In-Game Adjustments

One of my favorite hobbies is to play hockey. My secret fear, though, is that my enthusiasm for the game isn’t matched by a reasonable level of adequacy at my favorite sport. And just to add to that concern, I just had to be interested in the position with the most scrutiny: the goaltender.

The goalie is welcomed at any pick-up game – mostly because it’s better to shoot on a person than the shooter tutor or the posts – but can quickly be disappointing if the goals come too easily.

And at today’s pick-up game, the goals came way too easily.

After being burned by several weak goals that hit the far corners, I really had to evaluate what I was doing wrong. My first inclination was to blame my equipment, but I already knew that was a weak excuse. And the pace was fairly relaxed so I was reading the play okay. I was getting beat cleanly even when I was set for the shot. But was I in position?

I realized that I had overcompensated for one area of my game and overlooked its pitfall. One fundamental element of goaltending is to “challenge the shooter”, meaning to advance out of the net towards the attacking player with the puck so as to reduce the player’s perceived sightline of the net and to get in to the way of the puck’s trajectory past the goal line. The potential for error is in challenging the shooter without being “square to the puck” (another goaltending fundamental skill), meaning that goalie’s positioning isn’t aligned adequately (equally?) to minimize openings towards the net.

Shorter goalies (like me!) are advised to be more aggressive in challenging the shooter because of the naturally larger exposed areas. But in my zeal to look big to the shooter, I didn’t move out properly relative to the net. And so while I did do one thing right, I totally overlooked another area to my detriment. No wonder those shots were out of my reach – I basically was giving players half the net to shoot at and was left wondering how these players had such deadly accurate shots.

So I played less aggressively, was more aware of my position relative to the net, and made more saves. Yay.

(I originally wanted to post an article that I had read a while ago about effective learning through active feedback and adjustments in light of errors. I would’ve tied it to its application in sports and my experience at pick-up hockey, hence the title of this post. But since I can’t find the specific article that I had in mind, I started to write and this story came out instead. )

Why NHL Goalies Prefer Wooden Sticks

A scientific/materials explanation about the sustained popularity of wood in goal sticks.

Nerves in the human hand are particularly sensitive to vibrations of 200-400 times per second. The wooden material tends to vibrate at lower rates, away from this sensitive range. Any vibrations in the 200-400 times per second range die down more quickly than they do in composite sticks, the researchers found.

Why NHL Goalies Prefer Wooden Sticks