Gästskribent: Coach Walkers tankar om framtiden

My Hopes for American Football in Sweden

Coach Jon Walker
Coach Jon Walker

In my four years coaching American Football in Sweden the #1 question I get is “How is football in Sweden compared to football in the US?” My answer is very simple, it does not compare. There are so many variables in why the difference is so vast that it is unfair to compare the two. The next question I inevitably get is “How do we make the sport better here in Sweden?”

Over the past four years I have coached at almost every level possible in Sweden. I have coached in the Super Series, Division 1, U19, U17, U15, U13, SLL, JLL, and DM. As an American coach coming to Sweden I think that I look at the sport here from a different perspective than most Swedish coaches/administrators. This perspective combined with the wide range of experience I have in this country gives me a unique and insightful view of what Swedish American football really is and where changes can be made to make improvements and help this sport grow.

The first thing needed in answering the question of “How do we make the sport better” is an honest answer to the question “Is football in Sweden sustaining itself?” My answer to that question is “No”. Football in Sweden is not a sustainable product yet. It is in survival mode. There are a small number of clubs in Sweden that are able to grow year in and year out and sustain a good product at all levels of the club. But, most of the clubs here are not able to thrive and grow at a steady pace year after year. I attribute this to a misguided ideology of how to best grow this sport here in Sweden.

Building from the top down never works. The idea that the national teams and the Super Series teams are the catalyst of raising the participation and level of play in the junior programs is flawed. 13 and 14 year old kids don’t play American football because of their dreams of playing in the Super Series and on the national team. They play for the experience of playing a sport that challenges them physically, mentally, and emotionally. They play because of the bond created between teammates and coaches. They play for the fun of playing. I believe a fundamental shift in thinking needs to happen. We need to start helping clubs grow U13 and U15 teams.

The second issue I see that needs to be answered is the lack of importance placed on practice. This is a sport that needs players and coaches to be at practice. In order to make practice exciting and fun and for the players to safely play the game they need a near 100% attendance rate at practice. Sadly most clubs experience an attendance rate closer to 50-60%. This is an issue that is impossible to fix without better scheduling. Playing one game every 3 weeks is not conducive to the players understanding of the importance of practice. It is unreasonable to ask a player to be at 100% of the practices over a 22 week period when there are only 6 games in that same time frame. If we schedule our games closer together the coaches can reasonably ask for 100% attendance over a shorter time period.

Thirdly there needs to be an effort to create a more equal playing field at the Senior level. At the same time we need to be able to do this without increasing the costs of the clubs greatly. The 40+ point victories are becoming more of the norm at every level of Senior play. The wellplayed, hard fought close matches are becoming more and more rare. The Super series has been diluted from expansion and now has more teams that are unable to compete both on the field and financially. Superettan is not a viable option because it is not feasible financially as a nationwide league. Division 1 now has become lopsided with experienced teams playing against teams full of beginners resulting in scores of 60+ point victories. The answer to all of these issues is to grow the middle. The Superettan is the solution to making the Senior level a sustainable product. Growing the middle is the most effective way to have more competitive games at a cost that is affordable to the clubs. The ideal outlook would be:

  • A small Elite Super Series league. This allows for the teams to really push the envelope of what is possible for football in Sweden.
  • A large Superettan that is regional allowing for teams to play more locally and play against teams more evenly matched.
  • A medium sized Division 1 that is mostly full of players who are beginners or players unable to commit to the higher levels.

I have included a proposal of what some of these changes could look like in 2016.

Proposal for 2016

Super Series: Limiting the Super Series to 5 teams allows for the teams to really push the level of excellence. No longer will the lower half of the league drag the upper half down. Freed of the burden of teams that cannot compete physically and financially the top 5 teams can really push the envelope of excellence in level of play, fund raising, marketing and Television. Limiting to 5 teams will also lower the amount of noncompetitive games. No longer will over half of the games played be decided by a 40+ point margin.

Superettan: Superettan needs to grow to a regional regular season to keep costs down on travel. But include a national Championship to give the league more excitement and prestige. The requirements to participate are lower than the SS but higher than a Division 1 team. 1. must play in a stadium with stands for fans. 2. Running scoreboard and 25 second clock. 3. Film exchange. 4. Only 1 import allowed total. Growing the Superettan will also help eliminate the massive scores we see in Division 1. Where experienced teams are matched up against teams that are full of beginners. By combining the bottom half of the SS and the top half of Div 1 we will create a competitive league that does not financially burden the clubs like a national Super Series but still challenges the players to compete and grow to higher levels.

Division 1: No changes in the policy of division 1. In removing the top teams from Division 1 again we are decreasing the amount of lopsided victories. Division 1 clubs will face teams closer to their own experience and skill level. Making for more exciting games.

Nondivisional Games: In Early spring the clubs can schedule games that cross over divisions to keep rivalries alive and prepare them for the upcoming season. The games will be scheduled by the individual clubs and agreements must be made for 2 consecutive seasons, one year home and one year away. These games would not count towards final records for post season.

Staggering Seasons: The long drawn out schedule where teams play 6 games in 22 weeks is not good for the sport in Sweden. Staggering the season will allow clubs to put more of an emphasis on practice attendance and give players opportunities to challenge themselves in the off season by playing up a level. Without the burden of playing 2 games in one weekend. Also this will lessen the burden placed on the coaches. It is unrealistic to believe that 2 coaches can effectively coach 4 teams. Or that having 16 year olds as full time coaches without a mentor actively coaching is helping this sport grow. Staggering the seasons lets the older coaches coach more teams and allows the younger coaches to be mentored and grow as young coaches should.



U17 & Seniors

U15 & U19



Realignment: Clubs will be able to apply for realignment every four years. Four years is a the appropriate amount of time for teams to prove that their foundation has grown to warrant them being moved to a higher level. On the flip side it is also a good amount of time to evaluate that a club is continually not able to compete at their level and should be moved down.

Walker förslag

 By Jon Walker