Over the years, the role of the goalkeeper has evolved tremendously, especially in modern-day football. In this article, we talk to the two goalkeeper coaches of Lion City Sailors Football Academy, Shahril Jantan and Kris Stergulc. We find out the essential attributes to have as a modern-day goalkeeper, their objectives and challenges faced as goalkeeper coaches, and plans in the academy - to ensure a holistic approach to develop Singapore’s next number 1. 

Shahril Jantan has 17 years of professional football experience and is a decorated goalkeeper. In his profession as a former professional goalkeeper, he has won 6 league winners medals and 4 Singapore cups and even represented the National team.

Kris Stergulc, who is a new addition to the academy, has a total of 6 years of experience in coaching. Before Lion City Sailors Football Academy, Kris was a Goalkeeper Coordinator in ND Gorica, GK coach for FA Slovenia U17 and U19, and was the AC Trencin’s first team GK coach.

Cooperating as a TEAM

It has been more than a month since Kris officially joined the academy. Still, efforts to make sure that both coaches can work harmoniously together started even before he arrived in Singapore. Both coaches exchanged their philosophies and methodologies online for good measure before Kris arrived in Singapore. 

Shahril indicated that it was not difficult to integrate both of their ideologies as he found similar beliefs in their coaching methods and philosophies. With Kris being here in the academy, the coaches can use more time to focus on trying to look into training sessions and divide them into methods that will help the goalkeepers train under certain conditions, allowing them to play as the academy expects them to. 

“In modern-day football, as coaches, we do not just teach goalkeepers how to catch a ball. Now we must put them into situations where they can make effective decisions as a goalkeeper.”

Since his entrance into the academy, Kris has set aside his time to try and fully understand the environment he is working in. With the presence of Shahril, who has helped to highlight the different qualities of individual players in the academy, Kris believes that this is an added advantage as it will assist him in adjusting and adapting better to the football environment as well as getting to know the players here.

Shahril is currently coaching goalkeepers in the foundation program (Under-9,10,11) and Kris in development (Under-13,15, and SFL) through the delegation of roles. However, with the intent of building a work culture of collaborative learning, both coaches try to be fully involved and ensure that they are present for one another's training sessions.

Getting through the obstacles

One of the challenges faced as a goalkeeper coach is the luxury of time. Not only do these coaches have to ensure that their training sessions are designed and executed correctly, but they also need to find the time to understand their players better. However, Shahril explains that it has been a smoother process with Kris in the academy to split the roles accordingly.

Shahril reminisces on his experience during the academy’s 6-weeks Europe Training Camp. He reveals that his biggest takeaway was the opportunity to gain more time with the goalkeepers, out of the field. He expressed how the time he spent there with the boys was valuable as he was able to understand the limitations they are in while in Singapore and to come up with solutions or alternatives for the boys. In addition, the training camp allowed him a platform to broaden his knowledge on how training is conducted by the German and Dutch goalkeeper coaches. 

“It was definitely a positive, knowing that the methods used and what I was currently doing with the keepers back in Singapore was not far off.”

Apart from understanding the goalkeepers on a personal level, Kris explains that physical qualities are as important. Comparing the pool of players here in Singapore over the players in Europe, he understands that it might be a challenge to find a player that matches the perfect physical profile - height being one of the factors. 

To overcome this, Shahril and Kris would focus on things they can control, such as the other abilities that the player has. Diverting their focus on the player’s strengths, the coaches can develop these players into similar players to those in Europe by enhancing their qualities.

Implementing methodologies

The role of goalkeepers has evolved significantly in the past decade. Therefore, it is necessary that the coaches devise specific training sessions in both the foundation and development program, which will allow these players to grow into an all-inclusive role. 

Shahril noted that many goalkeepers, who are in their foundation years, miss out on the experience of being an outfield player. Being exposed to the role as an outfield player will allow them to be more comfortable with the ball and understand the game better.

The coaches agree that the technical side of goalkeeping can be taught later on when these players reach the developmental stage, as they should not specialize in one area too early. In addition to the fundamentals of ball-handling skills taught to these younger players, the coaches try to put them out of a goal more often.

When it comes to coaching the players in the development program, Kris explains how training sessions go further in-depth and into specifics. Sessions include putting these goalkeepers in positions similar to game situations where the main goal is to place these players into decision making.

It is essential that the goalkeepers are well-integrated and not isolated during training. The coaches try to make training as functional as possible by including opposition in their sessions to achieve this. So once they integrate with team sessions, it will be easier than coming from an isolated training environment.

Roles and responsibilities of coaches in the academy

No role has undergone more evolution over the last 20 years than a goalkeeper. Therefore, inclusivity is relevant to goalkeepers through their development as football players. Before, they would not put a goalkeeper in a possession game. However, head coaches should include goalkeepers in the team’s training sessions as much as possible.

Here in the academy, the goalkeeper coaches make it a point to have constant communication with the head coaches of the different age groups to ensure that goalkeeper training sessions are less of isolation. Fulfilling this would mean striving for these goalkeepers to be incorporated into general training sessions more often to broaden their understanding of the game.

Communicating effectively

Shahril believes that communication is an integral skill that all goalkeepers need to have. Therefore, the coaches make it a point to have regular group discussions with the players. In such settings, the goalkeepers are given the chance to voice out their opinions and have a go at exchanging their perspectives with the coaches. 

Training and match analysis are conducted with the goalkeepers, especially those that are in the development phase. Kris mentions,

“For me, it is not all about making sure the keepers communicate a lot. It is about making sure that they communicate smartly.”

Here in the academy, the goalkeeper coaches create different strategies in training sessions that put the goalkeepers into situations where they need to communicate and give instructions to their teammates. 

Plans in the near future

Both Shahril and Kris are hopeful that with the new facility, the goalkeepers will have a more conducive space to train in. Progressively, they are thinking about new materials, such as GPS tracking systems, which can be used to aid them in developing their goalkeepers further.

“Every player has a role model. Here in Lion City Sailors, we have the pleasure of having Hassan Sunny, Singapore’s No. 1, and Shahril who also represented the National team previously, who the players can look up to.”

Kris and Shahril are looking forward to working closely with the Under-21 and first team of Lion City Sailors and involving their players in the two teams progressively.

With the guidance of Kris and Shahril here in the academy, we are definitely in safe hands.