The new head coach of the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s soccer team is already a familiar face for many players.
In early February, the Tigers announced that Alan Jazic would be taking over after the retirement of Pat Nearing.
Jazic was an assistant coach for the Tigers for 10 years, until the end of the 2017 season. He left after the birth of his second daughter, which left him and his wife with two children under the age of three. Focusing on his family is still a priority, but he’s ready to make a return to the university soccer scene.
“In the back of my mind I always had a goal of returning back to the AUS and coaching in the AUS [Atlantic University Sport], and the fact that the position opened up at Dal was just really a dream come true,”
says Jazic. “I’m just really excited to be back at Dal and can’t wait to get going.”
This won’t be his first time as the head coach of a high-level soccer team. He’s been at the helm of the Western Halifax Durty Nelly’s Football Club of the Eastlink Premiership League since 2014. That tenure has included a national championship title in 2017 and provincial championship victories in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Before that, Jazic was the head coach of the Halifax Dunbrack Soccer Club’s senior men’s team for four seasons.
“I consider myself to be a coach that players will want to and will always want to fight hard for,” Jazic says of his coaching style. “I’m very supportive in helping my players and my athletes achieve their goals […] and I’ll work just as hard for them as they work for me.”
Jazic’s 10 years as an assistant coach on the Tigers were all under former head coach Pat Nearing, who Jazic says he had a great working relationship with.
“I learned a lot from him and now I’m just excited to take what I learned from him and then put my own spin on things and incorporate some new methods,” he says.
Something he wants to carry forward is the importance on having “a great spirit within the dressing room.” This echoes Nearing’s coaching philosophy, known for putting an emphasis on team culture and player management.
Easing the transition
While there might still be an adjustment period that typically comes with a change in coaching staff, one thing in Jazic’s favour is he already knows many of the players on the Tigers’ roster. Seven players who have eligibility to play next season were on the team when Jazic was an assistant coach, so they are already familiar with his coaching style.
“I’m really excited about just getting to know all the players on a personal level [and] getting to know the new guys and work with them on a daily basis on the field and off the field,” says Jazic.
The roster is also already built to a good point for him to step in. This year, two Dal players, keeper Ben Grondin and midfielder Freddy Bekkers, were named first team AUS all-stars, while striker Enrico Rodriguez got a second team all-star nod.
“Coach Nearing has left me with great players to move the program forward and I thank him for that,” says Jazic. “I’m really excited about what we’re forming here at Dal for the 2020 season, for sure.”
While Nearing as left a strong foundation for the new coach, Jazic brings some new approaches and coaching methods to the program as well. He wants to put a focus on the sports psychology aspect of the game and incorporate more resources for mental preparation for the athletes.
He also wants to put a stronger emphasis on strength and conditioning, especially during the off season. The AUS soccer season ended this year for the Tigers on Oct. 31 in a quarterfinal playoff game.
Competing for the AUS championship every year is Jazic’s ultimate goal, but the team’s work starts way before the season.
“The players as athletes need to be high achieving and committed, and I also want that same type of attitude outside of soccer as well, in the classroom. Just to have high achieving, high believing players in that dressing room — that’s the key.”