From on the field to on the sideline
Thursday March 31, 2016
How Dolezel’s Playing Career Influences his Success as Head Coach
PHILADELPHIA - Head Coach Clint Dolezel is no stranger to success in the AFL, both as a coach and as a player.
Last year he was awarded the Marcum-Moss Coach of the Year Award, making him the first in Soul history to receive the award. In his third season with the team, Dolezel led the Soul to a 16-4 record including the playoffs and an appearance in the American Conference Championship Game.
“Some of the best coaching years are when you do the least. Last year was one of those years that I might have done less than other years because of the talent level of the players and coaching staff.” said Dolezel. “Awards are a product of the people around you.”
Dolezel’s success as a coach reflects his success in the AFL as a player. In 2001 he won an ArenaBowl Championship as the quarterback for the Grand Rapids Rampage. He was inducted into the Arena Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and in the same year was ranked No. 8 on the list of the AFL’s 25 Greatest Players.
“There’s no doubt about it, you can see Dolezel’s experience as a player in his coaching style,” said Assistant Head Coach Phil Bogle said. “He played with the same intensity, the same fire that he coaches with, which feeds through our team.”
The last nine years of Dolezel’s playing career, he was calling the plays in the huddle. When he made the jump from quarterback to head coach he was more than ready to run a successful offense and put his players in positions to succeed.
However, he realizes that the game is forever evolving, and in order to stay at the top of the game, one must stay ahead of the curve.
“Some of the plays we run are the ones that I ran when I played, but they have been tweaked, they’ve changed as the game changes,” said Dolezel. “If you get stuck in your ways, the game will pass you by.”
Even with the successful regular season in 2015, the Soul are not satisfied with how the season ended.
“It’s championship or bust for us,” said Dolezel.
The roster heading into the 2016 season looks very similar to the roster from last season, with many of the same players filling prominent roles. However, in order to get over the hump and into the ArenaBowl, the team knew it needed to add depth at a few positions to stay at the top of its game throughout a grueling 16 game schedule.
The Soul upgraded at the defensive back position with the acquisition of Tracy Belton, a veteran who can play both cornerback and safety. On the offensive side, the biggest addition was wide receiver Darius Reynolds, who helped the San Jose SaberCats win the ArenaBowl title last season.
“The main focus of this offseason was to improve in the secondary and and get a game changing receiver,” said Bogle.
The Soul not only found external players to aid in their run for a championship, there are also players within the organization that Dolezel will look at to assume a bigger role this season. One of those players is Jake Metz, who is entering his second season with the team and will be rushing the quarterback opposite veteran defensive end Teddy Jennings.
“(Metz) has really come a long way since last year,” said Dolezel. “We’re looking for Jake to step up and make our front four even better than it was last year.”
To kick off the season, the Soul travel to Cleveland to take on the Steve Thonn led Gladiators on April 1 at 7 pm. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and will be aired on a delay at 10pm on The Comcast Network.
The matchup between the two head coaches goes further than two guys trying to get a win for their respective teams to start the season. Dolezel played for Thonn for three seasons. In 1996 Thonn was Dolezel’s offensive coordinator in Milwaukee and in 1998 and 1999 Thonn was Dolezel’s head coach in Houston.
“He’s my mentor,” said Dolezel of Thonn. “90 percent of the offense I run I got from Steve. I’ve tweaked it over the years, took some things out, added some things in, but the majority of it is based on what he taught me during the years I played for him.”
The two are good friends to this day, but come game time the relationship takes a different form.
“When the lights come on and we’re across from each other, he’s the enemy,” said Dolezel. “He knows that and treats me the same way.”
ABOUT PHILADELPHIA SOUL
The 2015 Eastern Division Champion Philadelphia Soul are entering their 11th Season. In ten seasons of play, the Soul have won four Division Championships, three Conference Championships and a World Championship. Since the inaugural season in 2004, the Soul are the winningest professional sports team in Philadelphia. Season memberships and Group tickets for the Soul’s upcoming 2016 season are on sale now. For tickets, contact the Soul sales department at (215) 253-4900 ext. 3, or request contact from a Soul representative by filling out the form on www.philadelphiasoul.com. Follow the Soul on Facebook at facebook.com/soul and Twitter at twitter.com/soulfootball.