Today’s #SameHere Hero: Justin Goldman from The Goalie Guild.
I’m so impressed & inspired by what Justin has built. We met at the University of Denver event a few weeks ago (he and his organization are based out there). We spoke about working with a “niche” group of First Responders last week, but how massive that niche is…well Justin has championed hockey goalies ALL over the world. Don’t believe me? Check out his @goalieguild following on instagram alone. It’s massive. And it’s massive because he too has built a community. At Denver, he had just agreed on a partnership to work with them $ their Performance Center for Excellence. But the “Guild” itself, has launched a program called “Lift The Mask” as goalies traditionally have had to wear “masks” in the figurative sense, in order to maintain that nothing affects them mentally. Justin is helping to change that, as he knows remaining behind that mask all the time is not healthy for these goaltenders all over the world.
Justin himself has had multiple near death experiences that have caused him trauma. While he’s not fully ready to open up about them, he does touch on the effects they have had on his mental health. We thank him for that gift. Though he has not gone for formal therapy, he’s found relief in focusing on helping others, meditation, music, nature, & pretty much anything outdoors. He’s also a big fan of neuroplasticity & how we can change our minds & thought patterns for the better. German goaltender, Ben Meisner, who we featured in our Influencer Alliance Stories after he was published in the Players’ Tribune, is also a part of Justin’s Goalie Guild and “Lift The Mask” initiative. We are so happy to now welcome Justin in, formally. I believe Justin has the best program in the world, to help hockey goalies in all aspects of life & sport & it’s an honor to have him join. He’ll also be coming on as a member of our Advocate Alliance.
“As a competitive goalie for over 25 years, I’ve had multiple concussions and suffered one life-threatening injury, but I have never been formally diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Like many other goalies out there, everything I’ve been through both on and off the ice has stayed hidden under my (emotional) mask. I’ve always been the quiet and observant type, and due to my unique childhood growing up on a horse ranch in Texas, I don’t fit the mold of a traditional hockey player. I’ve always been considered weird, whether it was due to the music I listened to or my interests or my writing style. I’ve kept everything within me, and found ways to cope and push through my struggles without leaning on anyone for help or support.
Although I’m not ready to share my full personal story yet, I did mention in the preface of one of my books (Embracing the Grind) about my multiple near-death experiences. A few of them happened in my younger years and left a lasting impact on my psyche. The most recent one was about 10 years ago and definitely caused some trauma. I did not tell anyone about what happened for many years. I rarely share this with anyone because I do not want to glorify them, my story, or have to re-live the experiences. But at the same time, I know there are others out there just like me and that is somehow comforting, albeit eerie.
These experiences have certainly brought me great perspective in life, which has led me to where I am today: a budding advocate for mental health and performance in the sports community, specifically for goalies. The unique nature of the goaltending position leads many of us to keep that ‘mask’ down at all times, which is clearly not a healthy or realistic thing to do. So that is why the ‘Lift The Mask’ initiative now exists and why my nonprofit foundation is dedicated to supporting goalies who need help.
My near death experiences made me stronger and more resilient, but more than anything it brought me tremendous perspective which improved my goaltending ability and my work ethic. I take nothing for granted, I judge nobody for their past or their opinions, and I truly love everyone. I have seen ‘the other side’ on more than one occasion and I have a very metaphysical and somewhat mystical approach to my reality and daily life. I see time in a different light and feel extremely connected to the past and ancestors from other ancient cultures. I cope with my fears and anxieties in unique ways, but still struggle with reaching out for professional help. Since I do not deal with a specific diagnosis and have never seen a professional mental health provider, I am part of the community that needs help, but I don’t let it hold me back or slow me down. I believe because I have almost died multiple times, I never truly suffer, because I am literally just happy to still be in the land of the living. Every day is a chance for me to continue making a difference and I’m extremely fortunate to be in a position where I can help others. Aside from the obvious like my family and loved ones and closest friends, helping others is the only thing I really care about anymore. I obviously run the gamut of feelings just like anyone else who has experienced certain traumas in
their past, but I have always found personal and unique strategies to cope and turn things into a positive. I’m the eternal optimist, the one who can always twist any situation into something good or meaningful or inspirational.
I have never reached out to a professional for help, because I’ve never felt like I needed relief. By helping others every day, and by mentoring young goalies around the world and bringing the goalie community together, I’m getting the relief I believe I need to keep moving forward and keep growing as an individual. There are some daily habits I’d love to eliminate and replace with better ones, but I consider myself lucky in terms of overall mental health. I do not struggle with depression or OCD or extreme anxiety as they are formally diagnosed. I have always maintained a high level of focus and commitment to my goals, and I am lucky to be known as an inspiration to many goalies that have followed my path over the last decade, despite the fact they are unaware of my near-death experiences and my dark moments. To be honest, connecting with Eric and being introduced to this organization and his movement is the first time I’ve really ever felt comfortable even talking about my past and why I am where I am today.
I’m considered an extreme learner. What makes me feel better is knowing that every day is a chance to grow and gain a higher level of perspective and wisdom. Nature is probably my most sacred tool for feeling good. Meditation, although it is inconsistent in my life, is a huge key to mental health in my opinion. I also believe strongly in resonance theories, cosmic consciousness, and the power of music. So my ‘tunes’ and seeing live performances has played a major role in my progress as an athlete and an individual. As an extreme learner, I’m always reading something or learning from experts about different topics regarding performance and mental health.
I have not shared my true story yet. I have always been very ‘behind the scenes’ and more interested in telling the stories of others. I do not need recognition or likes or follows to feel valued. I just need quality connections and relationships and knowing my purpose is aligned with my actions and beliefs. I am in a constant state of change and constantly trying to create new ideas and things in order to push the progress of the goaltending world forward. If I ever did open up about what I experienced in my past, I wouldn’t care if people rejected or accepted it. Many people out there have had near-death experiences and have seen all kinds of mystical and seemingly impossible things. I happen to be one of them, but I’m no different than anyone else. I’m just trying to put good out in order to get good in return. But I truly understand the meaning of ‘Life is Short’ and feel like that perspective has been helping a lot of young goalies out there go after their dreams. Especially since I come from a very simple and nontraditional hockey background, I can show kids that no matter where they’re from, they can achieve anything they want if they believe in themselves and the power of their minds. That’s one thing I want to continue learning about as time goes on — neuroplasticity and the power of the mind to heal itself over time. I feel like this is a
big reason why I’ve been able to stay away from medications and hard drugs…I have found ways to heal myself mentally by continually learning and growing and evolving on a daily basis.
I’m sorry if any of this is confusing or comes off as rambling, but I’m just trying to be as straightforward and as candid as possible.
I really believe in what you guys are doing with #SameHere and since Ben Meisner is one of the Pro Ambassadors for Lift The Mask, I wanted to do what I can to help out. I was also moved by Theo Fleury’s speech at the Sit-Down event in Denver a few weeks ago. It was held at the same time I announced the new partnership with the Center for Performance Excellence at DU and that’s how I got hooked up with your community!”