Spanish Inquisition: A Q&A with Western New England Golden Bear Head Coach Keith Emery

Gavin Campbell reached out to Western New England Golden Bears Head Coach Keith Emery. The Golden Bears will face the L’Hospitalet Pioners in a game in Barcelona Saturday March 21.

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1. How did this game come about? Did you reach out to the Pioners or vice versa?

This is the third time we’ve traveled abroad to play a game. This game was set up by Ivan Molteni of Dream Team Sports Tours, he reached out to the Spanish League to see who might be interested in the game.

2. How long was the process of setting this game up? Is this something your program has been in talks/planning since the end of the 2014 season or before?

This is about 3 years in the making, right after our successful trip to Italy in 2012.

3. Have you (or WNE) been involved in one of these international games before? If so, what country and/or team?

Both our Men’s and Women’s soccer teams have come to Europe. The football team went to Canada to play the Quebec Rebelles in 2009, Italy to play the National Blue Team in 2012 and now this trip.

4. As the Head Coach, what is your major objective in participating? (i.e. is it the cultural experience for the players/staff, a chance to don the pads in spring, participation in a fundraiser for the fight against cancer, broadening the reach of American Football as a community, or other).

All of the above Gavin. This is a great trip for our boys culturally. We do have a few Spanish speakers on the team, but they speak a more North American Spanish. Playing our game in the Spring is a major part of it too. NCAA Division 3 does not allow us to except for these trips. The Fundraiser is an added bonus, community service is a big part our program back home.

5. Does any of your coaching staff have experience in European football?

None of our current staff has but past members have in Italy and Finland. Some of our past players have played in the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Slovenia.

6. Being a former DFO in DIII, I have learned that what a staff wants doesn’t always align with what an institution wants and/or can support. Have you had any major hurdles to overcome in this endeavor (whether systematic or interactions with individuals)?

Not really, there were some new technicalities dealing with parents who wanted to travel with us, which did cut our numbers- but nothing too bad.

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7. How is this trip being financed?

Essentially are players required to pay all/some of the cost, is WNE paying, boosters/alums, and/or are the Pios giving you some sort of guarantee? It’s virtually all on our players with some minimal fund raising.

8. What is your hope for the outcome of this game (from an off the field perspective)? (i.e. getting players over to Europe after graduation, possibly recruiting Spanish players, just enjoying the experience, etc).

Really just enjoying the entire experience.

9. Usually the European team opts to play these games at the end of their regular season (generally May-June). So seeing one of these games in the middle of the regular season is unique. Was that a decision made on your end, the Pios end, or a compromise?

I know our spring break timing is unique, it has to do with housing availability on our campus during training if we traveled in May/June. Ivan searched for a team who was willing to play – and he found it.

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10. As this is in the middle of the semester, and your players are student-athletes, what does your travel itinerary look like. Is your team, essentially, traveling for the game and returning or are you staying for a few days before and/or after?

We depart today and Tour Madrid and Barcelona, we leave the day after we play.

11. The Pios, a perennial contender in the LNFA Series A, is having a rough go of it this season (having one win in the first 4 games). How do you keep your players hyped for the game, especially considering that many may be more excited about the trip to the Barcelona area?

I saw that, honestly it won’t be hard, our guys just love to play football. The winter weather in New England has been BRUTAL. Having the opportunity to just go play our game against someone else, help spread the game of football, show our brand of football while helping the community is all the motivation we need.

Three years ago the WNE Golden Bears played the Italian National Team. Watch the highlights here.

Click here to watch the live stream of WNE’s game vs. L’Hospitalet Pioners; (Kickoff 5 PM Spanish time, 12 Noon EDT)

Gavin coached in all levels of NCAA, before coming to Europe in 2013. Gavin is the founder of 3D Football and is currently the Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator for the Silesia Rebels in Poland's PFL1.