goals for my goalies. So I tell them that I don’t expect them to shut games out.
You will get scored on. I’ve never had a perfect game, and I’ve coached a few, and only see a couple more on top of that. The rules of the game are continuing changing to make it a higher scoring game(Your average game will finish around ten goals).
You aren’t perfect, and I’ll never ask you to be. I will ask for your best. Nothing more, nothing less.
The reason I don’t ask them to be perfect is I need them to be at their best when things are going wrong. If they give up three in a row, I don’t want them to shut down. I need them to be prepared to be scored on and still move forward without cracking.
In life things will never go perfectly. No matter how much you train or practice or try, things won’t go perfectly. Ever.
You’ve got to be prepared for things not to go your way. You can still get scored on and win the game.
First thing I need in a goalie is the ability to check their emotion at the door. Every time I get a new goalie I point to the locker room door and say “It doesn’t matter what happened in school today, or if your (insert boyfriend/girlfriend where appropriate) broke up with you today, or you got in a fight with your best friend. When you walk through that door you leave it all behind. For three hours you are a goalie.”
A goalie needs to be able to turn off their emotion. You are put in a position to fail, and fail constantly. Even when you succeed it is rare that anyone besides a goalie will notice the impact you had. Hubris needs to be minimal confidence needs to be high. Emotion will only slow a goalie down. I need them to appear the same whether they are down by ten, up by ten, or in a tie game.
I don’t expect a 14 year old kid to be able to totally shut their emotion down, but I do expect them to mask it. In a game I know the exact moment an opponents goalie cracks just by watching their face and that is when I tell the head coach to unleash shots from anywhere because they will score. What I do expect from a goalie is to be able to not show the emotion. To keep a ‘goalie face’ at all times. That way you never give your opponent an advantage by showing your mental state.
When I get a chance to explain this to goalies post graduation I explain this lesson carries into the real world because you can’t let emotion harm your day to day life. If you had a bad weekend, you still need to show up to class on Monday. You get in a fight with your wife the night before you go to work, you still need to show up to work. And showing up isn’t just enough, you need to be present.
If you aren’t careful a negative emotion can snowball one problem into an avalanche. So to stop this from happening, when you recognize the snowball you set it aside until you can give it your full attention. Until then you are only creating a bigger problem, and life must go on, because it will whether or not you are keeping up.
Goalie Love is a term that a fellow goalie of mine used to describe the unique understanding and appreciation of goalies by goalies. I have since carried the term with me into coaching and call my small group sessions with my goalies at the end of practice Goalie Love.
This year one of my goalies suggested I should write about the goalie lessons I tell them about. Having had far worse ideas in my writing career I have decided to give it a go.
Before I get into any of the lessons, I wanted to give a brief history of my passion for goalieing. One of the people I coach with described me as a bit “Goalie Crazy”.
I started as a goalie when I was 8ish in soccer. I pursued soccer through to high school. Sadly I was not good enough to make my high school soccer team, luckily one of the guys on my soccer team also played water polo and convinced me to come play goalie for them. I was extremely apprehensive about the change, but it was better to be a goalie somewhere than nowhere. The change of course into the unknown worked out as I went on to goalie in college and still to this day get in the cage.
There has been nothing in my life as consistent and frequent as goalie.
Though I miss my playing days I have found that coaching is far more rewarding than anything I ever accomplished in the water.
Doesn’t hurt that kids I train tend to be better than me.