|Photo: Malgorzata Zoltanska|
I’ve heard about Coach Skip Poole back in 2010 from my friends of the Devils Wroclaw. He took over the team that was nearly relegated form Polish American Football League 1st Division in 2009 and guided them to Championship having first undefeated season in the history of Polish American Football.
What made it even more impressive was the fact that Coach Poole has transformed the mentality of the players, installed the new schemes and philosophies and set the course for the season. I must say that before I’ve met Coach Poole his reputation preceded him, playing for a Coach who has been playing the game for two decades as a linebacker – that sounded like a challenge but also as a great opportunity.
Before 2012 season I’ve been seriously thinking that this will be my last season as a player and if it has to be the last dance I wanted to win the Title. So when the Devils Wroclaw announced that Coach Skip Poole will be the Head Coach for the 2012 it was a no-brainer for me. As I was sitting on the train to Wroclaw – I live in Poznan, which is about 120 miles away and had to travel for every practice and game - I was reading Coach Poole’s bio and memorizing his 7 D Philosophy.
When I met Coach Poole for the first time he seemed a tough, passionate, charismatic individual. After the first practices I’ve had my share of that passion and charisma - Coach Poole is a vocal leader but do not mistake it with being a yeller. He knows how to deliver his message and treats players individually - some he needs to pat on the back, some need to be “vocalized”.
The first game of the season was a tough battle against the Seahawks Gdynia - it was a heartbreaking loss – literally Coach Poole was taken to the hospital after the game – with serious heart issues. In a few seconds the lost game, the season, the quest for the title became of issues of smaller matter – the concerns about Coach Poole’s life and health became much more significant .
But Coach wanted to be there for us, no matter what it took – he said he came here to win the title – and that he wouldn’t stay in the hospital even against doctor’s orders because he didn’t want to miss the practice. Few weeks later Coach Poole had to withstand another blow – this time of a personal nature – Coaches Mother was in hospital in the States and was in critical condition – despite all those circumstances Coach Poole was there for us – the players, and we continued our fight against the odds.
As I have stated before I was travelling a lot during the season and for my time in Wroclaw I was staying with Coach Poole – being the object of his sarcastic sense of humor, but also had the chance to meet him personally. We often had discussions about football, defensive strategies but most importantly we could exchange opinions on much more profound issues.
During the bye week while we the players were enjoying our time-off, Coach Poole started to post small articles about each of us, that was very uplifting and motivating and gave us power for the second half of the season.
One Tuesday when I came to Wroclaw for practice Coach Poole was not in his flat - I was informed by the GM that he was taken to Hospital for routine testing (not sure if check-up would be more appropriate). As the Saturday was approaching we were still believing that Coach was undergoing testing on gameday morning, Coach Poole was released from hospital to lead us against Kozly Poznan. The Devils prevailed 7-6 but it was a thriller and the game was decided by a bad snap of 2 point conversion with 0:00 on the clock. As it later turned out Coach Poole suffered a heart attack on Tuesday and after the game he had to be hospitalized again.
The 2012 Devils Wroclaw didn’t win the PLFA Championship, we felt short in the semi-final game Coach Skip Poole had to leave early but we have learned a valuable lesson. Lesson about leading by example, about practicing the rules and standards you preach . Does the 7-3 record really matters that much, in my opinion the most important thing we learned from Coach Kenneth Skip Poole was to never give up and keep fighting until the final gun. I wish Coach Poole all the best in the upcoming years it was an honor to work with you Sir!
Wojciech Andrzejczak Coach Voyt
Linebacker and Defensive Assistant for the 2012 Wroclaw Devils
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