Chituru Odunze 2018
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Meet Raegyn Hall: The man behind the ‘Caps Academy goalkeeper pipeline

VANCOUVER, BC – Simply put, Raegyn Hall loves everything about goalkeeping. Working in the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System as the head goalkeeping coach for the club’s MLS Academy, this is an important quality to have.
 
“I think for me, it’s just more a passion about coaching goalkeepers,” Hall told whitecapsfc.com. “The opportunity to work with youth players, to try and inspire them and try to push them to the highest level that they can achieve… that’s a really exciting part of the job.”
 
On Thursday, Whitecaps FC announced that one of Hall’s academy products, goalkeeper Chituru Odunze, has been transferred to English Premier League club Leicester City FC. The move was the latest footprint for Hall among professional goalkeepers coming out of Canada.
 
“Raegyn helped me develop a hard work ethic, and to understand what type of footballer I want to be,” noted Odunze as he begins his time with Leicester City FC. “He put a lot of extra time into helping me reach my goals, whether it was on or off the field.”
A number of Hall’s former pupils are now familiar faces to Canadian soccer fans. Those faces include current ‘Caps first team goalkeepers Sean Melvin and Thomas Hasal, as well as Ottawa Fury FC starter Callum Irving, Cavalry FC’s Marc Carducci, and Pacific FC’s Nolan Wirth, among others.
 
“He’s been my coach since I was 16 I think, just after I turned 16, so a long time,” says the now 25-year-old Melvin. “I think he’s had a huge impact on my career.”
 
Pushing players into the first team and Canadian national team are the primary goals for Hall. The connection to the club’s MLS staff is key. Hall works closely with first team goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha, who himself is a highly respected goalkeeper coach in Canada, having produced the likes of Maxime Crépeau.
 
A Victoria native, Hall joined the ‘Caps in 2008 after spending time at Simon Fraser University, first while playing goalkeeper then as a coach. But becoming a full-time coach was not always in the bigger picture.
 
“If you said when I was still playing, ‘do I see myself being a professional coach 10 years on,’ probably not. But once I got into the [coaching] game full time, did I see myself being a professional coach and where I am [today]? Yes.”
 
Hall believes training and developing goalkeepers at a young age is a very important job, but it’s not easy.
 
“It’s a learning apprenticeship to become a professional goalkeeper, so to develop them from a youth to a senior, it’s tough and it takes a lot of work and attention and focus.”
 
And his work has not gone unnoticed by the countless goalkeepers he has worked with over the past 14 years.
 
“I’d say up until this point, he’s probably been the most important, pivotal coach that I’ve had,” stated Hasal. “I came in [to the Academy] and I was able to grow into the first team now and the national team with his help.”
Melvin says Hall connects personally to each goalkeeper.
 
“He’s always been there, been a guy I can rely on, and that’s always been huge for me in knowing that he has your best interest in mind and he’s always been there to help you out.”
 
“I’m very open and honest with the players,” Hall describes of his coaching style. “[Being] upfront with them, sometimes they hear things they might not necessarily want to hear but at the end of the day, they know I have their backs and I want to do what’s best for them long term, not to just be good goalkeepers but to be good people overall.”
 
While his work has clearly had a positive impact, he is quick to point out that each goalkeeper must be self-motivated to make it in their careers.
 
“I think the success comes from the players buying into what we give them and committing one-hundred percent,” tells Hall.
 
“He’s always told me what I’m doing right and what I need to change, and he’d find a way for us to work to get it right not matter how long it would take,” added Odunze.
 
Hall was most recently invited to represent the Whitecaps FC Academy in a world-class goalkeeping training program through an MLS, adidas, and German Football Association (DFB / Deutscher Fußball-Bund) collaboration to help share coaching education as well as develop academy goalkeepers in MLS.
 
“I think this is an excellent initiative,” noted Hall. “I think the most important part for the future of [goalkeeping] is increasing goalkeeper education at the younger age groups; more exposure to regular training, to just have more people playing the position and from there, we’ll have more success.”
As for his goalkeeper union, Hasal has one message to pass along to his former Academy coach.
 
“Just thank you, thank you Raegyn because I wouldn’t be here without him.”
 
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