Going ALL IN with Coach OlsonFebruary 12, 2013 - Arena Football League (AFL) Spokane Shock
Arena football has been a part of the city of Spokane since 2005 and Coach Olson has been part of the team in one way or another almost every year. After growing up on a farm in Chehalis, W.A., Olson attended Western Washington University in Bellingham where he posted four record setting seasons as a wide receiver. Following his colligate career, Olson played for the Georgia Force in 2007 and then signed with the Spokane Shock for the 2008 season. Olson was a wide receiver for the Shock and had great success. He was a major player in the Shock's 2008 Conference Championship as well as the 2009 Arena Cup.
Olson's high school football coach saw the coach in him before anyone else did. After a bad knee injury in his senior year, Olson gave an inspirational speech to his team at halftime that his coach said helped them win the game. Coach Olson said he has always wanted to coach in one way or another, but that he honestly never thought about Arena Football. In 2011 the Shock hired Olson as the Offensive Coordinator, which gave him an opportunity to get his feet wet and see what coaching Arena Football was like. After serving as Offensive Coordinator for one season Olson was given the opportunity to become Head Coach and gladly accepted.
"Coaching has come natural, I was always a pretty vocal player, kind of a loud guy, tried to be motivational. Coaching is not easy... but for me it was just kind of a natural transition," Olson said.
Olson's first season as Head Coach for the Shock was a pretty successful season ending with a 10-8 record, but the West Conference was very dominant having four teams with overall winning records and the Shock fell just shy of the playoffs. Olson is looking forward to this upcoming season with high hopes that the team will have more success and not only make it into the playoffs but ultimately win the championship. One thing that is really reassuring to Olson is how experienced the team is this year and how many veterans he has to work with.
"[I] love our team! We have 17 returners; number one in the league as far as guys coming back to their roster. Everybody just knows more, where as last year everyone was so young. We can really get rolling fast....... and put a lot of time into making sure that we have the guys that are going to take us to the championship. That's what we are looking for this season," Olson said.
Olson is feeling very comfortable about where the team is at roster wise this season and is excited for the guys that are returning. Guys like receiver Adron Tennell who set franchise records in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, and points last season. Terrance Sanders missed a number of games, but still recorded 7 interceptions and was named first-team AFL kick return and second-team defensive back. Former Eastern Washington University Quarterback Erik Meyer is returning this season with high expectations leading a high powered offensive along with AFL vet Chris Pino to anchor the offensive line. These are guys who are all veterans are players that fans will recognize. Olson expressed that with these guys that are now signed to two year contracts he is really trying to look long term, and winning games.
Olson feels that there are some things that have to change this year within both the team and the coaching staff for the team to be successful. Some of the things that he talked about were the discipline and structure of the practices, as well as having as few penalties as possible in games.
"We just need to be a more disciplined football team and that starts with me. That's my job, [and] I am going to take care of that. We are going to require a lot of work from these guys," Olson said.
Olson also talked about some changes that he is going to be making to help the players be more prepared for the season, with hopes of having a lot of success. Most of the changes that are going to be made are in practices. He said that this year practices are going to be a lot more competitive, structured and efficient. Last year it was a lot of just off the hip stuff, and this year he is going to try to make it so guys are not just standing around while others are practicing.
One thing that the coaching staff has implemented this season that is completely new not only for the Shock, but in arena football is a conditioning test at the start of the season. Olson said that this is something that he feels is going to put a little bit of fear in the guys, because they know that in order to have a chance they have to pass the test. If the players don't pass, they don't practice and if they don't practice, they don't play. Olson described it as a warning for the players and a way to set a high standard that he hopes to carry throughout the whole season.
In the time that the Shock have been in Spokane, they have had a lot of successful seasons, but Coach Olson knows that those successes have not only come from the action of the players on the field but from the fans as well.
With a new mission statement this season the Shock coaches and organization want to express how important community is to them. The mission states "To deliver to our fans a high quality entertainment experience while serving and representing the Inland Northwest on and off the field as a proud member of the Arena Football League." In his interview, Olson expressed his desire for the team and the organization to be a good example and present a positive image to the community. He said that the Shock has an opportunity to be an influence to children of all ages and to present a positive image and be people that the children look up to. Olson made it very clear that it is very important to him that the community sees value in the team not just on the field but off as well, and that they are able to make a difference in peoples' lives.
"When you're a kid, you look up to any guy, it doesn't matter what his name is, and you think wow that guy must be awesome. It's not just being there to talk to them, but it's leading in example during the season, on the field, [and] off the field, constantly being someone that people want to be around, someone that they can model themselves after," Olson said.
As the 2013 season approaches, there are a few things that the fans can look forward to that are going to be much different than the season in the past. Olson said that there is going to be a lot more fan appreciation this season, which is something that is very important to him. He expressed that he feels that is something that they did not do well enough last year and he is looking forward to changing. They are going to make sure that guys are interacting more with the fans before and after the games doing things like giving high five and signing autographs. Olson feels that these are the little things that fans think are irreplaceable and he wants to make them feel like they are a part of something and that they do make a difference.
For all the super fans out there it may be no surprise that last year the Spokane Arena was voted at the rowdiest arena and the 25 year history of Arena Football and this is something that Coach Olson absolutely loved.
"I love it!....I've been to pretty much every arena now, and there are some arenas that are pretty loud and pretty annoying but there's nothing like Spokane.... There's nothing like our fans, they're nuts, they're crazy, they're consistently yelling.... It's just one of those environments where they care; it's not just a game. They don't just come to watch and have fun, they're physically and emotionally involved.... The fans take pride in doing everything they can to help the team win a game. And they absolutely do. They cause false starts, they cause players to make mistakes because they are constantly screaming in their ears..... We couldn't be happier, we love our fans, we would never trade them," Olson said.
The motto for the season is "ALL IN," so Shock fans out there keep up the good work and as Coach Olson said, keep yelling, and continue to be excited about Shock football.
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