Jack Stern – @JackSternGK
Name: Jack Stern
Current Position: U23/U18/U16 Goalkeeper Coach at Montreal Impact in the MLS.
Years Coaching Goalkeepers: 7 years
What is your background?
I was a goalkeeper at a Premier League clubs academy, but was released at the age of 16. I continued to play semi professionally in England and also spent 1 year at an NCAA division 1 university in the US. Eventually I came to the realization that I wasn’t going to play at the top level, but I wanted to reach the top level somehow and coaching was my next best bet. I went to university in England and studied sports coaching science for 4 years whilst also working part time at West Bromwich Albion’s academy, then, when I finished my studies I was offered a full time role at the club, and the rest is history!
What got you into coaching?
The desire to work at the highest level within football. I love the game and I love goalkeeping, I wasn’t happy to except that just because I wasn’t quite good enough to be a professional player I couldn’t have a career in football. I think lots of the best coaches are players who played at a high level but didn’t quite make it. It helps you to understand what young players go through and what it takes to succeed.
What is your coaching philosophy?
I believe very strongly that you have to demonstrate and display the qualities that you want your goalkeepers to have yourself. I believe if you are passionate, hard working and love what you do everyday your goalkeepers will feed off this and also develop a love for the position. I also believe in paying attention to the little details. At the top levels of proffesional sport the difference in coaches and players is not huge, being meticulous in your approach, whether it be with planning, analysis or research, can give you the extra 1% or 2% that divides the rest from the best.
Who has been a mentor to your through your coaching career? Is there a coach who impacted you to get into coaching?
Without a doubt. I have been extremely lucky to have had someone very special to learn from. Mark Naylor is the head Academy Goalkeeper Coach at West Bromwich Albion and he was, and still is, my mentor. In my opinion he is the best Academy Goalkeeper Coach in England, he taught me everything I know, and more importantly than just technical information, he helped me develop my passion and love for goalkeeping and showed me the levels of consistency you need to produce professional goalkeepers. I still speak with him daily now that I am working in Canada and although I miss working with him everyday he still has a big influence on what I do. I would encourage any aspiring coach to find a mentor and learn all they can from them. It is so, so important for your development as a coach that you have someone to talk to, bounce ideas off, watch, learn from and to observe you.
Do you feel that the role and importance of a goalkeeper coach has been fully realized in the coaching community?
I think we are currently in a fantastically exciting time for goalkeeper coaching. The role of the goalkeeper is becoming more and more respected and appreciated and we are seeing more importance and respect being placed on the role of the goalkeeper coach. People are starting to realize that if you embrace the goalkeeper and fully utilize them within the team you are effectively playing with an extra player. We are also lucky to have so much access to resources to help us such as twitter, apps and YouTube. The ability to share amongst the coaching community is now huge and can only help us all improve, and in turn improve our goalkeepers.
Looking back, how have you seen your coaching develop from when you first started to now?
I think one of the biggest things I have learned is that you have to treat this job as a profession, just like you would if you were training to become a doctor or lawyer. You have to learn, practice, observe, serve your time, plan, constantly develop and improve… I see some young coaches who see coaching as an easy way to just stay in the game, and although that is one of the reasons I became a coach I have learned that if you want to be successful there is so, so much more to it.
I have also learnt to take more risks with my sessions and not be too concerned if they look “messy” or break down a lot. When you start coaching you want everything to be perfect and the goalkeepers to catch everything and understand everything straight away… But that’s not real! The session has to break down at times and you have to be comfortable with their being mistakes and decision making within sessions. Sometimes it’s easier to play it safe, but if you want to have long term benefits and result I think you need to able to work like this as all academy goalkeepers are decent technically, but decision making and being able to adapt and reaction to different situations is what can really take a goalkeeper to the next level.
How do you design your training sessions?
I do all of my planning and logging of my work on my Ipad. At Montreal we have a meeting with the coaching staff at the end of the week to discuss the schedule for the next week so I know how long I will have with the goalkeepers and what I can work on, and then I plan accordingly. I know what my microcycle for each day of the week will be at the start of the week but I plan the actual session always the day before. I don’t like to plan everything weeks in advance as I think it’s important to be able to adapt and change things for the goalkeepers if you think you need to. After a while your experience enables you to have a feel for what will work each day, for example, if I feel morale or confidence is low I will plan a session that allows the goalkeepers to have lots of success and contacts on the ball. Likewise if I think they need to be blasted we will increase the intensity. I also try to tailor our training to prepare specifically for our next opponent. For example if we are playing a team we know will put a lot of high balls into the box we will work more on crossing and dealing with physical pressure in the week. This is something I first saw when I worked under Dean Kiely at West Brom and I think it’s very beneficial.
At U23 level a typical week consists of a technical session on Monday (lots of contacts on the ball, handling, diving, footwork), positioning, narrowing angles and long range work on Tuesday, conditioning and short reactions on Wednesday, crossing and distribution on Thursday, and a match prep session that incorporates everything the goalkeeper will do in a game on Friday, match on Saturday, day off Sunday.
How do you motivate the keepers behind your first string to ensure competition for the position?
I think it is very important to treat all of your goalkeepers with the same respect and importance, and I think in turn this helps them feel valued and motivated. As a goalkeeper there is only ever going to be one of them playing but you have to try and create an environment where they are competitive but also supportive of each other. I also think it helps to be as honest as possible with them. If they are not playing, tell them why and help them identify and work on their weaknesses.
I also like to refer to me and the goalkeepers as “the goalkeeping department” and i think this helps to promote a feeling of unity between the goalkeepers and me. After a match I try to never say “it’s good for the goalkeeper to have kept a clean sheet” but rather “it’s good for the goalkeeping department that we kept a clean sheet”. We are all in it together!
What is your ultimate coaching goal?
I want to produce goalkeepers that have long and successful careers at the top levels of professional and international football. I am very lucky to work for an incredibly ambitious and exciting club in Montreal Impact that believes in youth and has a great philosophy so I am very excited by the project we have here. My 5 years at West Brom, working in the English premier league, taught me a huge amount and I now hope to be able to have the same success in Montreal. Montreal, and Quebec in particular, is a very proud and passionate place and I think it will be very special when we can produce top level québécois goalkeepers. That’s my dream and goal for now!
Any advice for young goalkeeper coaches just entering their careers?
Learn as much as you can and try and find a good mentor who you can be inspired by. Open yourself up to as many opportunities as possible and at the same time as having your core values and beliefs be open to other peoples ideas and new things. Also, develop yourself as a communicator and work on your people skills. I think there is a huge focus on the technical and tactical side of coaching and although this is vital it is useless if you can’t then communicate this to your players. At the professional level all goalkeeper coaches know the right technique to catch a ball, but the really good coaches are those that know how to relate to players and inspire them.
If you weren’t a goalkeeper coach, what do you think you would be?
When I started university I was actually studying Sports Therapy with the plan to become a phsyio with a professional team so I could still work in football. I quickly realized that actually I needed to be out on the pitch, kicking balls and coaching, so then switched to sports coaching but if that hadn’t have been an option I would have continued to be a physio… I had to be working and living in football one way or another!