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Behind the bench: A look at the Ooks soccer coaches

The 2022/23 ACAC soccer season kicks off in a few weeks. There has been a coaching shuffle for the NAIT Ooks this season. Former women’s Head Coach Jeff Paulus has taken the reigns of the men’s soccer team after former coach Charles O’Toole announced his retirement at the end of last season. This coaching shift left the women’s side open for a new Head Coach, where former NAIT Ooks women’s Assistant Coach Alesha Weicker-Pastnerk was offered the position.

Both coaches have extensive coaching backgrounds. Jeff Paulus got his coaching start in Halifax with the Halifax County United acting as a player and a coach before he made the big move to Alberta. He started with the St. Albert Impact before making his NAIT coaching debut in 2004. While with the NAIT Ooks, Paulus had opportunities to coach in Canadas Soccer’s National Training Centre and help various provincial programs.

In 2012 Paulus moved on from NAIT and accepted a position with FC Edmonton. He was initially brought in to develop and lead the FC Edmonton Academy. Still, he saw his role advance to the assistant coach of the senior professional team, where he was then promoted to the head coach when FC Edmonton moved to the Canadian Premier League. Paulus left FC Edmonton in November 2020 to work as the Technical Director of Edmonton Scottish. Paulus has seen his coaching journey come full circle as he returns to coach the NAIT Ooks men’s soccer team this season and has returned to the St. Albert Impact program, where it all started.

Alesha Weicker-Pasternak grew up playing high-level soccer. She got her post-secondary start in 2005 with the MacEwan Griffins. Weicker-Pasternak played two seasons with the Griffins before she transferred to Concordia. In 2009 she hit her high with the Concordia Thunder winning the CCAA National Championship. Weicker-Pasternak was named a CCAA National MVP that season. She graduated in 2010 with her Bachelor in Management Degree, and in 2011 her coaching career took off. She was named assistant coach of the Concordia Thunder from 2011-2013 before accepting an assistant coach position with the MacEwan Griffins. She was the assistant coach from 2013-2017, the highlight of her career with the Griffins came in 2013 when they went undefeated to win the CCAA National Championship. Weicker-Pasternak coached soccer competitively for various clubs for a few years before landing the Grassroots Head Coach position in the St. Albert Soccer Association in 2016.

Photo via NAIT Ooks

Although the two aren’t new to the program, they are new to their roles this season.

“This season will see quite a few changes to the roster, so I am looking forward to getting on the pitch and working with the team to form our identity. I am taking over the team from a legend at NAIT and in CCAA in Charles O’Toole, so for me, I look forward to seeing what our coaching staff can add to this incredible program,” said Paulus. 

Paulus and Weicker-Pasternak were a great team last year, working alongside each other on the women’s team. Even though Paulus is switching genders, his coaching will stay the same. 

Photo via NAIT Ooks

“Last year, Alesha and I were able to work with the team just as I will this upcoming season, and the football the girls played was attractive and effective, having come one goal short of qualifying for nationals. Who I am as a coach won’t change based on coaching women or men,” said Paulus. 

Although Weicker-Pasternak was with the team last year, taking on the head coach role is a different area of expertise.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to be the head coach of this program. I’m eager to continue to elevate the level of this program and build upon the foundations set by the great head coaches who have come before me. These past coaches have developed this program to be one of the most competitive programs in the province, and I am looking forward to the challenge of continuing to advance it forward. As with any transition to a new coach, I think there will be some challenges with building the program how I see it, but I also know that the players who have been involved in the program from past seasons are receptive to new ideas. These players are important pieces in helping bridge the new ideas with what has worked in the past,” said Weicker-Pasternak. 

Both coaches are looking forward to an incredible season! The NAIT Ooks open their season at home on September 11th in St. Albert at the St. Albert Soccer Association fields. 61 Riel Drive, St. Albert, T8N 3Z3.

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