Voyt's Diary: Don't Believe The Hype In Poland

Photo: Maffoto.pl
So we've survived the Mayan Apocalypse, the New Year’s, the NFL Play-Offs are rollin and the American administration admitted that they have no plans to build the Death Star. What do you think Ray Lewis is going to do on retirement? 

My Fashist Female Editor in Chief, Mia Bajin, asked me to finally publish something or she will come hard on my ass as 49ers Pass Rush. So, after this small introduction – hey Touchdown Europe it’s time for Voyt to publish a word or two on current state of the American football in Poland.

If you're an outsider, you'll see the rapid growth - number of teams and players from four in 2006. to more than 70 in 2013.! With the help of IFAF, Polish teams got 400 sets of junior equipment – hooray! We’re going to have more kids involved in the game! 

Nowadays it's all about the money, and if you have bigger budget than your opponent, you will just import US players, and voila, you have a winning formula for Top Liga. It is what it is folk! It’s mid-January but the four play-off spots are already reserved for Devils and Giants from Wroclaw, Warsaw Eagles, Seahawks Gdynia. If for some reason at least one of these teams doesn't qualify for the post-season it will be a world-sensation.

I have a lot of brothers-in-arms in other TopLiga teams (Kozly, Miners, Spartans, Steelers) - but this is a reality check guys - as much as I admire your effort in the offseason, heart left on the field you have found yourself in a no-win contest . Unless of course some of you get lucky and win couple of K’s PLN in Lotto - the National Lottery and will donate some of the cash to your team.

Last week I watched Money Ball and the “Rich teams, the poor teams the three feet of crap and then there’s Us” scene has struck me like a bolt of lightning. If you want to have a highly attractive, cash-generating, product You need to have an economic parity or at least a smaller disparity! I’m a realist – it won’t happen this year, maybe not even next year but we must take steps towards economic fair-play – just ask Mark Philmore why EFLI doesn't allow import players?

But after all some of you have played in the NAC VII Super Final on the brand new National Stadium in Warsaw, the game was sold out, you could see the people with the “buy tickets” cards. So, what is the problem? Tommy Viking was impressed, Ron Jaworski smiled and posed for pictures and Patryk Tyryłło closed the roof so the thunderstorm could not ruin the picnic – so what am I complaining about?

The point is very simple! Apart from “the Imports”, you have a handful of people in Poland that legally earn money of American football - but more importantly there’s even a smaller number of people that applies the business approach to the game. What I mean by that is...

Players
Being a good football player is not only about your bench-press maximum reps and number of Cross Fit sessions You go to in the offseason. Intangibles are equally important – the willpower leadership and most important the F.B.I.-football intelligence- no matter if you’re a starter, a back-up or a KFC delivery boy (my last year with the Devils :). When your number is called be ready to perform! Do not memorize the playbook - understand it . Don’t count your reps , make your reps count!

Coaches
Learn English! Do your homework, watch the game-films, read the articles, buy and share the DVD’s, attend the clinics and more importantly do not be afraid to ask/answer questions. If a player asks you a question do not hesitate to answer “I don’t know”- but I’ll check that for you. Or even better, tell your player why don’t you dig for the answer – maybe he becomes a student of the game! This is a very important message -  We are a fraternity – Coaching Buddies for Life! No matter what, today you beat me, tomorrow I beat you, but does the scores really matter that much? There has to be a Fundamental Culture change. After all,  we are there to mold the characters of these young men so they can be valuable members of their communities. 

The Board Members
To quote P.O.D - "Whatever it takes" or Yoda - "Do or do not there’s no try"! Your franchise will go as far as much You are willing to sacrifice. If You have Family to support, a significant other, a thesis to write, a company to run or whatever any important area of your life seriously consider doing this. However if you want to get invaluable work experience, learn how to negotiate and clinch various deals, find out how to stretch the budget - You have to make McGuyver look silly => welcome to the Hard Knocks School of Business.

Unless you apply a die-hard attitude sort of approach on all three stages of your organization you will not have success - a Dynasty I mean. Unless a team can repeat, it’s like a blind dog finding a bone in a desert. I give tons of respect to all the previous Title winners but we didn't have a Dynasty yet. As for the 2012. Champs Gdynia Seahawks, let me quote Anne Heathway’s Cat Woman “There’s a storm coming” .

Ok so this is the time to give some love for the other Divisons:

PLFA 1 – this one is like early Guy Richie Movies – you don’t have the big budget, but there’s a plot, drama, some cool characters to root for and you can find some diamonds in the rough .

PLFA 2 – the “Lord of the Rings” saga- all kinds of fantasy creatures live here, you have the Crusaders, Królewscy, from Warsaw, Toruń Angels, Olsztyn Lakers. Not to mention the heated rivalry form Bydgoszcz Archers vs Raiders. Some of these teams do a lot of creative and innovative stuff in the area of marketing but  they should remember that at the end of the day, the score does matter . 

PLFA 8 – this one is like Halo 4 or Assasin’s Creed – smaller units, the face-paint and special tactics are here, run and gun extravaganza. The enthusiasm and passion in the eyes of the rookies – If you like the  Kenny Chesney video “The Boys of Fall”, this one is for you.

PLFA J - This one I’m seriously worried about. In the near future there will be a serious accident here. Putting 14 year old boys on the same field with 17-old young men is not the smartest idea. Most of the teens believe that once they put on the helmet and pads the immortality mode is on – well Folks pay attention to your physics classes on Newton’s Laws or watch some Sports Science Football Episodes. What is even more worrying are the moronic hard-hit compilations used for pump-up and lack of fundamentals et voila – You have the recipe for disaster. I hope and pray that all those kids will play safely but there must be constant education of the coaching staffs .

The Real Fantasy Football - there’s also a new phenomenon on the horizon that I’m excited about - the rise of female football teams. If you mix super-sexy, intelligent, fun loving, slavic girls and the game you love – can it get any better? But seriously, these chicks are for real, they hand-made their t-shirts, practice outdoors in minus temperatures and take genuine pleasure from the game. I'd volunteer as a tackling dummy for any of these teams but despite getting few likes on my post, there has been no invitations – it’s a damn shame!

As far as I’m concerned, the 2013 will be a make or break year for American Football in Poland. The highly probable loss to Sweden at the sight of 10K in Atlas Arena, the lack of economic stability for most of the teams, and people facing the harsh reality of economic crisis. I had the feeling that after Super Final VII and EAC we had a chance to hit the Warp-4 button and jump into economic hyperspace and we’ve blown it. The new year, the same old problems and the new ones emerging - it’s less about development for the majority of the pack it’s about the survival .

Not to finish on the negative note, there’re a lot great young people out here, who sacrifice their time and personal lives for the game – but if we want to reach the higher level, we have to evolve and become professionals. There are possibilities – European funds, private foundations corporate sponsors but we have to transform our mentality - it’s a process, I know, but we must make the first step.

So why did Poles have fallen in love with football that easily? Because it was our compatriots that built the game in the states- Bronko Nagurski, Mike Ditka, Jack Ham, Ted Marchibroda Mike Munchak, Hank Strank, Bill Romanowski – just to name a few. The real question that emerges is when we will be able to reach the professional level or will American Football in Poland crash down just like basketball hit the rock bottom after the golden era of the 90’s?

Wojciech “Voyt”Andrzejczak
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