Coaching American Football

Embarking on a coaching odyssey from American high schools to Italy's Rhinos Milano, spanning leagues and divisions, culminating in Serie A. A transformative journey in sports leadership and mentorship.

Head Coach Rhinos Milano

First coaching experiences (1992-96)

I began coaching American football immediately after my playing days ended due to a serious neck injury during my senior year of high school. Despite the difficulties, I accepted the coaching staff’s request for assistance in practice and during games. The following year, during my gap year to plan my future, I helped coach my high school’s freshman team.

While studying at Kutztown University a few years later, I enrolled in an athletic coaching course and obtained NFSHSA/ASEP certification in Coaching Principles and Sport First Aid in 1996. This afforded me the opportunity to work with a local freshman team from Exeter High School, where I coached Special Teams, Running Backs, and Linebackers. We enjoyed an outstanding season, remaining undefeated.

Discovering Football in Milan (2000-01)

Upon my move to Italy in 1999, I was initially unaware of the existence of an American football league. After some online research, I discovered a team in Milan, the Frogs, where I briefly assisted in coaching their junior team. Following that season, the coach recommended me to the Rhinos Milano, a storied football team in Milan that was undergoing a rebuilding phase.

The Rebuilding Phase with Rhinos Milano (2002)

When I met with Rhinos Milano in 2002, they were in their debut season in the NWC championship, playing with a five-man team (5v5) format. They asked me to coach the Flag football team (the non-contact version), where I worked with the more inexperienced players and also joined them on the field. That year we clinched the NWC Flag Open championship, winning the final.

Taking the Helm - A Stellar Year (2003)

In 2003, I took over head coaching and defensive coordinator duties of the first team, which started playing a 9v9 version of the game. We won 7 out of 8 regular-season matches and sailed through to the NWC final, securing an easy victory. I was awarded “Best Coach of the Year” from FIAF (Federazione Italiana American Football). I also stayed on as the Flag football coach and player as well. We had a great season and were defeated in the final minutes of the championship game.

Navigating Family and Coaching Obligations (2004-2005)

In 2004, due to the birth of my son, I asked the team if I could stay on as only the defensive coordinator. The team opted to remain in the same category, Serie C, and played a second year in the NWC. Due to some injuries, the season had its ups and downs, but the team reached the final for the second time. This time, they lost to the Red Jackets Sarzana.

2005 marked my return as Head Coach and the team’s debut year in Serie B. The team’s season exceeded expectations. Securing the last available playoff spot, we were beaten in the first round by the Guelfi Firenze, the team that eventually won the championship.

Rising to Serie A2 (2006)

In 2006, the team moved up again in the division to Serie A2. We finished the season in first place, tied with Giaguari Torino in the Western group (6 wins, 1 loss). The Serie A2 playoffs were almost a triumph, with a nail-biting victory in overtime against the Bluestorms Gorla in the first round. In the quarter-finals, the Milanese team prevailed over the Giaguari, avenging the only loss during the regular season. The semifinal brought us to play the formidable Hogs Reggio Emilia, who would go on to win the championship. This was my final year as the head coach of the Rhinos due to my wife’s job transfer and our hopes of extending our family.

Transition and Return (2009-2010)

In 2009, I was asked to coach the Blue Storms Gorla Minore; we finished with a 3-5 record. It was a trying year as I served as head coach and defensive coordinator. After the initial games, I transitioned to the offensive coordinator position. We faced challenges at times, but the hard work paid off in the latter half of the year, ending the season with three consecutive wins.

A few years later, the Rhinos asked me to return as the defensive coordinator for their inaugural season in Serie A. It was the first time in years I was able to coach 11v11 football. I agreed to take on the role. It was a difficult year because the team did not have the success it hoped for. The American players who came to play got injured and we had a difficult time replacing them. The defense got better each week. We were the only team to have two shutouts during the regular season and in the last 4 games, we had the best defense in the league.

The travel back and forth to Milan during the week and the weekends away from my family was too much for me and I let the team know that I would not be able to continue. That was my last year coaching.

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