The end of a chapter. The start of another…..
Thursday April 25th, 2013 Prague, Czech Republic
Have you ever had a bad haircut? They last about a week. I mention that because I just had one. Nancy had thought from the beginning that I acted with too much haste when I decided to forgo my opportunity to return to Zagreb and opted to accept the coaching challenge here in Prague. She was right. Don’t get me wrong, as you are certainly aware hindsight is always 20/20, I don’t regret the experience at all, it was just wrong pretty much from the beginning.
The people associated with the team are good men, all of them. They gave me the leeway that made it possible for me to coach the way I have coached for forty seven years. It just didn’t work here and I’m not going to go the ‘blame’ route. That’s something I’ll leave to others. The biggest problem to overcome here in Prague is figuring out how to even the playing field with the Austrian teams. The four top teams all have year around coaches and year around required programs. Prague does not. When I first arrived to coach in Vienna in 1994 the programs in all of Europe were essentially the same, part time football. It was a ‘hobby’ sport. Over the nineteen years since that beginning many teams, and all of them in Austria, have tried to make it more than that. Those that have succeeded have money, facilities and commitment from its players for twelve months. Again, Prague does not.
Understand that is not a criticism, just a fact. My advice, if anyone were to ask, would be for them to regroup by starting over. If I were running the program I would opt for a lesser competitive league and build from the ground up. They need a strong youth program and year around facilities to compete with the best teams in Europe and that will take time. On the other hand there is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding to remain a ‘Hobby” sport and play teams with the same philosophy. And certainly until they find a sponsor willing to ‘Pay the Freight’, any thought of success in the AFL is looking at the situation through rose colored glasses instead of accepting the reality. Whichever way they decide to go I will certainly wish them well.
In about a week, after my haircut smooth’s out, I’ll land in Zagreb, Croatia where I worked two years ago. I have a standing offer to lend my experience to their young and building program anytime I have the time. As of Monday I have a lot of time. We’ll head down to Vienna for the weekend and visit friends while my hair grows out and on Monday drive through southern Austria, cross into Slovenia and arrive in Zagreb looking well manicured.
We spent our last few days joining the ‘tourist’ mob and sightseeing. Yesterday we spent time at a mid evil castle about an hour’s drive from Prague. We ended up walking all the way to the top with a group of twelve other people. It was a beautiful mid sixties day and our tour guide did a nice job of enlightening us as to the history of the place. It reminded me of scene’s from the movie Robin Hood, which could easily have been filmed here.
Last night we spent a lovely two hours on a river cruise passing under most of the fourteen bridges that loom over the Vltava here in Prague. The river’s beginning source is in mountains of southern Czech Republic and it continues on a northwestern path eventually joining with the Elba before emptying into the north sea.
Today we’re packing for our short drive down to Vienna after our three month stay in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. We’ve made more good friends and will have some wonderful memories to savor once again. Goodbye Prague, hello Zagreb.