[TD]EU Teams: Moscow Dragons of Russia


We've been in touch with Nikolai Vand /Николай Ванд/, Moscow Dragons general manager, for quite some time. His ability to just go out there and get things done for his team got us more interested in the organization itself. So, we made sure to have a great chat with him about the Dragons!

Beginnings

It all started in 2000. Youth team, Moscow Dragons, was established by the coaches of the organization Children League of American Football. At first, it was a youth flag-football team which later transformed into a youth American football team.

From 2000 to 2013, team won many prizes amongst the youth and children squads. In 2013, the youth team was transformed into the adult team and for the first time participated in the adult Russian Championship.

In 2014 and 2015, team underwent a huge transformation. In 2015, club almost completely renewed its management and coaching stuff. The team took a new direction and approach. We got a new president, head coach, general manager and PR-manager. The organization straightened its financial and management activities and started making plans for the next 5-10 years. It were tough but rewarding days.

In 2014, first recruiting attempts were executed via the social network Vkontake. We made a couple of cool motivational posts describing how cool the American football is and asked our players to repost it or send to their friends directly.

Later in 2015 we held the first opening training session where everyone could participate. It was quite a success to be honest: there were something like 30 guys turn up which was great for a team that just started new development.

Also since 2014 the club has been participating in one of the biggest sports exhibitions in Russia: SN RPO Expo. At this exhibition we promote American football and recruit sportsmen. It also helps us to attract attention to our sport and team in a more business-like way.

Photo: Firstandgoal.ru

Gearing Up

In 2014, our first goal was to get more adult and athletic players since most of our players had an experience but were too young. At first, we started doing a proper physical trainings. We found a really good crossfit-gym and a certified coach who had been with us ever since.

We had little equipment back in 2014 and ever since started to get one. We started with the composite balls, some cones and a running ladder. Since then we added: tackle dummies, tackle wheels, sleds, leather balls and so on. Some of them we made ourselves using the published schemes and some we bought.

Usually in the mid-season (November – March) we have only indoor trainings because it snows in Moscow.

We have a long-established relationship with one indoor arena in the south of Moscow where we hold our winter trainings. Whereas during the season (April – September) we have 3 sessions outside. The field rent is our biggest budget expense but with the sponsor support and the assistance of local authorities we have really good training facilities.

These days during the mid-season we have 4 session per week: two crossfit sessions, one running session and an American football training. Soon we will add another American football session making it 5 trainings a week.

Photo: Natasha Safo


Competing

Moscow Dragons take part in the Russian Championship League (aka League of American Football) – the main tournament in Russian Federation. We are still a developing team but steeply going to the big game in Russia. Our results have been getting better and better but we still struggling to compete against the strongest Russian clubs.

This year our team was a part of Central division in Russian Championship – the strongest division in Russia. And we made a first stage of playoffs (Region Cup) which was held in Perm (1500km from Moscow) where we competed against teams from Perm, Ekaterinburg and another team from Moscow. Unfortunately, we lost the first game of Region Cup and could not make semifinals of Russian Championship.

It is not easy to keep pushing your players while losing to stronger teams. Everyone wants to win here and now. So, we are trying to encourage them in other areas through socials, good quality training sessions and so on. But the most important thing is a feeling of brotherhood and family. It is much easier to meet challenges shoulder to shoulder with friends.

To add, every September we organize an American football game Memory Bowl to commemorate a memory of Denis Moskotin, our passed player. We lost two games in 2014 and 2015. But ever since we win every year. It gives a positive momentum that we can carry to the next year.

Photo: Ksenia Aleshina

The People

We have a manager responding for team building. His main goal it to make sure that players know each other outside of the field. We have parties, paint ball games and other social activities on a monthly basis. Main goal is to engage as many players as we can especially rookies, so they melt into the team.

In October, we started a new tradition: rookie initiation. During the end-of-the-season party we held a special session: every new player is supposed to tell a bit about himself and do some performing. Rookies were not forced to participate but everyone still did. Some people sang, some danced, some just told a cool story. It was great and very uniting!

Community

Every September we organize the biggest flag-football tournament in CIS “Memory Bowl”. Last year almost 300 sportsmen and sportswomen from Russia, Belorussia and Ukraine took part in the competition. Our friends help us to organize Memory Bowl which makes this tournament even more valuable for us.

Also, from time to time we hold master classes in orphan homes and children summer camps and take part in the events organized by a local authority. We have a lot of fun doing this and it is a big team building activity as well.

Photo: Ksenia Aleshina

Fans & Support

American football in Russia is not that popular. But the situation has been changing. Several people are doing PR for our club. We are trying to expand our presence in social networks: Instagram, VK and Facebook. There are two main task we are trying solve: recruiting and brand awareness. Step by step people get to know about American football and Moscow Dragons. Especially a younger generation.

Looking Back

Good marketing, perfect look and effective PR is a must. Rookies want to play in a team that looks nice; sponsors want to give money to a club that shines.

Looking back, we should have been more “commercial” and attractive for sponsors. We believe it is really important to develop as a commercial project rather than a just a sports club. Because if you have a proper financial funding your future is more or less protected.

However, at the end of the day all that matters are the love for the game and brotherhood. We do not pay players, they come to training every day because they love doing so. And that it the most amazing thing!
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