Everybody knows about head coaches, those guys on benches that shout a lot, swear a lot and argue with refs. Then there are assistant coaches, guys on the sides sending players on penalty kills, shouting instructions and taking notes. Sometimes you notice trainers, we all heard about video guys and advanced stats. But then there’s a guy who works with only 3 other hockey players, two goalies and a third – backup goalie, usually a junior. Today we talked to Peter Skrabelj, a goalie coach.
Q: You’re a goalie Coach, for how long, how did you come into this career? With whom and where have you worked, or still work? Where did you get the majority of your experience?
PS: I work as a goalie coach for the 6th year now. I have been IIHF goalie instructor for couple of years, where I mostly worked with Finnish coaches and mentors, so my coaching method is based on their style of coaching, which is a little bit more calm, but very technical. I have already worked with more than 900 goalies from all over the world, from many different countries such as Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia… One of the most known goalies that I work with is very well known goalie in Croatia, former KHL Medveščak player Gašper Krošelj; Canadian U-20 national team goalie drafted by Edmonton Oilers Olivier Roy. Roy was one of the best goalies in EBEL last year, then there’s Jeff Lerg, best goalie in ECHL this year and many national team goalies from all over the world.
Q: We often hear that some goalies went on the ice and from that moment decided to be between the pipes. What’s your advice, when is it “too late” for a kid to become a goalie?
PS: I think they (kids) should first start as regular players and if the desire to become a goalie gets them, they should go in the net and try. Best years for kids to become goalies are from 8 years old, a year here and there shouldn’t matter. Biggest problem with young goalies is that coaches put the worst skaters or the least athletic guys from the team in the net. The teams then have problems with goalies through all the years of development. Goalies should always be the best athletes and best skaters on the team. Its never to late to become a goalie but goaltender has such a specific technique of hockey that it is really hard to learn when you are older, so maybe it is a little bit late around when over 15 years of age.
Q: Teams usually have only two goalies and over 20 other players. Are goalies competition to each other or friends? What’s your best advice for young goaltenders?
PS: It is always good to have competition in the game when you have to battle for your place in the team. Sometimes good competition pushes you over your own boundaries so you can beat your other goalie or your partner in the net, but you always need to have friendly relationship and help each other through the season. In the end you play in the same team and you want to have success with the whole team. This year Matt Murray, Stanley cup winner said, that his biggest support and the biggest reason for success in the finals was because of Mark-Andre Floury who was basically demoted to be second goalie. Floury gave him really good advice and helped him mentally to get him through this amazing season, and win the Stanley Cup with only 21 years of age!
Q: When there’s no ice can goalies compete in other sports, or hockey variants? Does it hurt their development?
PS: Goalies should always have some other sport involved through his hockey career. Sports that really help to develops their athleticism, hand-eye-body coordination are basketball, football, gymnastics and many other sports that involve combining the whole body movement. So it is welcome for goalies to do other sports while doing hockey.
Q: Only 4 ice hockey clubs, few ice surfaces and many talented players, what should we do more in Croatia?
PS: Yes, Croatia has very talented athletes. Not just in hockey but also in other sports. But if we stay in hockey, one of the biggest advantages of Croatian hockey players is their mentality, will-power and that they are very adjustable. But one of the biggest problems in Croatia is that they do not have educated coaches. They have lack of goalie coaches in youth programs and I really think they should improve the knowledge of coaches. Because goalie is worth more that 50% of the team (and more than 80 if he’s bad) and if you just work on one half on the team and forget about the other then your team will not be successful. I think management in clubs should realize that and work more with goalies, which is really crucial for national success in this sport. Because most of the time Croatia will face better teams in World championships, so it is very important and crucial that they have really good goalies, otherwise it is going to be hard for them.
Q: Goalie coach is a position that isn’t found often in clubs, there are usually fewer goalies thand playes. Is it important to work with goalies?
PS: As I already answered in the previous question goalie is the most important position on the ice and if you have a good goalie, you are going to win games. But for good goalies, you need good and educated goalie coaches to work with them. Unfortunately around central Europe, and specially in the Balkan region nobody is thinking about the most important position, the most important player in the game. So 90% of the teams don’t have a goalie coach in their teams which is very bad.
Q: Did you work with Croatian goalies, who? What’s your general opinion on them?
PS: I have trained and coached many Croatian goalies. One of the best I coached is Vito Nikolić, who was part of Maribor academy and has great attitude, athleticism and a really bright future as a goalie. A lot of goalies come to Ljubljana through the season for private lessons and for goalie camps that I organize during the summer (off season) and through the season.
Q: Your camp is based in Slovenia. Is it full? What kind of athletes would you like to attend your camp?
PS: I organize my goalie camps in Slovenia for the 5th year now and it is the biggest goalie event in Slovenia. Goalies come from all parts of Europe, Chezhia, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Russia, Croatia, Serbia and so on. Camp is based on mental preparation, that is why we bring a sport psychologist to work with goalies. We teach them new techniques from all over the world and we bring coaches from many different countries to share knowledge and to work with goalies. This year we still have couple of open spots, so if anybody wants to come is more than welcome to join us. More information about the camp you can find on my Facebook page “Peter Skrabelj Goalie Coach” or you can write me on email ” firstname.lastname@example.org “. This year goalie camp will be in Jesenice from 29.7 – 02.08.2016. Price is really afordable so almost everyone can join.
Q: If you could give one advice, once sentance what would it be?
PS: Work hard, never give up !
Thanks to Peter for talking to us!