Saarland Hurricanes HC Joe Sturdivant named defensive coordinator of Team Belgium

The Belgian national team, the Belgian Barbarians, have named Joe Sturdivant as their new defensive coordinator.

The 32-year-old Sturdivant recently returned to Europe as head coach of the Saarland Hurricanes in Germany’s GFL2. He had spent five years away first working to build the IMG Academy and then coaching Trinity Catholic High School in Florida. He coached the Marburg Mercenaries  to the German semifinals two years in a row after spending the 2011 season as a player/coach for the Catania Elephants of the Italian first division (Italian semifinalists). In 2010 Joe played for Marburg and as the team captain helped the team to an 11-2 record and a berth in the semifinals in the German top division (GFL).

In the 2011 World Championship of American Football, Sturdivant starred for Team USA, helping the team to the World title.

He first played in Europe for the Cineplexx Blue Devils (team captain) (Austria) and the team finished with an 11-5 record.

He enjoyed an outstanding career at SMU (Southern Methodist University) in Texas (Div. 1, NCAA) and in 2006 was 4th leading tackler in college football (109) while earning 1st team all conference honors at defensive back. In 2005 he was 5th in the country in pass breakups and 12th in tackles. He served as the safeties’ coach for SMU during the 2007 season.

The Belgian Barbarians, formed five years ago, have been one of the most active national American football teams in the world over the past four years, playing at least two games a year. In 2017, the Barbarians defeated Team Spain in a thriller and then lost a very close game to Russia.  Since their formation in 2014, the Barbarians have a record of 5-4.

American Football International asked Joe about joining Team Belgium on top of his duties with Saarland.

AFI: How did you end up being picked to coach the defense of Team Belgium?

Sturdivant: I talked with Coach Wood about doing a camp for Growth of the Game in Cologne and we got to know each other pretty well. I could tell he was a very good coach and someone I wanted to be around. When I found out he was hired as the head coach for the Belgium National Team, I asked if he needed a defensive coordinator. He said he was looking. I told him it would be honor to represent the country of Belgium as a coach of American football. It was a pretty special deal being able to represent the United States as a player for Team USA, to be able to represent someone else’s country is an honor and blessing beyond belief. It is a great privileged to be a part of the growth of the Belgian National Team.

AFI: How often will you need to be in Belgium?

Sturdivant: We are working out the schedule for the year, but the schedules seem to match up pretty well. I do not see any scheduling conflicts. But, I will be there when I am needed and will give everything I can to help the program.

AFI: The Belgian Barbarians has been one of the most active national teams in Europe over the past 4-5 years. What are your thoughts on their development?

Sturdivant: I have watched them play a couple times and have studied film on the Barbarians. I can see that they have a lot of talent. I have been very impressed with the coaches of the Barbarians and the group of coaches that Coach Wood is putting together. They are passionate about the game and the success of the overall program. I believe the group of defensive players I’ve watched on film is a very good group. I believe we can turn them into a dominate force in international football competition.

AFI: You have won the gold medal in the World Championships with Team USA. How much of that experience can you bring to Team Belgium?

Sturdivant:  Winning the gold medal with Team USA was for sure a great experience. I can bring knowledge about the physical and mental preparation that goes into the international tournaments. Four Games in eight days, is very hard on athletes especially when it comes to football. I was lucky enough to play for some great coaches in my life who led to my success as a player and coach– Cecil Flowe, Jerry Stewart, Phil Bennett, Jim Gush, Joe Roman, Mel Tdjursdma, Lou Tepper, Chris Weinke and Thomas Elliott. These guys taught me, now I teach those who I coach. Winning the gold, was the expectation for Team USA, I’m trying to change the expectation for the Belgium National Team.

AFI: How are you able to combine coaching Saarland and then Belgium?

Sturdivant:  How can I combine coaching Saarland and coach Team Belgium? I am the head coach and offensive Coordinator for the Saarland Hurricanes, with the Barbarians I’ll be the defensive coordinator. I love the game of football and the only way to continue to grow as a coach is to coach and teach the game. To me its a very easy transition, my mind will be fresh because ill be on the other side of the ball as a coach. I might be burned out after a long season of coaching offense but I’ll be fresh and hot on coaching up some dang good defensive football. Defense is my specialty and I’ll be looking forward to coaching ball on the dark side again. I’m sure after another season with Hall of Fame Coach Joe Roman , we will have some great new things to bring forward into the defensive coaching world. I only do a few things in life, I fish, coach football and spend time with my family. My family is here with me, I just got some new fishing poles and football is football so I’m ready for the year! year round football…. Who wouldn’t want that as a coach?


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