By Hayden Godfrey and Justin Walters
There’s a lot you probably don’t know about Ryerson Rams men’s soccer head coach Filip Prostran.
For starters, he’s in the process of getting his Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Ted Rogers School of Management while coaching one of the best teams in the province.
He first worked as a volunteer with the soccer program for almost three years before convincing his superiors to hire him on as a paid coach.
“I love being a coach,” said Prostran, now 34. “I think I’m in the sweet spot right now. They say the grass is always greener where you water it and I want to keep watering this place.”
Prostran grew up in Oakville, Ont. to Yugoslavian parents.
He always loved the game, playing house league soccer in his town before catching a big break in a peculiar way. Ian Adair, a referee with whom he often chatted with suggested that he try out for Bobby Graham’s Oakville Winstars, one of the top clubs for developing young players in Ontario.
Graham was initially skeptical and said that he “didn’t need any more players.”
It turned out that Filip’s cousin, Igor Prostran, was once a player Graham also turned down at a tryout. Igor then went to play for the Oakville Blue Devils, the Winstars’ biggest rival and made Graham regret his decision. Eventually, Igor succeeded at multiple high-level professional leagues, both as a player and a coach.
Upon hearing that Filip was Igor’s cousin, Graham immediately said, “I’ll take him,” with the intent of not letting another Prostran get away.
Despite making the club, Filip didn’t see much playing time and struggled in his first season with the team. In fact, he was one of the only players on the squad that didn’t receive any offers from American universities.
Then, one day, after a game, a man in green pants and a plaid shirt came up and introduced himself as the men’s soccer coach at Graceland University in Missouri. Being completely honest, the coach proclaimed: “Graceland University— what you see is what you get!”
That man was Dr. Ivan Joseph, the future Director of Athletics and Recreation at Ryerson.
Filip decided to accept the offer and take his talents to Graceland, where he and Joseph brought the program its first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I title in 2006.
While finishing his degree, Filip’s uncle got him a tryout for FK Vojvodina, one of Serbia’s most prestigious teams, and eight other clubs, none of whom were interested.
“Some said ‘Go back and play hockey,’” remembers Prostran. “They said that I was good, but not great. All of them weren’t interested.”
But Filip did garner interest from teams in Serbia’s second-tier league. And with the help of his uncle—who posed as his agent—worked out a contract with FK Mladost Apatin, where he played a season and a half with the team.
After brief stints in Malaysia and Ireland, he received an email from none other than Joseph, who offered him a position as an assistant coach for Ryerson’s soccer team. “I knew I wasn’t going to play for Real Madrid anytime soon,” said Prostran about his decision to move to coaching. “I came here, volunteered for three years and made no money.”
Filip worked his way up from volunteer, to assistant coach, to head coach in 2015.
Since taking over the program, he’s learned about how to connect with young players on the roster. With many of his players juggling the lifestyle of student-athlete, he’s tried to make their time on the field more valuable and relaxing.
Of course, being a former player helps him understand both sides of the game.
“If we just worry about winning soccer games, that’s going to come and go,” said Prostran. “I don’t remember any scores, but I remember the time we went the wrong way on the bus on the way to a game!”
Nowadays, life is pretty busy for the head coach of a team that gets ranked top 10 in the country yearly. However, he still finds time to visit his family in Oakville almost every Sunday, where he takes a break from soccer and spends quality time with the people he values most.
“It’s a humbling experience, going home on Sundays,” laughs Prostran. “I could tell my mom that we’re the best team in the world and we’ve won the national championship and she’d say, ‘Honey, that’s great, now go get some food.’”
It’s his modest approach to soccer that sums up his entire outlook on his career and in life. He loves the game more than anything but always tries to have fun with it.