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MY FOOTBALL JOURNEY: 2014© More from this issue
By Wojciech “Coach Voyt” Andrzejczak
This past year has been a blessing in terms of my growth as a coach. For the first time in 10 years, I’ve gave up my New Year’s party to watch Bowl Games. So instead of partying with friends I was enjoying Johnny Manziel’s magic in Atlanta on last New Year’s Eve. In February, I coached at a football camp in Prague in the Czech Republic. Summer gave me the opportunity to teach flag football at Camp Saginaw in the town of Oxford, Pennsylvania.
As we reached mid-July I had some days off and decided to witness Chip Kelly’s Eagles open practice. They lived up to the hype. Their practice attacks all your senses – with the eclectic playlist coming out of the speakers and the multiple groups working on the field. It is hard at the beginning to focus.
I must honestly admit that the positional fundamentals and agility drills were very similar to what we are doing in Poland . Of course the athleticism of the players, the training equipment used and the number of assistants and support personnel are incomparable .
However, the efficiency in time management - no walking but jogging everywhere, periodization and meticulous time management, can be translated to other levels. Also, a significant amount of time was devoted toward special teams. As we can see now, this unit is arguably the best in the NFL.
My other visit to Lincoln Financial Field was for “The Battle of Pennsylvania” between the Eagles and Steelers in the third preseason game. I was excited as it was my first NFL game in the U.S.
This was probably the bittersweet moment of the summer. It took some effort to get a day off on Friday when the Ravens and 49ers were supposed to host a joint practice. Due to a possible CBA rule violation, the event was cancelled. Still it was worth to make the trip to Baltimore,
My second time in the city was pretty special as I was there in the early morning, watching the final preparations for the unveiling of the Ray Lewis Statue.
As I approached the Naval Academy gate, I was asked by one of the guards, “Are you one of the recruits?” I wasn’t and it wasn’t a laughing matter. I wasn’t able to enter the premises because of my luggage.
So I did what every good coach needs to do when facing a problem - I improvised. I left my belongings at a local restaurant and came back. After my passport was checked, I was granted permission to enter the grounds at the Academy.
That is where I met Kirby Myers of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. We had a small conversation, exchanged business cards, and, as I was walking away he said, “You know that you can watch practice – it starts at four.”
For a guy that never played a down of football in High School or College it was a brand new experience .The practice started around 4:30 pm it was Navy’s preparation for Temple. I approached Coach Ken Niumataolo and had a short conversation with him. I was stunned by his kindness and openness.
Penn St – Akron
I then got to Happy Valley around 9am on Saturday –so I had some time to experience pre-game traffic around Beaver Stadium. I had the chance to a part of the tailgate, the marching band entry and Coach James Franklin’s home debut.
In the second half Lions capitalized on Akron’s mistakes and took the lead and won the game. The other thing I'll remember was a post game thunderstorm and massive down pour – that had my clothes soaked and nearly destroyed my passport .
I spent the next few days at my friend's house in Erie. It was week 1 of the NFL season. We made trips to The birthplace of pro football, visiting the Hall of Fame and Fawcett Stadium in Akron. Then, in Berea, I visited Baldwin Wallace and had a meeting with longtime AFM contributor, Keith Grabowski.
It was then off to the South.
Back in 2012, I worked for one of Nick Saban’s assistants from Toledo - Kirk Heidelberg .I wanted to see one of the most influential and polarizing figures in modern college football at work. So I took a bus to the Alabama-Southern Miss game and enjoyed the Crimson Tide victory.
Next stop on my list: Atlanta.
The newly opened College Football Hall of Fame offers an interactive fan experience. Visitors can learn fundamentals of X's and O's and be virtually coached by NCAA legends. Another application allows the visitor to simulate being a head coach - you can recruit players, plan their weekly schedule, attend booster club meetings. It offers great possibilities to improve the football knowledge for a casual fan.
On New Year’s Eve I watched the clash of Duke and Texas A&M in the Georgia Dome. I also visited the Georgia Tech campus and Bobby Dodd Stadium and had a chance to have a quick chat with Coach Paul Johnson .
I spent the next couple of days with my former coach, Kenneth Skip Poole. We visited the battlefield of Chickamauga and on Friday night went to a local high school game. Reuniting with Skip was a very emotional moment.
Back in 2012, I was commuting 120 miles one way two-three times a week to be part of the Wroclaw Devils. We finished that year ranked as the third best team in Poland, one game short of playing in the PLFA Super Final VII in the National Stadium of Warsaw.
On my travel north I visited Newark, the home of the Delaware Blue Hens. I was there at very special time as one of the coaches was struck by a personal tragedy. Yet, he was still on the field coaching his players. Delaware James Madison in overtime.
This was the most unbelievable chapter of my football journey, I’ve been a Patriots Fan since 2005 and, at that time, it was the only NFL franchise I knew. Walking around various historical sites, I visited the Harvard campus and the alma mater of Richard Szaro, the first Pole to play in the NFL.
I was invited to the Patriots practice in Foxborough and had a chance to interview players in the locker room. It was the week of the “oski” game as all the points for both the Patriots and Raiders that week were scored by Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski and Sebastian Janikowski .
Later that day I had a meeting with Mr. Robert Kraft. I felt blessed and thankful for the opportunity to represent the football community in Poland.
A few days later we touched down safely at Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport. This has been an incredible journey from playing and practicing with nothing but mouthpieces back in 2005, through building an American football culture in Poland, to being an ambassador of the game.
What an incredible journey. I had the chance to learn from the best, to observe how they coach, and more importantly, how they work on their craft. I’d like to hear your stories as well. Please feel free to contact me on twitter @CoachVoyt or email email@example.com.
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