Exploring The Off-Season: Maciej Cetnerowski, Gdynia Seahawks

Photo: Krzysztof Lipski 
What is "the off season"? Does it exist in football? 
It definitely exists in Europe. Many coaches in Europe including myself have jobs apart from football as well as their families. The off-season is a time where we try to make up for the work that was put aside to focus more on football. Also, you want to spend more time with the family, who although understand your passion, want to see a bit more of you than at the field and on TV if their lucky. This goes the same for players and that’s understandable. With that said, it's not a time free from football. Even before practices start, there’s a lot of time put in recruiting both domestic and import players, analysis of the previous season and a lot of planning. It’s a 365 a year gig, but you do shift priorities a bit, while making sure that all the above is taken care of. After that, of course the practices start…. 

What are the main goals coaches work towards during this time? 
First of all you have to assemble the best squad possible, both by recruiting domestic and import players. You also want to discard anything that didn’t work the previous season as far as play books, game plans and the prep period goes. After that you want to get better in those areas, again it’s a lot of planning. 

When do you start looking for imports? What things do you consider when sifting through options? 
Definitely before the previous season ends. You already know who is doing a good job and you want them to stay and which position you could bring in someone better. After the season, often players are already being signed so you don’t want to miss out. 

I try to keep a relationship with players long before I bring someone in, even if it’s a future signing. I look for players that play on a high level, it’s important to bring guys that make a huge difference and your players know why these guys are getting paid. 

Apart from that its attitude which takes the highest priority, how will the player behave in the environment that you're bringing him in, both culturally and because football in Europe isn’t 100% pro. You also want someone that is not only a player but a coach as well, and will leave a positive mark on your domestic players. 

What things can an import do to increase their chances of gaining a teams interest? 
Definitely good game film, and not only with great showmanship but simple things that are done very well as blocking. You also should learn about the culture of a country you want to go to, so when you're being interviewed you can talk about more things than football, and show how you can fit in. 

What is the worst thing an athlete can do to hurt their chances? 
If you caused problems on the previous teams and you learned from it, don’t hide it. Any information that is hidden and isn’t presented “from the horses mouth” can hurt you. Be truthful cause as corny as it sounds honesty is the best policy. 

Do you have any interesting off season stories? 
Recruitment of domestic players is always interesting. Some players when asked why they try American football, they say that a player has pads and it makes them safe and not feel pain. Soon they find out that it’s a great sport but you can’t escape the pain. 

Once you have narrowed it down, what factors go into furthering your selection process?
It all gets down to the system our coaching staff want to play and what we have as far as domestic players. We want to put as many Polish players on the field as possible, and have import that fill gaps and put us over the top. Winning is key, it builds moral, team spirit and that’s why we are all here. 

What type of team building events do you do between seasons? 
We try to have parties that include the whole team. Super Bowl and other football events are great for that. Trinity is a great place for parties and there’s nothing wrong to party hard if you train and play hard. 

Do you have any advice to players about how to approach their own off-season and recruiting seasons? 
If football is something that you love, remember that we are blessed with the opportunity to play this great game only for a short period of time. Stay smart but take chances, either if it’s a new position, team or a different country with a unknown culture. Also, stay focused and train hard, nothing worth doing ever comes easy, and try to have as much fun preparing as you have playing, usually the prep time is longer than the play time but in the end it’s all worth it.

Lance Kriesien
Mia Bajin