The Love of Goalkeeping

Our today’s guest is an author and a goalkeeper. Our today’s guest is an author because he is a goalkeeper. One of the goalkeeper GOATs, in any sport, and three time American Olympian Craig “Lefty” Wilson had this to say about the book that our today’s guest wrote: “Definitely comprehensive through many levels of analysis, suggestions, principals and just plain “street smarts”.

I am not sure if Tomaz would agree with me, but this book speaks to many sporting individuals who may or not be in a team environment. To list a few: Tennis, Golf, Curling, Baseball, etc. As Tomaz stated, the goalie is an individual connected to at team sport. With that said, his analysis, suggestions, all point towards the athlete that “runs their own business” within a team environment. I might be off the wall with these comments but I highly recommend “The Love of Goalkeeping”. I’m probably going to have to read it again to absorb more of the info provided.”… I think that should be enough to raise some interest. So without any further ado from Slovenia, but living in Perth, Western Australia since 1992 Mr. Tomaž Lašič.

Hallo Tomaž. Before we jump into it, how is your family? How are you? How are things in Perth, Australia?

Hi Tomo. I write this to you from the most isolated city with over two million people in the world that seems to be one of the very few places on the planet that is not in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. It may be hard to believe but we have not had any community transmission of the virus for the last nine months in the (vast) state of Western Australia. Life here is … completely normal, and we hope it stays that way for as long as it can. We are in a ‘state lockdown’ so to speak as we are not allowed to travel outside of Western Australia without special permission, nor do we allow any visitors without very strict quarantine. For once, the isolation from the rest of the world is working in our favour!

Glad to hear it. Now let’s get to it. The Love of Goalkeeping. Still haven’t gotten my free copy haha. Just kidding. I will gladly buy it and support the cause, but before we speak about the book itself can you tell me how were you able to publish it? Did you first write the book and then went around to a few publishers asking them to publish it, or you know something about book publishing that we don’t?

I wrote the book simply because it had to be written. I did not think or worry about publishing at all until I actually finished it. While it took almost two years, the research and writing was by far the most enjoyable part of the process as I do not enjoy marketing and (self)promotion. As expected, I got about a dozen ‘no, thank you’ letters from the publishers, who are collectively, and sadly, going through some very tough times in the book business. So, I decided to take the leap and publish the book independently, with the help of Hardshell Publishing company in Adelaide, South Australia, who helped me with the design and technical details. I just wanted the damn thing in my hands, looking and feeling nice. And it does!   

Now tell me what sparked you into writing exactly this book? I assume that you had few inklings about writing a book of some sorts, but what motivated you into writing exactly this book?

This book had been swirling in my head for twenty, thirty years. Apart from many years of being a pro in a water polo goal, I had stood in handball, futsal and football goals at amateur level and was always drawn to it. A few years ago, our younger son started playing football and fell in love with goalkeeping. I helped out the football club with coaching goalkeepers and was immediately drawn in and amazed by the similarities in working with water polo and football goalkeepers. When invited to work with goalies at the national water polo team training camp a few years ago, I used some of the football and handball warm up routines, reaction drills and then adjusted a couple of game based drills to suit water polo and … it worked beautifully. Then, a couple of years ago, I found myself shouting pretty much the same thing to a national team water polo goalie I was working with in the afternoon and a young football goalkeeper in the evening. I knew I was onto something! I started digging around and very soon discovered there is NO book out there that covers ALL sports with a goalkeeper. There are largely two types of goalkeeping books: coaching manuals with lots of technical details in separate sports or biographical accounts of the greats in each sport. Nothing across sports! So, I decided to fill that gap.    

As far as books about water polo goalkeeping go, for many years the main staple within the water polo community was a book called “A Goalkeeper in Water polo” by Zoran Kačić. I presume that you at least knew about its existence. Could you try and explain to us what makes your book different then the one written by Zoran Kačić?

I am very familiar with the book. After all, I translated it into English in 2001. I actually had a lovely dinner with Zoran when he came to Perth in 2018 and I spoke to him about the book I was then just considering and starting to write. His reaction was one of absolute fascination and encouragement. Zoran has been one of my trusted ‘critical friends’ in writing the book and I gave him every chapter to read and comment on as the book was being written. 

Zoran’s book and mine of course share some similarities but they are also very different. To start with, mine is not a water polo book – it applies to all sports with a goalkeeper (football, futsal, handball, hockey, lacrosse, water polo etc). It is also perhaps less technical and it does not contain any specific drills (there are simply too many!). What my book is more about is the principles behind the methods, rather than the methods we often jump into before any consideration. It is the similarities in the principles of goalkeeping across sports that makes my book unique. There is so much to learn from and with each other in different sports as we face incredibly similar challenges from geometry, reaction, physical abilities to mental pressures, communication, leadership, selection pressures for that single spot, even beginnings of playing in goals and more.

On the other side has “A Goalkeeper in Water polo” maybe influenced you in one way? 

Well, if my good friend can publish a book, so can I … (laughs). Yes, Zoran’s book was always on my shelf and I have always found it useful to consult and consider.

Besides the reaction of one Craig Wilson, how were the other reactions? How was the book accepted and what type of audiences ends up buying your book? Can you maybe gives us any information about the sales and numbers your books has made?

A book is almost like a child of an author and we all like our children to be liked. It was great to read Craig’s words and the words of several other people whom I respect deeply. For example, Ratko Rudić, who probably doesn’t need an introduction apart from perhaps ‘the most successful coach in the history of any sport’ put his signature under the words “I recommend this book to both those seeking the competitive edge or anyone just interested in better understanding goalkeeping in any sport. The passion for goalkeeping shines through.” Ric Charlesworth, dual Olympic winning coach and a field hockey legend was kind enough to write not just a glowing review but the entire foreword to the book. And more… 

This is of course incredibly humbling to hear but I have to admit that some of my favourite reactions have been from people who are not goalkeepers or involved with goalkeeping or in fact even sport. Several times I heard things like “I am not an athlete and I had no idea about goalkeepers but now see them in a completely different light” or “this is just a good book to read, it draws you in.” These sorts of comments suggest that I succeeded in writing something that may look like a coaching manual in a way that both a lay person and an expert can understand, enjoy and learn from.   

As for the sales and numbers, after a couple of months of the book’s release I am halfway to reaching my goal of covering the cost of production. Trouble is, all my friends and family now have one (laughs…) so I have to start promoting more widely. After I cover the cost of production, I will be donating all profit from the book sale to causes that support goalkeepers, especially younger ones. This really is a ‘labour of love’, a gift to the family of goalkeepers I have been a member of since I was ten years old and has meant and given so much to me.

Can you tell me how is it possible that a first time water polo author is able to sell his book basically across the whole freakin’ world?

It is actually easier than I thought. I published the book as an independent author using the IngramSpark platform, a very popular worldwide platform for people like myself. IngramSpark then ‘feeds’ my printed book and ebook to places like Amazon and 40,000 other retailers around the world, all for a cut of course. A few bucks per copy to me really that way. I also sell directly through my website and Facebook page @theloveofgoalkeeping – that way the buyer gets a better deal and I get a larger share of the money paid. Consider this when buying ‘The Love of Goalkeeping’ … 

Now about the Leftys reaction haha. How did it make you feel when you read that Craig Wilson will reread your book just to be sure that he had grasped everything that the book had to offer? That must have felt nice too haha?

Yes, that was pretty nice and a kind of testament of quality that this book is something you come back to, not just something you swallow and move on. I spent two years researching, planning and writing it. In it I cross many fields of interest I have worked and/or held interest in for a long time – sociology, psychology, physiology, history, philosophy and particularly education, my most substantial professional field for the last twenty years. Importantly, I have interacted with and organised the insights of over a hundred people from different sports, ages and expertise levels in this book. 

A couple of weeks ago somebody called my book ‘The Bible of Goalkeeping’. The platitude made me smile but I am at pains to point out throughout the book that this is not a definitive ‘all there is to know’ about goalkeeping but instead an invitation to consider the collected (and collective) wisdom, then work on it in your context. As a professional mentor and coach of early career school teachers, I like to say to them “my job is not to show you how to teach, my job is to help you see how you teach”. This is exactly the sentiment behind this book about goalkeeping and … me.

And to end this interview we will move away from the questions about your book and ask something about you. How did you end up in Australia? Could you tell us a bit about your water polo story and its journey?

The start of my water polo story, and particularly goalkeeping story, is actually described in the first few sentences of the book. I ‘accidentally’ stopped a penalty when I was ten years old and I thought that was just the coolest thing in the world! As a talented 16 year old I was recruited from Triglav, Kranj by Mladost, Zagreb, just when they started building their super-team of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. With teammates like Perica Bukic, Dudo Simenc, Igor Milanovic and many other household names of Croatian and world water polo I won the European Champions League title twice and a number of titles in the phenomenally strong league of former Yugoslavia. 

After winning the historic first ever independent Croatian national title in 1992 in a classic against the eternal rival Jadran in front of Torcida, I left for Australia to start a new life. I went from a good professional contract and a recognised face to amateur level and total anonymity. Crazy as it sounds, it was a good move as I made the Australian National Team and then played more than 100 times for Australia, including World Cups and World Championships. Sydney 2000 Olympics was ripped away from me and soon after that I finished my playing career. I started coaching female and male teams while also starting my teaching career and a young family. 

It took a lot of effort but my ‘new life’ took off well and as much as I often miss big water polo crowds (well, we all do now…) I never regretted moving Down Under. I still have many good friends in Croatia, Slovenia and other parts of the world. Last time I was in Zagreb was in April 2019, exactly the day Mladost and Jadran played a Champions League match, the same rivals as my last club game in 1992. One of those wonderful cosmic coincidences was a great chance to catch up with many friends from Croatia. I can’t wait for the pandemic to stabilise and subside so we can meet again in person, not just over headphones and pixels on screen.

Tomaž, when you say, and I quote: ”Sydney 2000 Olympics was ripped away from me”, I sense a bit of resentment and maybe a fraction of some frustrations within your voice. Is there maybe something you want to get off your chest haha? Is there some cosmical justice you want to express now 20 years after the Olympics were “ripped away” from you? Please be my guest, because a little bit of drama is always good for the ratings. That’s Marketing 101 haha. 

Well picked up Tomo (laughs)… I have reconciled with not having played Olympics, even though I played at that level for ten years. But that too is sport! You know, if somebody offered me when I was 16 the deal that I will achieve what I have achieved but not ever go to the Olympics, I would have gladly accepted. Now it’s just annoying when somebody finds out I used to play water polo at the highest level and 99% of the time their first question is … yes, you guessed it. And when the answer is ‘no, I didn’t go to the Olympics’ it sometimes feels like ‘well, you weren’t quite the best then were you…’ Can’t win them all, that’s OK. 

As for ‘ripped away’ and the drama that we need to generate here (laughs) – it’s actually described in the book. Without giving too much away (this is marketing after all, right?) what really pissed me off was the way it was done and the reason I was given for not going to the Olympics. There is however a consolation lesson in that whole story. I learned so many things about what NOT to do as a coach from this person, a great example of the ‘Peter Principle’ of rising to one’s level of incompetence.

We will finish the interview by You giving Us the information on where can we all buy/order this book from? Could you give us all the links. Tomaž you really have no idea how blessed and honored I feel by doing this interview with you. I have read the excerpts from your book and I truly feel you have something here. A book from Zoran Kačić was a staple for a few generations of water polo goalkeepers and now I feel like, even though your book is about goalkeepers in general, it will affect at least a generation or two of water polo goalkeepers and if it is able to crossover to some other sports it will market our sport in a honorable and classy way. I am grateful to you for giving the opportunity to me to interview you about this book. Thank you for this book and close the interview for us will ya? Write where should we write our addresses and where should we transfer the money. Haha Ladies and Gentlemen my name is Tomo Bujas and thank you for reading. 

No, thank you Tomo for the invitation and your observation. I have actually been reading some of your and other articles on too for some time as a nice way to keep in touch with what’s happening in water polo over your way. 

The best place to get either printed copies or ebook is my website or Facebook page @theloveofgoalkeeping. You can get the book through many regular retailers like Amazon etc but I get a tiny cut of that plus you get the book later than you would from me directly. You decide … 

I sincerely hope the book strikes a chord with people out there. Actually, one thing I would love to see is more promotion beyond the wonderful water polo community where you and I have many friends. It really is a multi-sport book and if you or your readers play or know people in football, handball, hockey … please let them know this thing exists. I don’t have sponsors or publishers behind me, everything you see from the book to the website is funded by me. I may be a one-man marketing and publicity department but I am counting on the quality of the product and world-of-mouth as (still) the best advertising. 

I am also looking to have the book translated into other languages. I would be happy for the person who translates the book well into another language to get any profit made from sales in that language. So far, I have an offer to translate it in Czech language, possibly Spanish but early days. If it takes off as you suggest, could be a nice little earner and, importantly, a great way to spread the love of goalkeeping.