Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The Griffins men's soccer team will feature a revamped coaching staff this season, highlighted by the addition of Canada West Hall of Famer Paul Hamilton, head coach Adam Loga announced Friday.
The star centre-back with the Trinity Western Spartans (2007-09) – a former CIS and CW player of the year who also played professionally for four years, including three seasons with FC Edmonton – will serve as an assistant coach with the Griffins for the 2021-22 season.
He's among several new additions to a staff that only has one returnee – lead assistant coach Daniel Drummond. Others coming aboard include fellow new assistant coach Dhee Govender, goalkeeper coach Darryl Kaluzniak, video coach Srdjan Gajic, strength and conditioning coach Kevin M'Pindou and manager Graeme Tucker.
"We made some adjustments for multiple reasons, but I think moving forward we're in very good hands," said Loga, who will be entering his sixth season at the helm of the MacEwan men's soccer program. "We're hoping we can grow together and create great unity in these upcoming weeks as we head into the season.
"I think the players will be very happy and satisfied with the group we have this year and the guys we brought on. There is just so much knowledge and experience for this young staff, so I'm just looking forward to working with them and all of us working together."
Hamilton was in the Vancouver Whitecaps' system while at TWU and played three seasons with FC Edmonton after graduation, finishing his pro career with the Carolina RailCats in 2013. He went into the CW Hall of Fame in 2019.
"It was awesome," the Calgary native said of the pro career. "You can't beat it. I've been playing soccer my whole life. That was always the dream, but coming from Canada it's sometimes not a reality. Fortunately, I was able to do it. I learned a lot, saw a lot of different cultures, been to many cities. It was a great experience."
Playing a year at Cape Breton before transferring to TWU, he led the Spartans to the 2008 Canada West championship and to a pair of national medals (silver in 2008 and bronze in 2009). Hamilton will no doubt be able to draw from a wealth of experience playing one of the most demanding positions on the pitch, in the centre of the defence, at such a high level.
"It is a tough position," acknowledged Hamilton, who also coaches with Edmonton Scottish. "You're looked on to be a leader on the field in terms of directing your teammates because you can see everything, just like a goalkeeper.
"One thing that I've tried to bring to this group the first little while here is being communicative, being a leader and directing people in front of you."
Dhee Govender brings Canada West experience to the Griffins men's soccer coaching staff after previously working as an assistant coach with the U of A Pandas (Jefferson Hagen photo).
Govender has other invaluable Canada West experience he can bring to the staff. He spent four seasons as an assistant coach on the University of Alberta Pandas.
Currently, he serves as Community Director for the Sherwood Park District Soccer Association.
"The majority of my experience is with the female game, but to be able to make that transition over to the men's side – football is football – so just to bring my passion to the group and work with this class group of coaches is fantastic," said Govender. "There are very big differences between the male and female game, but the concepts, the organizations – things like that – are still there. You just have to be concentrating on the details."
Kaluzniak, who was the Griffins' goalkeeper for two seasons in 1993 and 1994 – sharing the program record for best GAA in a season (0.60 in 1993) – played professionally in Hong Kong after graduation. He's currently coaching locally with Juventus and his expertise mentoring the Griffins' keepers is already paying off.
"We just felt the goalkeepers we have are talented but they need some hands-on guidance," said Loga. "He's taking on that role to really dive in and nurture and coach and guide these three young men. He's been awesome.
"Even just from a staff perspective, he adds something completely different from the rest of us. He's seen the game in different countries and in different decades, so he's just able to really get immersed in what we're trying to do here and most importantly dive into helping the lads."
Gajic is the older brother of current Griffins midfielder Stefan Gajic and also brings international professional experience with more than 100 caps in Germany.
"We felt it was time we could bring him on," said Loga, respecting the family dynamic. "We wanted to make sure Stefan paved his own way … prior to bringing his brother on staff.
"He'll be in charge of video and he'll be able to watch from up above in the stands, too, to give us a different perspective," he added. "He'll be doing our video sessions as a team and our individual and small group sessions as well. We look forward to having him in."
CASTILLO GETS NEW TITLE
MacEwan women's soccer head coach Dean Cordeiro also announced a change to his coaching staff on Friday, moving former student therapist Victoria Castillo into the role of assistant coach.
"She's done so much with this team over the years in a therapist role," he said. "She's a former player herself and has so much to offer, so we decided to bring her on as an assistant coach to focus on our pre-activation, cooldown, warmups – spend more time with our players who aren't quite full participants at training."