Exploring The Off-Season: Richard Wade, Wroclaw Devils

What is "the off-season"?  Does it exist in football? 
There really is not “Off Season” in football any more, there is always recruiting or workouts and coaching seminars and preparation for the next season. If you are not getting better everyday, you’re going to be passed up when the season begins, because your competition will be improving them selves. 

What are the main goals coaches work towards during this time? 
Usually getting the next coaching contract is the prime focus. If you are fortunate to have an extended deal, then you do an extensive self scout and post season review, assess your strengths and weaknesses and get to work on getting better. Closing the gap with your opponents or trying to improve that gap if you’re on top. I always make two major studies; whether that’s a new scheme or system. Study a program or an individual to learn some new ideas and incorporate those into my work. It helps to grow as a coach and keeps you learning new and exciting points. 

When do you start looking for imports?
I’m am always on the lookout for new players, even during the season, you have always got to be improving, even if you have to make room on a current squad if you have guys who aren’t getting the job done. So, player personnel is always a on going process. This is a business and personnel is a great way to gain an edge. You have to be prepared for injuries and what’s next. So accordingly the day after the season a program should review its roster and see where and what they can improve and how is next up on the player search list. You have to maintain a network….always. 

What things do you consider when sifting through options?
You want to have players who will play for you, enthusiasm, the ability to lead, and perhaps play multiple positions or switch sides of the ball as needed. Character is huge for me, I want stand up players who have a desire to play at a high level and perhaps play at the next level. My top player this season Cliff Perryman was a player like that…tough resilient, showed up for work everyday, had the heart and desire to be a winner. 

What things can an import do to increase their chances of gaining a teams interest? 
Network, reach out to as many programs, teams and coaches as they can…this business is a who you know deal, the more contacts you make and have the better….if a team doesn’t need guys maybe they can help refer you, same with a coach…Staying in shape and being ready is also KEY. Get better in the off season and prepare your body and mind to make a difference. Be knowledgeable about the team, location and country….be ready to adapt and make the best of a situation. That’s a key consideration! 

What is the worst thing an athlete can do to hurt their chances? 
Showing up to a team out of shape is a deal breaker, or having a bad attitude. This game is highly competitive and you have to be ready to compete day in and day out. Be ready to be coached, learn something new… Players who think they know everything , and DON”T and create issues simply kill opportunities. Be positive and ready to do whatever it takes to help your club progress and get better… Whatever you need to do, do it with enthusiasm. 

Do you have any interesting off season stories? 
Yeah, I had some of my father’s former players contact me about attending their reunion. It bought back some great memories of times past. And made for some great connections with what they did and why they were successful. It has been a great example of looking forward by looking back, enjoy your experiences and the time spent with a team. Share with your teammates, you have only 60 minutes in a game to shine, but there’s a lifetime to share the stories. I’m still amazed at how many of my friends followed our season in Poland, we really had a fun time and kicked some ass there, having the league top record and upsetting the Seahawks and Eagles were great feats. Life, like a football season goes by quickly so be sure to bask in the sunshine of the results… Enjoy the journey! 

Once you have narrowed it down, what factors go into furthering your selection process? 
Background check, past film… Coaching references. On the elite professional level we pay a huge amount of money to players, so you have to make great choices and BE RIGHT every time. In European ball, it’s difficult to impossible to bring in new players so you can’t afford to get it wrong. You have to have the right mix or players to be successful. 

What type of team building events do you do between seasons? 
In pro football at least in the CFL we usually do a lot of community service type work, things away from the field, any sort of activity, a hockey game or group session together will build up goodwill. During the season we often do a film movie or pizza get together and have the wives and families involved.

Do you have any advice to players about how to approach their own off-season and recruiting seasons? 
Yes, start your off season workout with some rest, whatever you need to recharge, don’t start a work out plan just to be doing something. BE READY when you engage and fully commit to a program. Watching film is another area that key, go over your basic fundamentals, what does your stance look like, do you explode off the snap, how is your form tackling, receiving, ball handling skills etc… When you get back in the gym or on the practice field make the most of your time, and get better with each workout. Don’t just lift some weight and think you’re improving, tackle a overall plan to get better in all facets… Talk to other players and trainers and coaches… What is the other guy doing? Compare and improve. COMPETE !

Lance Kriesien
Mia Bajin