Come Back Stronger

Got Pulled? Read This…

Is there a worse feeling in the world?

Like, come on, first period, goal number three goes in, and you’re glancing at your coach out of the corner of your eye. Oh no, he motioned to the other goalie. They start collecting their gloves and helmet, and you’re standing there thinking you career, and possibly your life is over.

Getting pulled sucks!

But, not all “pulls” are created equal, and there’s a way to use the setback as a comeback.

This is a three part post.

Part one will see if we actually deserved to get pulled, or not. This is a key question.

Part two will help us understand what it means, and how we can best “deal” with it.

Part three gives ideas, tips, and such to re-gain our confidence and get back to playing like our great self.

Here’s part one, got the yank? Did you deserve to or not?

Coaches, in my humble opinion, often pull a goalie for the wrong reasons. Maybe they want to “change the momentum” or “spark the team”, which CAN happen, but at what cost?

What if little Johnny gets his confidence rocked? Don’t worry little Johnny, we’ll get to that in part three.

Let’s acknowledge, that not all “pulls” are created equal. Sometimes your team is brutal in front of you. Sometimes you don’t have a great start because you were nervous or anxious, but then you were settling in but your coach was too quick on the trigger.

Or, maybe, your coach is insecure and NEEDS to win for his ego, sees two early goals go in and starts slamming the panic button. Since he can’t pull himself, he pulls you.

Whatever the reason, you’re the one who’s punished.

You can’t always control the situation, but you can always control yourself.

First, know that getting pulled is not always your fault. Coach is not perfect, and we can’t put all the power in their hands. Ask yourself, “how did I play?” And be brutally honest. Let’s become our own judge.

What did you do well? What didn’t you do well? Were you ready? Were you too ready? Were they flukey goals? Did your weaknesses get exposed?

These are important questions. Answer them truthfully. We either win or we learn!

We’re going to come up with one of two answers, 1. I should have been pulled, 2. I didn’t deserve to get pulled.

If we should have been pulled, then we get a whole bunch of valuable feedback. Feedback that we can use to become better. As a goalie, our whole entire goal is development. We need to develop, improve, and get better to achieve our goals. And although getting pulled is a painful way to get this feedback, it’s valuable. Let’s not loose the lessons.

So, don’t waste the (painful) experience. Pick ONE or TWO things that you can improve. Don’t start questioning everything about your game, pick one or two of the most important and start right away. For example, when I was pulled, I was TOO invested in the game which made me nervous or scared to fail. I wouldn’t play confidently, and bam, I was on the bench.

So, for me, my number one thing in juniors was learning to “trust” my game.

Wanting to improve my mental side, I began studying sport psychology and performance excellence, which actually became a strength of mine. So, the setback was actually an opportunity for a comeback and allowed me to have more success in juniors, college and pro.

So, this (very) painful experience was actually an opportunity to grow, learn, and develop.

How can you use your “pulled night” to grown, learn, and develop?

Your goal isn’t to be perfect, your goal is to develop, and failure is often the best teacher. Take the lessons and be better next time.

The second situation, where we don’t really feel like we should have been pulled is a little trickier. Of course, we can still take lessons from it and we should do that. But, we also need to dig a little deeper.

If we really didn’t play well, was it this game, or has this been a long time coming?

If we’ve been cutting corners for weeks or months, sometimes it all catches up to us later. Where can you recommit to becoming your best? Just recommit to working on your good habits, work ethic, and earning your saves!

If you’ve been working hard and feeling good, and still got pulled, well stuff happens.

All too often, getting pulled shakes OUR confidence. We let someone else opinion become our reality. Yes, your coach is entitled to their opinion, but as we went over before, they likely made a decision at your expense and the only real danger of getting pulled is letting it carry over beyond the game.

Recap –

Not always your fault

If it is, great learning

Great opportunity to improve and come back stronger

Now we know that getting pulled gives us an opportunity to re-commit to what makes us successful, or politely disagree with coach and get back on track. If your confidence is feeling shaken up, definitely read part II!

Part II

Remember from Part I, that getting pulled may not have anything to do with us. But, we want to make sure we get the lessons form it.

In Part II, we’re going for focus on 3 P’s when getting pulled. We must be very careful of these three P’s!

Even if we didn’t have our best night, our goal isn’t to have a perfect season. It’s to get better and better. One bad game is NO BIG deal, remember my first start of my junior year at Cornell? I got the pull after 5 goals and probably had the worst numbers in the world.

At the end of that season, I battled back to end the year with the second highest save percentage in DI. The key was isolating that one event (I actually didn’t even feel like I played poorly – be your own judge from part I) and getting back to my game as quickly as possible.

More specifically, don’t let one bad goal, or one bad game snowball down the hill.

Getting pulled, is a one time even, getting derailed is the real challenge.


Getting derailed is more likely if you take it personally. Now of course, you’re going to take getting pulled personally, but what I mean is you separating the action with you as a person.

If you say, I’m a great goalie (personal) who had an off day (action), you will bounce back much quicker than feeling like I’m a bad goalie, because I got pulled today (personal).

We have some great videos in our Academy about separating your ego from your performance, or separating the process from the results. And, from my own experience, this has to be done, to be successful. I used to attach my value to my GAA. What happens if you are your GAA and you give up 5? Doesn’t that mean you’re bad? That’s a recipe for disaster.

If you take anything away from this, please detach yourself from the results. You (personal) are a great goalie who can have a bad game (action).

Even if you’re detached from the results, you can still feel a little derailed after getting yanked so let’s get back on track.

P 2 – Permanence

Think back to our 4 Keys of Busting Our of a Slump, you play a lot of games every year. On average, you probably face 30 shots and have 2-3 goalies against. That means our of 60 shots, you’ll probably have 4-6 goals against. If you just got pulled after 10 shots and 3 goals against, it’s very realistic to expect to make 50 saves and only give up 1-2!

Think about that.

As we always say here, “it all evens out.”

You may have had an off-day, or your team was off, but the law of probability says you’re actually due for a great game or two. You should be EXCITED to get back out and play. You should think to yourself, awesome, I must have a couple great games coming soon.

It has to even out, right?

And that’s why it’s so important not to get derailed, then you’ll miss your comeback opportunities.

P 3 – Pervasive

This is when we start a negative downward spiral like getting pulled means we’ll probably getting pulled next game, then your coach will release you, then no one will want you, then no one will love you, then your living in a van down by the river.

Whoa, whoa, whoa…

Here’s the reality – every coach knows that bad games happen.

If Carey Price gets pulled, do you think that means he end up in a van down by the river? No! Not even in Montreal.

BEING a great goalie always trumps one good (or bad) game.

So, let’s remember it’s just one game and we have a great comeback opportunity.

Flukes happen. The key is getting back to your game quickly to take advantage of the comeback opportunities. Every single goalie will get pulled this year, the only difference at the end of the year will be how long it took them to comeback.

I challenge you to comeback faster, better, and stronger than your competition.

And last thing, often trying ‘harder’ is what you’re going to feel like doing, but it’s often more hurtful than helpful.

You probably played great the week before or the practice just before that game. YOU are not broken. That game was broken. If we start trying to fix everything about our game and force things to happen, we’ll start getting away from what let’s us play our best.

Trust that you are a great goalie and that game sucked.

So let’s recap this really quickly…

First, be the judge of your own game. Coaches do NOT always know best. Ask yourself the tough questions and answer them with complete honesty.

Then, take the lessons. We usually get our best learning opportunities from failure. Every time you learn, you improve, and every time you improve you get one step closer to being the best you can be. Don’t waste the lessons!

Remember that over the course of a season, “it all evens out”, if you spend too much time being upset, or questioning yourself,  you’re going to get derailed and miss your opportunity to have a GREAT COMEBACK.

One of the best, if not the best, way to avoid getting derailed is by detaching yourself from the results. You can be a great goalie who had a bad game, that does NOT make you a bad goalie.

And just because the game was broken, doesn’t mean you’re broken!



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