Four Question Friday- Dave Rathjen from Above The Crease Goaltending

This weeks 4 Q Friday is the second part of our series with the owners of Above The Crease Goaltending (ATC) and features Dave Rathjen. Dave grew up playing AAA hockey in Penticton, B.C. before going on to a successful junior career in the WHL and BCHL. After junior, he attended the University of Alberta and played for the Golden Bears Hockey Program winning the CIS National Championship in 2005 where he graduated with his Bachelor of Physical Education Degree with a minor in sports management. After a brief stint in the UHL Dave turned his focus to coaching goaltenders full time. Dave has been instructing goalies for the past 17 years and has gained a wealth of knowledge along his journey. Dave has been coaching at the Jr A and CIS level for the past 7 years and has worked with many current/alumni AJHL, BCHL, WHL, ACAC, and CIS goalies.

How do you evaluate goalies?

Puck stopping ability and battle level need to be the top priority when evaluating a goalie. The next area to evaluate is skating and mobility as it leads to their ability to get into save angles (gain net coverage). Another area a goalie should be evaluated on is save technique and rebound control. For older goalies (Bantam-up) puck handling becomes a big separator skill.

In a proper try-out, goalies should be evaluated in game situations, team or group skills, and goalie specific sessions to display all the areas mentioned above.

When should goalies start handling the puck?

Goalies should start handling the puck as soon as they become a full time goalie. They need to develop a very strong blocker forearm and wrist as it does almost all the grip and stick rotation. Puck handling is one of the biggest distinctions between minor hockey, Jr, University, and Pro goaltenders. Coaches should be including goalies in any partner passing drills and getting them to set pucks and start breakouts. Goalies need the same reps as a player does in order to get better.

What should goalies do to get ready for a game?

I don’t feel goalies need to approach a game any differently than a player except working on goalie specific areas. The key to good game preparation is having a good week of practice, sleep, hydration, and nutrition. Goalies need to make sure they get themselves into a good mental state and this depends on the individual. If you need to have space and quiet then you may need to get away from the dressing room. On the other hand, if you like to chat and be around teammates that have a similar approach, then do so. Finally, focusing on hand-eye warm up (tennis ball drills), extra active and static flexibility exercises, and tracking the puck in warm-up will help you be at your best. Always document your approach and try to find patterns that work for you!

What should goalie parents look for in a goalie-specific camp?

There are many options when picking a goalie camp/school. Here are a few questions to consider when choosing a camp:

1. How long has the company been operating?

2. What is the experience of the staff, not just the lead instructor? If you have a 14 year old goalie you would likely want to have someone coaching them that has a ceiling of experience.

3. Asking the background of the instructors is also a good idea.

4. The goalie to instructor ratio is the most important thing to consider when choosing a camp. Only one goalie can be in the net so that means the other goalies at the station may be idle. For example, if you have a one hour session and four goalies at a net, each goalie would be in the net for only 15 minutes minus the time they’re listening to the drill explanation. A lower goalie to instructor ratio will allow the goalie more time in the net and attention from the instructor.

5. Does the camp offer video analysis? This is one of the best tools you can use to justify techniques and make adjustments in one’s game.

6. Lastly, does the goalie camp offer a progression that fits your goalie? You want your goalie to be challenged but not to the point where there confidence comes into question. Camps are designed to improve the athlete not make them frustrated and feel out of place.

Above The Crease Goaltending

ATC was created to meet the need for specialized goaltending instruction. The goal of ATC Goaltending is to provide quality goaltending instruction to individuals at all levels by building a solid foundation of technical skills and work ethic. The programs offered by ATC Goaltending will benefit the grassroots beginner goaltender all the way up to the professional goaltender. ATC Goaltending does not teach a specific style as each goaltender that straps on the pads has different strengths and weaknesses. ATC Goaltending will give you all the necessary tools to play at the highest level possible on a consistent basis. For more information on ATC visit call them at 780-289-5452

More on Competitive Thread

Competitive Thread is located in Sherwood Park, Alberta and is Western Canada’s leader in athlete testing and hockey development. They have worked with teams and athletes in the National Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League and Minor Hockey teams and players across Western Canada. They take a holistic and balanced approach to development and aim to positively contribute to the individual growth of each athlete both on and off the ice. For more information visit or call us at 780-267-5795.