A long-time import coach in Europe told me, “Always have a plan B for practice over here.” Wednesday night, I had my first taste of this.
I’m often told stories about practices with 10-15 players showing up, making it impossible to run a full offense and defense but, so far, the Razorbacks have relatively consistent. Before last week we could always scrounge together a productive unit on both sides of the ball and run plays.
The combination of awful weather, two straight bye weeks and a holiday weekend was too much for many of our players. Two starting linemen, all of our running backs and about half of our receivers were somewhere else. Plan A had been to install a few things that were missing for the Twister game… but that was impossible, so plan B was implemented…In truth, plan B becomes finding whatever things it’s possible to work on with limited personnel.
Put another way- Winging it.
This is never a good feeling for a coach. We always have a plan and football, more than any other sport, is all about organization. An unorganized practice makes me feel like I’m not doing my job and that we are falling behind our upcoming opponent.
I was given another piece of advice from an import coach, “If you are an uptight, by the book coach, a job in Europe will make you crazy, because things often can’t be done by the book.” I’m not crazy after the poor showing on Wednesday… but PLEASE Razorbacks, only two weeks until our league opener, we need to get some things fixed this week. BE THERE WEDNESDAY NIGHT!!!
Tuesday, the other Americans and I made our first trip to Switzerland to visit the Winterthur Warriors. When I was looking for a coaching home in Europe last fall, I had several talks with the Warrior staff, coaching didn’t work out, but they invited me to come visit and I love watching other teams practice. Nothing makes you consider what you do like watching how other programs address similar issues. Head coach Antonio Morosco allowed us to sit in on the team meeting and told us to feel free to jump in with any tips and observations as we saw fit.
The Warriors play in the Swiss 1st division and have a great facility and a well organized staff and program. I had a good talk with Matt Mercy, the 26 year old offensive coordinator from Tennessee. Mercy spent two seasons playing offensive line for the Warriors, before returning this year to coach. Like me, he wears a lot of hats during a calendar year, coaching in the US in the fall, coaching wrestling in the winter, before traveling to Europe to coach in Switzerland. Practice was well organized and the Warriors flew around. It was a very physical practice, with lots of live scrimmaging.
The main difference between what I saw in Switzerland and what I coach in Germany is the experience level of the players. While we have plenty of newer talent, all of our starters have a few years of experience. Coach Mercy pointed out the right tackle, a player in his mid-20s who is in his first year playing football. He is a police officer and is clearly a tough guy, but very raw. I spoke with a rehabbing offensive lineman, a 28-year-old hockey player who was told about football five years ago. Mercy also told me one of the defensive tackles is 44 years old and, “Has been playing football as long as I’ve been alive.” Strange stories by US standards but common in Europe where the teams are mostly made up of whoever shows up. Good luck to the Warriors this week against Basel!!!
I took a quick trip up to Ulm last week, home of the tallest church in the world. Even more impressive is that for five Euros you can walk the stairs all the way to the very top of the steeple… 768 steps! It’s a little scary as the spiral staircase is very narrow and there are many windows showing just how high and exposed you are, but it’s definitely worth the effort.