Danish national team head coach Lars Carlsen guest at BC Lions training camp

Lars Carlsen, head coach of Denmark’s Senior and Junior National teams and Athletic Director of the Danish American Football Federation, has just experienced a professional Canadian Football League training camp up close – as one of the coaches.

Carlsen spent the first 10 days of the BC Lions training camp as a guest coach, assisting special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold.

Reinebold and Carlsen have known each other for more than 20 years when Reinebold was working with NFL Europe and the two worked camps together.  Earlier this year, during a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark to hold a coaching clinic,  Reinebold asked Carlsen about coming to the Canadian Football League team’s training camp as a guest coach.

Keep in mind that Carlsen’s football coaching background is extensive. He has basically been responsible for all football operations at the national level in Denmark since the mid 1990s, so another camp should not be a big deal. Bur for him, this was special.

“I was overwhelmed. To me, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Flying halfway around the world and being part of a pro camp was an incredible experience.”

After flying to Vancouver and then taking the four hour drive to the small town of Kamloops, B.C., where the Lions have held training camp for a number of years, Carlsen discovered that being a guest coach was more coach than guest.

“This was definitely not a vacation. We were up at 5:30 am every morning and not back into bed until 11 every night. From morning to night we were busy.”

Carlsen was involved in every aspect of special teams during his stay helping plan practices, running drills, assisting players and adjusting plays.

“Jeff told me to just get in and coach. So I did. I took charge of punt cover and punt protection, set up scout teams and did anything else needed. I was part of the coaching staff. I didn’t feel like a “guest” coach at all.”

Although Carlsen has been coaching and holding camps himself for the past 20 years or so, he was still struck by the businesslike atmosphere and the professionalism, and the respect he was accorded as a coach.

“I was treated really well by the Lions and head coach Wally Buono. They made me feel welcome and a part of the coaching staff.”

He was also impressed by the players:

“These players are simply bigger, stronger and faster. They are all professionals and every single one of them has graduated from a major football school.”

Communications had been a concern for Carlsen, but once the players got used to his Danish accent, and he started thinking in English, things began to smooth.

“I had trouble in the beginning and was worried I would not be able to get my point across quickly, which you need to do when coaching and running drills.”

In the end, it worked out fine even though many of the players had trouble understanding where Denmark was located.

“The players had a hard time in the beginning figuring out where I was from, but it was fine. Their focus all their lives has been football, not world geography. In the end, some of them even tried to learn a few Danish words. And a lot of them came up to thank me when I left.”

Reinebold was really impressed with how his good friend handled the situation:

“Lars did a great job for us during his time as a guest coach with the Lions. Having him definitely made us better. Young international coaches need to see that coaching in pro football is possible. Having Carlos Rosado [from Mexico] here and [British coach] Aden Durde in Atlanta validates the level coaching being done around the globe.”

Next up for the globe-trotting Carlsen are preparations for the Danish men’s national team who are getting ready to play in the European Championship tournament in July.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.