Coach Snowden-Santi upgrades his USA Hockey Goaltending Certification to Silver

Over the last four months I have been working towards the next level of goaltending certification with USA Hockey. This process involved monthly Zoom calls, project assignments for each coach to complete, and culminated with a three day seminar in Las Vegas, NV. Here is a little bit of what I experienced during that process.

For our first assignment, each coach was asked to provide a season development plan. Already having an established season plan, this was a unique opportunity for my existing plan to be peer reviewed. Receiving a ton of good feedback, from coaches all over the country, I have been able to make beneficial improvements to SG's process.

After completing our season plan and review, we moved to on ice drills. I was required to identify a particular behavior in our students, that we considered a bad habit, and create an on ice drill to help correct it. Once put together, I had to record and submit video of the drill in action. 

The behavior I identified for correcting is the action of goalies dropping their hands and chest when sliding backwards at a 45 degree angle. In order to correct this habit, I created a drill where the goalie exited the net straight ahead, in their stance, until the coach activated the drill. Upon the coach tapping their stick, the drill turns into a breakaway situation, where the coach makes a move to either side a foot or two above the crease. Forcing the goalie to slide to either side, following the puck. Starting the first set of repetitions with no puck, and adding that in for the next, then other constraints with each set. Increasing the challenge and intensity with each variation, and ultimately ending up with something similar to a game situation. For my video it was just me and two goalies, so I gave them some extra fun by allowing them to take breakaways against one another.

For this peer review, our group was shrunk down from the entire class, to about three or four coaches. Again, we were provided with a ton of great feedback from our Zoom group which included Kachina Goaltending Director Hiroki Wakabayashi. Who gave me the idea to vary the type of projectile (tennis ball, lacrosse ball, etc) to create new variations for my drill. This completed our final Zoom meeting, and it was time to get ready for Vegas!

Our Las Vegas seminars were held in the convention center within the Red Rocks Casino Resort. Giving us an awesome conference space to hold our seminars. Our first night started with a brief mixer, where I was able to meet coaches from outside my district, but also some within my own. We did not get long to chat, and got right in to a light review of what we had covered in our Bronze Seminar and Zoom meetings; Then on to learning the drills for our first ice session scheduled at City National Arena the next morning.

I was slotted as part of the second on ice group, which meant we would be in the stands for the first ice session of the seminar. Our group was assigned to evaluate the skills and drills from the stands on Saturday. Critiquing and giving feedback on the drills, and evaluating individual skills for the assigned age group of goaltenders. Which would provide information to make changes to the Sunday drills we would then present. Once the first session was complete, it was back to the classroom to reconvene as a whole. Giving us a chance to review and discuss what we saw from both ice level, as well as from the stands.

Later that afternoon, we had the good fortune to host a Learn-to-Play hockey session for the Las Vegas hockey community. It was tough to count with all the kids skating around, but I believe we ended up putting quick change pads on about 200 kids in the one hour session. It was an absolute madhouse! I could not have had more fun enjoying hockey will all these enthusiastic coaches and kids.

To top it all off, along with our seminar, USA Hockey was able to arrange for us to purchase tickets to the Golden Knights vs Blackhawks game. Marked by the return of Marc Andre Fleury to LV since his trade. A moment that any goaltender could recognize the significance of, and was cool to be in the presence of.

After a great night at the game, it was back on the ice the next morning to present and run the drills each I had created. Something I do regularly with SG group lessons and camps, so I felt fairly confident in my ability to rise to the occasion. I was given the 14U group for that morning, whose level of skill made it easy to run basic drill, and add constraints quickly. All while being filmed by an evaluator, as well as one of seminar peers. If you would like to view the video of our explanation to the kids, please visit our social media platforms.

Once everyone had run their group through, we went back to the conference center to go over our videos, and discuss how each of us had done. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the seminar weekend. Being able to review and discuss my performance with development leaders of our industry. Both critiques and praise were extremely helpful, and I have already been implementing what I learned into our structure. 

We ended our weekend with a review of dietary suggestions for young athletes, and basic warmup calisthenics to help prepare them for games or practice. It certainly got the coaches blood flowing! 

Even after the seminar, the group chat setup by USA Hockey between all the coaches has been extremely beneficial. Creating a platform for us to network and communicate with goalie coaches across the country, sharing information to help our niche group of hockey players.

Although required for our advancement, a huge thanks are due to the USA Hockey staff for hosting an amazing seminar. I certainly left with much more than I expected to receive, and look forward to next year's gold seminar.


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