Győr Sharks head coach John Burleson bringing a new philosophy to Hungary

The Győr Sharks are on the verge of making the Hungarian Football League playoffs for the first time in their history, thanks to a”warrior”  approach instilled by new head coach John Burleson.

When the Győr Sharks went looking for a head coach after the departure of 12-year veteran Vilmos Grátz they found Burleson, a Canadian who specializes in rebuilding programs.

Thus, a new era began with Burleson, who brought a new way of thinking to the Sharks and the players.

The Vancouver born coach who grew up in New Mexico, started playing Pop Warner football at the age of 5. He played until his senior year of high school but a serious back injury cut his aspirations of playing college football short. So he turned to coaching and coached high school and junior college students in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Canada. He mostly dealt with defense but he got trained in offense as well.

“I have a friend called George Contreras. He has been all over Europe for a long time and told me a lot about it. I wanted to be over here. I love Hungary, the people in this country and the Győr Sharks. These guys are amazing. Sometimes they do not like me, sometimes I push them, where they think, they do not necessarily need to go. But that is the part of coaching. You want something to go from point A to point B.”

When he arrived in Győr, he put a lot of time into restructuring the team. In addition, he used a different and unique kind of philosophy. He wanted to make the Sharks mentally strong and resilient. His purpose was to make them think and train like American athletes. In order to do so, he asked them to try to understand who they are and reach out to their roots.

“At the beginning of the year a television staff member asked me if I think this is a war. I said, of course it is. Just an example: back in the Roman days the guy that finished second died. A war needs a good army. The essence of it is a good squad. The players need to understand what it is to pull together, to fight as brothers and have a different understanding of who they are. We are reprogramming their DNA a bit. They are Hungarians. Just the word Huns used to terrorize all of Western Europe. The Hungarians need to forget about the fact that somebody told them, you are supposed to stay small. They must keep fighting and battling. I needed Attila the Hun and his army”

Something really started to move forward. The Sharks did not start the season too well in the Hungarian Football League. However, the team improved game by game, until they got their first victory against the DAK Acél Dunaújváros Gorillaz. The Sharks’ defense put up a strong performance. This continued against the reigning champion Miskolc Steelers. Although the team lost in Felsőzsolca, they played a tight game. In addition, the offense also showed signs of improvement. Now, it all comes down to one game. If the Sharks beat the Wolves in Budapest, they will make it to the HFL playoffs, first time in their history.

“We believe the impossible. It is just an opinion but if you do not accept it, it is not a fact. We want to make the playoffs. We knew before the Steelers game that it is going to come down to one game. It is going to come down who wants it more. We have to beat them in their facility and earn the right to go to the playoffs.”

The Győr Sharks will visit the Budapest Wolves on June 4 in Budapest.

László Makranczi is a radio reporter, announcer and American Football journalist in Hungary. He lives in Debrecen and works for the Hungarian American Football Federation. Studied at the University of Debrecen, got a master’s degree in American