Back in Germany; The same…but different

Gray Levy has returned to Europe and Germany’s Ravensburg Razorbacks as their offensive coordinator. Although the team has opened its exhibition schedule with a loss Levy’s insight upon his arrival back a month or so ago is well worth reading. Levy wrote a number of columns for AFI during his original stint with the Razorbacks in 2015. 

I’m back in Germany again coaching the Ravensburg Razorbacks. It’s great to be here, see old friends and be working in Europe again, but a lot has changed with the Razorbacks in just two years.

A wide spectrum exists within Euro-semi-pro football. Some top teams play in front of huge and passionate crowds; hold well-organized practices with outstanding coaches from both Europe and North America and train in outstanding facilities. These programs have may have hundreds of locals playing and learning the game on youth and farm squads, all wearing their parent clubs’ decal on their helmets.

At the other end are teams…groups of buddies more accurately, who come together, scrape some pads and helmets together and try to figure out how to play the game. These programs rarely have American players or coaches…sometimes no true coaches at all, just player/coaches who happen to know more football than their teammates. Many of these teams only have a few dozen players and rarely get enough bodies together to even practice a full offensive or defensive unit…and forget about actual 11 on 11 scrimmaging during practice.

An interesting feature of this landscape is how programs rise and fall, seemingly overnight. A major sponsor dropping can make a powerhouse crash and burn…while increased numbers, ambition and support lift other programs quickly up the ladder.

When I was here in 2015, the Razorbacks were easily in the top half of the spectrum, a quality organization, but below the top echelon. We still haven’t reached the heights, but the program has made a definite push in that direction.

In 2016, the Razorbacks were promoted to the GFL 2 and were respectable, but decided to upgrade and make a push towards the stars. They hired my successor, John Gilligan as the new head coach, brought me back to run the offense and created a farm team, allowing new players to learn the game a few levels below the GFL 2. The results from these changes were obvious as soon as I arrived.

In 2015, we usually practiced two days a week…this season we’ve upped it to three. With camps and film sessions we’ve held 16 practices in the 12 days I’ve been in country.

In 2015, there were around 40 adult Razorbacks, this season, with the founding of the farm team, we have over 100.

In 2015, the team brought four imports (three players and one coach), this season it’s six. (Four players and two coaches)

It’s too early to know the outcome of this experiment, but the signs are outstanding. The practice tempo is beyond anything I saw during my last season here, guys are flying around and exhausted. Practice attendance is still always a concern, but much better than two years ago. The football we’re playing is far above what I saw in 2015…and three of your import players aren’t even here yet. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when we line up for our first game a month from now.

For me, this is now a lot more like a real coaching job. The last time I was here, Mondays and Tuesdays were usually off days, and I had a lot of free time. Not this year. With the new practice tempo and extra practice days, I’ve gotten buried in film breakdown and practice prep…just like coaching back home.

I don’t have as much time to sight see, sleep in and have lazy breakfasts as I did on my last trip, but the loss is offset by the excitement and challenge of helping the Razorbacks become a top tier football program. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Football coach and retired teacher. I wrote Big and Bright: Deep in the Heart of Texas High School Football. HC for the Freiburg Sacristans