Exploring The Off-Season: John Trana, Moscow Patriots

What is "the off season"? Does it exist in football? 
The off season is an important part of the year. I split the year into 4 areas. 

1. PRE SEASON - 8-10 weeks before the beginning of the season. We focus on conditioning drills. We want to increase speed, quickness and overall conditioning. This will prepare players for football camp and 2 a day practices. We will also start the installation of base offense and defensive playbooks. At the end of the Pre Season we will measure each players 40yd dash, long jump, shuttle drill, 3 cone drill, bench press, and squat. You will compare that to the measurements taken in the Post Season to calculate their improvements.

2. SEASON - Start the season with a high intensity camp. Play the Regular Season and Playoffs

3. POST SEASON – 4-6 weeks. Players should rest their bodies to allow them to heal from the season. The coaches should analyze the game films from the season to make improvements to the team. Coaches should meet with players to have an honest conversation about how they can improve as a football player. They should give the players an off season workout plan. We also record the player statistics for 40yd dash, Long jump, shuttle drill, 3 cone drill, bench press, and Squat. This will be the base line to measure improvement over the off season.

4. OFF SEASON – Players should focus on getting BIGGER, FASTER, and STRONGER. This time of the year will be spent in the weight room. Players should record there work outs and follow an exact work out plan. During this time coaches should organize several 7 on 7 competitions with other teams. Having non contact competition is important during the off season. Teams should start having position meetings to discuss in detail the playbooks. This way at the beginning of the season the team will understand the entire playbooks.

What are the main goals coaches work towards during this time?
Coaches need to use this time to evaluate the previous season’s performance. They should determine the greatest need for improvement by analyzing the game films. The Head Coach should review game time management and play calling. The coaches need to organize the practice schedule for next season including the order of installation for the offense and defense. Before the Preseason starts the coach should have a schedule for every practice up to the first game documented. The practices should reflect the changes needed to improve the team made from the review of last season. Coaches should also meet with each player to discuss what areas they need to improve before the beginning of next season. 

When do you start looking for imports? What things do you consider when sifting through options?
I start looking for imports as soon as I am done analyzing the previous season. Once I understand the needs of my team I start my search by asking other American coaches about players they have worked with that could address my needs. I also use online recruiting tools to find players and review film of players. A player must have outstanding highlights for me to continue my recruitment of him. I am not looking for a GOOD player, I am looking for a GREAT player. 

Once I have narrowed my choices down to a few I will conduct a phone or Skype interview. The player must be able to communicate well. I will ask them to teach me a specific fundamental of their position as well as why it is important. This tests both there communication skills and knowledge. Communication is vital because of the language barrier that most of imports will face. I must feel that they will be able to handle the culture shock before I extend an offer. They have to be able to promote American football in a positive manner.

What things can an import do to increase their chances of gaining a teams interest?
Players should make sure their best plays are at the beginning of their high light films. It should show them being dominate on the football field. For skill positions I look for “BALLERS”; someone who is a threat to take the ball the distance on every play. However they can not be selfish and need to show me they can get the hard yards for first downs. I also listen closely to the high light music. I feel the music they select to represent themselves tells me a lot about the person. I recommend staying away from any music that can not be played at a stadium in front of families. I have passed on many players due to the inappropriate nature of the music on there highlights. 

There are too many GREAT players to choose from, so I am looking for reasons to exclude players. Also they should always highlight themselves in some way before the beginning of the play. It is sometimes hard to locate the player on the field until half way through the play, which means I have to rewind to watch the entire play. If I have 20 highlights to get through I may decide to go to the next player unless I see something spectacular due to time restraints.

What is the worst thing an athlete can do to hurt their chances?
I look at the reaction of the players after they have made a great play. If I see a player talking, taunting, or any type of over the top celebrations that can hurt their chances of being recruited by me. I need players who can motivate their teammates and help them get better during the week. I do not want to worry about a player being a negative influence. Part of playing or coaching overseas is promoting the sportsmanship of American football. Players need to act like a professional at all times. 

Do you have any interesting off season stories? 
I have seen many players make huge improvements in their athletic ability and there knowledge of football in the off season. It proves to me and his teammates that he is committed to help his team. 

Once you have narrowed it down, what factors go into furthering your selection process?
The player’s ability to communicate and teach is very important when bringing players overseas. I look at more then there ability to play football, they also need to be able to adjust to living in a foreign country. They need to be able to handle the language barrier, the difference in culture, the different types of food available and their ability to get around the city. 

What type of team building events do you do between seasons? 
I like to have picnics for the team and their families. That allows you to get to know players on a deeper level.

Do you have any advice to players about how to approach their own off-season and recruiting seasons?
Players should make sure their highlight video is the best it can be. Try to include stats from games as well as items like 40yd times, bench, shuttle and 3 cone drill. Make sure you do not lie on your stats; it is very easy to find information on the internet. They should always have a recommendation from a coach they played for and the ability for the recruiter to speak with them. A coach’s recommendation will always push you to the top of my recruiting list. 

Lance Kriesien
Mia Bajin