Head Coach of the Wasa Royals (Vaasa), John Alexander Booker, has been kind enough to talk to me about his current coaching position and the impact of American Coaches in Finland.
You are not new to Football overseas, but this is your first-time coaching in Finland. Where have you played, and coached previously?
Outside of my career in America I have played and coached in Turkey, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Brazil, Austria, and Italy.
Why did you decide to coach in Vaasa with the Royals?
I really believe in the direction of the team and wanted to coach at a higher level. Finland has one of the best leagues and Wasa Royals is one of the top programs. The decision was pretty easy for me.
What kind of goals have you set for the Royals this year, and how do you plan to achieve those goals?
It’s human nature to want to win and I believe that is every team’s goal. To accomplish that goal, we must do all the little things that lead to winning becoming a habit. So, my goals are more based on the way we prepare and our daily habits. To achieve this goal, I have to make sure the expectations are clear for the players and then hold them accountable to meet set expectations. Being consistent in the things we do will create the habits needed to win games. Winning one game is great but making winning habitual is how championships are won.
Can you explain how your specific coaching style will bring success to your team this year?
I love what I do and that comes out in my style of coaching. The most successful teams love every part of the sport especially preparation. I love to work more than I love to win, winning is just the outcome of your work. As long as we love to work and improve we will love the results on game days. Focusing on the steps it takes to win instead of the actual win is something I consider the core of my football believes.
There seems to be a recent trend of American coaches in Finland. Do you think this will continue in the future, or just a coincidence of this time? Can you explain your reasoning?
I am not too familiar with the history of Finnish American Football. Maybe at some point in the past there were many American coaches. I do know that there are great Finnish coaches and it shows in the level of play in the league. I know the game is growing everywhere in the world and teams are learning that import players help for the season but coaches can improve the team for the future. This may be a trend Finland is also experiencing. As far as the future goes, most teams copy successful teams. If American coaches have success I would imagine other teams would buy into the trend.
In the next 5 years, where do you see yourself in regards to American Football?
I will still be coaching for sure. In a perfect world, I would have a fist full of rings and be in control of a dynasty. I admire coaches that can sustain excellence for extended periods of time. This is a challenge I would love to accomplish for myself and the teams I coach.
In the next 5 years, in terms of competition, popularity, or culture, where do you see American Football in Europe?
Europe is really hard to predict. I think there has to be unity in the development of the sport. It is unfortunate the current status of IFAF because the game is suffering due to difference of opinions. When those differences are set aside and people focus on what is best for the sport internationally the sky is the limit. I wish there was more parity in international football but it’s hard when the clubs are individually ran. There is a big gap between Elite European teams and good European teams. When that gap closes, I think the sport will become more interesting to a wider demographic. The great thing about The Maple league is that there is Parity and true competition. The Roosters are obviously at the top of the mountain and have a dynasty going but the league in general is competitive.