Exploring The Off-Season: Stan Bedwell, Kuovola Indians

Photo: Touchdown.Fi 
What is "the off season" does it exist in football? 
There is a saying that "Championships are won in the off-season." This is the time that you focus on getting bigger, faster, and stronger for next season. I believe a strong off-season program is as beneficial to a team as anything you can do during the season. It's a great time for team building as well. Nothing like working hard with your brothers and pushing each other to be the best they can be. 

What are the main goals coaches work towards during this time?
Off-season is a good time for self-scouting. Meaning that you go back and watch film of your own team from the previous season. You figure out your tendencies, what worked and what didn't. It's also a time when you evaluate how you handled certain situations on and off the field. Everyone learns from their mistakes, including coaches. Outside of that, you try to study from other teams. You learn more about things that interest you and work to find ways to make your team more successful. And of course, recruiting is at the forefront. Although it is a year round job (especially when you are coaching in college), the off-season allows you more time to really build relationships with the players that you want to join your program. 

When do you start looking for imports. What things do you consider when sifting through options?
I begin looking for imports in the middle of the season I am currently in. Even if I don't know what team I will be with the following year, I like to build rapport with guys. That makes things easier once the off-season rolls around. 

I generally first consider players that I know personally that have excelled on and off the field in Europe. Guys I played with or against that were great players with good character. Guys with a reputation of working with juniors, no issues off the field, etc. 

If I am looking at new players on Europlayers, I will read their profile first and foremost. I look for playing experience and how well written their profile is. Next, I will review their film. This is crucial. I never have and never would sign a guy that cannot show me what he does on the field. 

From there, it's all about getting to know the guys that I am interested in. Checking references, Skype conversations, google searches (yep, have found some discouraging things that kept me from offering guys on google), etc.

What things can an import do to increase their chances of gaining a teams interest?
I'm assuming you mean on Europlayers? Have a well written and informative profile with plenty of information. I do not need to see what guys "say" their 40 time is. You can say guys that claim to be a 4.38 that were verified by EuroStopwatch to be a 5.21. Show me your speed and abilities on film, talk is cheap. Also make sure the film is recent, if you are 33 years old and you're showing me your high school film then I'm not going to take you serious. 

Bottom line...show that you're intelligent and mature, be informative, and have quality film. 

Sending one message to me on Europlayers is enough. I will read it, view your profile, and get back to you if I'm interested. If I do contact you, I want guys that are more interested in contributing to a championship than about what their personal gain will be from the situation. 

Most potential imports do not realize that the European players are paying a lot of money in order for you to come there and live. THEY will essentially be paying your salary, housing, flight, etc. 

What is the worst thing an athlete can do to hurt their chances ?
Again, I'm assuming we're speaking of Europlayers. If they do the opposite of what I mentioned above on their profile, it will significantly hurt their chances. Bad grammar, no recent film, etc. 

If I contact you and the first thing you talk about is money, I will probably move on to the next guy. I have had one year where I was offered 1,500 euros per month with a side job that would bring in another 1,000 per month. I turned it down to go to a different team for 600 per month. Too many guys think in the short-term. The way I see it is...nobody will get rich playing in Europe. No matter how big or small the money I make, it will not effect me in a good or bad way five years down the road. I will not be rich or poor because I took a 600 euro summer job over a 1,500 euro summer job. 

Last thing I want to talk about (and maybe the most important for all potential imports). How to NOT message a team. 

I will not respond if you write me a message that says something along the lines of "Wut up BIG DAWG, u and me could tear SHIT UP in that league. Holla at a playa and let's do WORK!" 

It does not mean much to me if you say "Coach I REALLY want this. If you sign me, I can GUARANTEE that you will not be disappointed. All I need is one chance." I realize that guys hearts are in the right place when they write this and I have no problem with that. The issue is that EVERYONE really wants this and NOBODY can guarantee that there will not be disappointment. 

I ALWAYS have to see film. Saying something like this will not cut it. "I unfortunately do not have any film. My former coach got fired, burned all of the tapes, and left the country. However, I assure you I'm a great player and you will not be sorry if you sign me."

Another thing, and not trying to sound harsh...I do not care what you have done in high school (or usually semi-pro). You are competing with former NFL players, Arena players, College All-Americans, and others for these positions. Lastly...as mentioned above, send me ONE message. If I do not respond, maybe I am not looking for a player at your position. Maybe there is something in your profile that turns me away (read above), maybe there is not enough information in your profile, or maybe I am just not interested in you as a player. Regardless, ONE message is enough. I WILL see it and I WILL contact you if you fit what we're looking for. 

This is an actual message thread between a player and myself over the past few months...

  • PLAYER: May 24, 01:32 - are you in need of a qb 
  • PLAYER: May 24, 23:49 - Do you need a QB 
  • PLAYER: May 27, 19:31 - Can your team use a QB 
  • PLAYER: Jun 24, 23:13 - Will you need QB for 2014 
  • PLAYER: Jun 28, 20:38 - Does your team need a QB for 2014 
  • PLAYER: Jul 31, 16:14 - Is your team in need of a QB 
  • PLAYER: Sep 30, 22:14 - Do you need a QB 
  • PLAYER: Oct 1, 15:59 - Do you need a QB 
  • PLAYER: Oct 7, 17:17 - Can you use a QB 
  • PLAYER: Oct 7, 20:15 - Could you use my services

Of course, I have not responded. What am I supposed to say? 

COACH: Oct 7, 20:16 - No I did not need a QB for the past six months. I did not need a QB on the message you sent me at 17:17 today, but a 20:15 I decided that I do, in fact, need your services. 

C'MON MAN!

Do you have any interesting off season stories?
Not sure that I have necessarily had any interesting off-season stories, but I will say that it is always fun to log on to Europlayers and then see a player that I watched on TV and was a fan of. In the past, I was quick to try and offer these guys, but I have learned from experience that D1 star or NFL experience does not necessarily mean they will be a good import or person. 

Once you have narrowed it down, what factors go into furthering your selection process?
This is the hardest part. Once you have built a good relationship with 10 guys and you can only select one for the position. There is no guarantee that you're ever making the right decision, but you just find the guys that want to come the most, that are wanting to come for the right reasons, and you just follow your heart in making the selection. A lot of times, guys that are not offered will take it personal. They have to understand that although this is not the NFL, this IS a business and nothing is personal. I am just doing what I think is the best for my team. 

What type of team building events do you do between seasons?
Obviously getting guys together to work out is huge. Having cookouts, getting together in the city... Basically anything you can do where guys are just spending time with each other, getting to know each other outside of football, and building a family atmosphere. Madden tournaments would be fun, but unfair because I'm a beast. Same goes for karaoke. 

Do you have any advice to players about how to approach their own off season and recruiting seasons?
Just to set goals, have perspective, and use common sense. Physically and mentally, know what you're working towards. Do you want to get bigger? Lose weight? Get faster, more agile? Work on your hands, footwork? Set goals for yourself, focus on them, and then enjoy the process.

For recruiting, just keep yourself in good shape. Make a presentable profile, put up recent film, and carry yourself as a professional. Reply to every team that contacts you and be respectful. You might not be interested in a 2nd league team in Serbia today, but if nobody else offers you three months down the road, then you start to realize that maybe getting a free flight to Europe, a place to stay, 3 meals a day, and a couple hundred bucks per month is better than working in a factory in your hometown and having a couple hundred bucks left over after you pay your rent, bills, etc. Just have perspective. 

And finally, as I have said over and over...it's NOT about the money. I have done this nine years, not many people have been over here longer than me (if any). Just because you made 1,000 your first two years does not mean you HAVE to make over 1,000 the rest of your career. That opportunity you turned down for 500, just might have been the best opportunity and time of your life.

Lance Kriesien
Mia Bajin
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