Jungle Cats > Zoo Tigers
A Metaphor for Goaltending Development
A new NHL season also means jumping back on the podcast train, and despite the usual rust that comes with it, so far, the ride has been awesome.
My first of three guest spots in October dropped yesterday on Hockey IQ.
At the end of this hour-long chat with host Greg Revak, a wonderful new metaphor for goalie development emerged.
The Hockey IQ Podcast focuses on the game as a whole, but Greg’s brother is a long-time goalie, so his natural curiosity for “the other side” led him down the rabbit hole and onto The Goalie Guild’s doorstep.
During our discussion, which broached many coaching-related topics, Greg asked me about practice design. It was one of my first chances to go more in-depth on a few key areas of the Ecological Dynamics approach.
Being able to clearly speak about Ecological Dynamics “on the spot” takes a lot of practice and familiarity, something I’m slowly accruing as Year 3 of this learning journey rolls on.
But true to its own form, the best way to practice is to just dive right in and do it.
As our discussion continued, I really enjoyed Greg’s questions and his observations on the position. Seeing things from a shooter’s or head coach’s point of view always opens my eyes to new things, and this conversation was no different.
Just as we were wrapping things up, Greg dropped a brilliant metaphor that I will enjoy using for many years to come. It happens around the 1:02:00 mark.
“So we want goalies that are jungle cats, not zoo tigers.” - Greg Revak
I don’t want to take Greg’s metaphor too far out of its original context, but for those who don’t have time to listen, allow me to briefly explain it below.
Why Jungle Cats?
As a coaching educator, I love helping goalie coaches look at skill development through an ecological lens.
Skill is not just the ability to repeat the same movement or make saves the same exact way every time. From an ecological lens, skill is also the ability to repeat the process of finding the right solution (movement, save, and/or read) for any given situation.
Simply put, skill can also be viewed as a problem-solving activity.
Since no two shots, situations, plays, or games are ever the same, I don’t view skill from the lens of one “ideal” technique. Instincts and movements are inherent to each individual and their environment. We also know “There are as many styles as there are goalies,” (Magnusson, 2015) so finding skilled solutions also means being attuned to the specific information provided in any situation.
Because the game environment and all situations are always changing, skilled goalies are able to repeatedly discover and execute new solutions.
With this concept in mind, what makes Greg’s metaphor so great is its pure “animalistic” nature. I say this because we as goalie coaches are always trying to move away from building “robotic” goalies.
Well…Jungle Cats are the complete opposite of robots.
Jungle Cats are undomesticated, authentic movers that retain their primal instincts. They are unpredictable, self-sufficient, and situationally adaptable.
Zoo Tigers, while still beautiful and unique, are more “domesticated” and are trained to behave a certain way, mainly for human enjoyment. They are fed and groomed regularly, they have instant access to shelter, they get locked in cages, and they are constantly being watched by their caretakers.
This metaphor can run so much deeper, but that’s the general idea. And a huge stick-tap to Greg for coming up with this one, because I absolutely love it.
As goalie coaches, remember that one of our main goals is to design practices that allow our athletes to thrive as Jungle Cats. We want to challenge them in ways that help them find new solutions based on specifying information that they will see in a game.
That information can also be molded and manipulated through the use of constraints.
There are so many creative and effective ways to do this, and as we continue to explore some of them together, you’ll see why taking an ecological approach to practice design (representative or otherwise) has become a great way to level up your goalie coaching.
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