The Paredes Lumberjacks of the Portuguese League of American Football, have signed Gavin “Gawin” Campbell as their head coach for 2020.
The Lumberjacks finished the 2019 season out of the playoffs for the third year in a row.
The 40 year old Campbell, a native of California, played at Kentucky State University (NCAA Div. 2) before starting his coaching career at his alma mater, Kentucky State where he coached running backs. He went on to coach at University of La Verne and Old Dominion. Most recently he served as defensive coordinator for the Bratislava Monarchs in Slovakia (also played in Austrian Div. 1). His coaching career has spanned three continents and a multitude of clubs: France: Aix-en-Provence Argonauts, DC & STC; Spain Valencia Firebats, DC & STC; Poland: Sopot Seahawks DC, STC & OLB, Slupsk Griffons HC, DC, OC, STC, Tychy Falcons DB& STC; Ukraine: Kharkov Atlantes DB, WR & kicking coach; Germany: Susel New Vikings DC; Philippines: Manila Wolves DC & ST.
He also coached on the staff of the traveling United States national team that competed in the World Games in 2017 and served as interim head coach of Team Ukraine and defensive coordinator of Slovakian U19 national team.
American Football International spoke to Campbell, a true football nomad, about his move to Portugal.
AFI: What prompted you to sign in Portugal with the Lumberjacks?
Campbell: One of the major factors, when choosing where I coach, has always been location. So I reached out to a few teams in Portugal, and of all the teams that I talked to, the Lumberjacks were hands down the best fit. They met almost all of my requirements for a team: location, a good organizational foundation, a group of players who were hungry to be more competitive, and a few other things.
As an import, I reached out to fellow imports that had experience with the team (as a member or an opponent), and I reached out to 4 imports (2 former members and 2 former opponents), and all of them said they were a great group of guys who just needed the right leadership to improve. Probably the biggest thing that was the deciding factor was they realized winning was a goal not the method. Too often clubs look at wins/losses as the steps to get better at football, as opposed to getting better at the technique, scheme, and philosophy are what lead to success, which leads to long term sustained success.
AFI: You are a veteran international coach. Fill us in a little on your European coaching background.
Campbell: After several years of coaching in NCAA, at all divisions from D3 to D1, I had some things in my personal life that had me readjusting my life choices. So when offered a gig in France, I jumped on it. Since that time, I have been lucky enough to coach in several programs, with stops in Spain, Poland, Latvia, Ukraine, Germany, Philippines, Slovakia, Austria, and (soon) Portugal.
I have truly been blessed to be with some competitive teams, who just needed a little more help to see that competitiveness to lead to victors, which has lead to 6 national championships in 9 appearances in 7 countries, compiling a 100&24 record overseas.
AFI: How much do you know about football in Portugal?
Campbell: I have had 2 imports that went to the Lumberjacks the year after playing for the team I was with, and 1 import who played on the team I was with after 2 years in Portugal. Although my knowledge is all second hand, I feel I have a decent grasp on the environment of the team, the LPFA, and the country.
AFI: The Lumberjacks have not had a winning season since 2015. How do you plan to change things?
Campbell: The first thing is to realize that the Lumberjacks’ (or any other team) successes or failures does not necessarily dictate who they are or will be. More specifically, as for the plan, it started with discussing major philosophical culture of the team, with the board, next will be making a few drastic changes in our schemes in all 3 phases of the game, and last thing (being undertaken currently) is that we will be bringing in 2 to 3 more coaches to add to the current staff. In lieu of hiring an import player, who will improve our chances of success this year, we opted to bring in import coaches, for the sake of making our domestic players better, to ensure success will be sustained.
AFI: What you do feel you bring to the team?
Campbell: As a few members of the team/organization have told me, it isn’t that they don’t want to change things, it’s a matter of knowing what to do or how to accomplish. So the biggest thing I bring to the table is my experience with successful teams/organizations. Every team I have been with, I study the culture, philosophy, and few other intangibles, and I noticed a lot of similarities in those areas between teams that were at the same level of success.
AFI: Will you be signing any import players?
Campbell: As of right now, we have no plans to bring in import players, nor are we actively looking. Our ultimate goal is to have sustained success, and not a fluke year of success. So the thought is that by bringing in import coaches, we will be building up our domestic players, and the plan to increase our team numbers is by recruiting HEAVILY from within Portugal. That being said, if an import player can fit into our goals of improving domestic players, then signing them is not out of the question.
AFI: What are your expectations for the 2020 season?
Campbell: As I said, earlier, increased wins are a goal not a process. The two majors expectations for 2020 are to restructure the culture of the team and improvement of player techniques. If our win/loss record improves in 2020, then we won’t be opposed to it, but whether our win/loss record improves, or not, our judge of success will be how much progression we see in the culture and techniques of the players.