John Harper helping Poland’s Bialystok Lowlanders aim for championship

When John Harper returned to Europe after a year away to take the job as the head coach of the Bialystok Lowlanders in Poland he was back on familiar ground. Building a solid foundation for success.

Harper has guided, or helped to guide, 11 different teams in five different countries to highly successful records not to mention championships. He has an amazing won-loss record and as an assistant or head coach he has won the European championship twice, the Champions league title once, the Italian championship, the Austrian division 1 championship, the Central European Football League championship and the Serbian championship twice. He has laid the foundation for the success of several teams including Turkey’s Koc Rams and Serbia’s SBB Vukovi Belgrade.

A native of New Mexico, Harper first arrived in Europe in 1986 looking for a team in the days before He found one in Novara, Italy where, in addition to playing tailback, strong safety and leading returner, he was head coach and ran both the offense and defense. The year before the Lancers had gone without a win (0-10). Under Harper, they sailed to a 6-3-1 record.

Since then he has forged a philosophy based on boosting rosters and exposing programs to top notch competition.

Over the course of three years (2012-2015) as general manager and head coach of the Koç Rams he guided them from the lower levels of division 2 in Turkey to becoming a powerhouse in both the university and senior leagues in that country. They have ventured out internationally and been successful following Harper’s initiatives.

He has now taken over a Lowlanders team that went 4-4 in 2016 in Poland but now has aspirations to win the Polish title. Although the team has opened with a 1-1 record with a win over perennial title contender the Gdynia Seahawks and a tough loss to the defending champions the Wroclaw Panthers, that focus on winning the championship has not wavered.

“We made mistakes against the Panthers, but the game was closer than the score shows. I am excited for the rest of the season.”

Harper’s approach to coaching is perhaps best described in this video.


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.