SPOKANE, Wash. – Arena Football has been a part of the city of Spokane since 2005 and head coach Andy Olson has been part of the team in one way or another almost every year since then. After growing up on a farm in Chehalis, WA, Olson attended Western Washington University in Bellingham where he posted four record setting seasons as a wide receiver. Following his collegiate career, Olson played for the AFL’s Georgia Force in 2007 and then joined the Spokane Shock for the 2008 season. 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,” Olson said. “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 is feeling very comfortable about where the team is at roster-wise this season and is excited for the guys that are returning. Receiver Adron Tennell, who set franchise records in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, and points last season, returns to the team, as does defensive back Terrance Sanders, who missed a number of games, but still recorded seven interceptions and was named First Team All-Arena as a kick returner and Second Team as a defensive back. Former Eastern Washington University quarterback Erik Meyer is returning this season with high expectations, leading a high-powered offense along with AFL veteran Chris Pino, who will anchor the offensive line.
Olson expressed that with these players now under contracts for two seasons, the team is focused on both winning games and committing to long-term success.
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, including improving discipline and structure and cutting down on the number of penalties.
“We just need to be a more disciplined football team and that starts with me,” Olson said. “That’s my job. I am going to take care of that. We are going to require a lot of work from these guys.”
There will also be changes in the structure of practice. Olson asserts practices are going to be much more competitive, structured and efficient this season. He will also implement a conditioning test at the beginning of the season. The goal is for the test to serve as both a warning for players and set a standard for expectations.
In the time that the Shock have been in Spokane, they have had many 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.”
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 have an opportunity to be an influence to children of all ages and to present a positive image as people that 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. Olson wants to ensure that the team continues to build a relationship with the fans before and after the games through simple means like high-fives 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 they do make a difference.
It may be no surprise that last year the Spokane Arena was voted at the rowdiest arena in the 25-year history of Arena Football.
“I love it,” Olson said. “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.