Feb. 14, 2013
By RYAN MILLINOWISCH, ArenaFootball.com
After their days on the gridiron are over, the next natural step for many players is to share their knowledge with the next generation of athletes by joining the coaching ranks.
Even though his playing days haven’t passed him by quite yet, Iowa Barnstormers linebacker John Mohring is already trying his hand at coaching at the high school level.
Now entering his third year in the AFL, Mohring came into his own in 2012 as a vital member of the Barnstormers’ defense, finishing fourth on the team with 45 tackles to go along with his three pass break ups and two interceptions.
During the offseason, Mohring serves as the defensive coordinator at the Canterbury School in Ft. Myers, Florida, a program that, admittedly, many high school football fans in Florida may not recognize. This is because the 2012 season was only the third year of the program’s existence. However, since forming a team, Canterbury has appeared in two state finals games and won once.
Coincidentally, it’s Mohring’s status as an Arena Football League player that has made him a perfect fit as a coach for the Canterbury Cougars. While building up their program, the school first has to play in a six-man football league which is very similar to the AFL’s style of eight-on-eight.
“They had to go through a process where they played in a six-man football league and then play a year scheduling independents in an 11-man league before they can join a conference called SHSSA down in Florida,” said Mohring. “So this year they were actually playing six-man football and Arena Football is not too different.”
Despite this only being the program’s third season, the team performed strikingly well, going 13-1 throughout the course of the year, finishing undefeated in their district. The team’s one loss came in the championship game where they lost 70-66 to the Clearwater Academy International Knights on a last second Hail Mary play.
“Obviously when you game plan every week for perfection it is tough to reach that in a high-scoring league,” said Mohring. “The state championship game ended at 70-66 and when you let up that many points it is obviously frustrating as a defensive coordinator. At the same time though we did have some shutouts so it has its ups and downs like anything else.”
Though no defender likes seeing a total of 136 points up on the scoreboard, Mohring’s experience with the high-scoring AFL game has enabled him to transition well into a unique coaching situation. After a successful first season running the defense, Mohring seems intent on continuing his career on the sidelines after his playing days are done.
“The idea of coaching at a high level had crossed my mind and I had always been interested in football, but I didn’t know if that lifestyle was for me,” said Mohring. “I can say that after coaching this year and seeing players get better and develop, I can see that it is a great profession.”
While the Cougars’ season may have played out extremely well, it did not come without challenges to the coaching staff.
“It is very stressful coaching in a six-man league because it’s like Arena; it’s a high-scoring league,” explained Mohring.
Mohring’s college and professional experience also allows him to be a great mentor to high school kids because he is able to provide guidance to those players that wish to continue playing at the next level.
“They know I have been there and that I’m not just throwing information at them. They know I’ve done it and that I am still playing,” said Mohring. “Playing in the Arena League takes a lot of hard work and dedication and they know that. I try to give them the best information that I can.”
During his time at Georgia Southern University, Mohring compiled 302 tackles, tying him for fifth all-time in school history. As a senior, he was named to the American Football Coaches Association All-America team. Continuing his playing career professionally also helps to give Mohring perspective as a coach.
“I think being a current player does help a lot because you can relate to players better especially after just ending a season,” said Mohring. “After that 20th sprint at practice, I can feel their pain because I just did that. I think being a current player helps the player build trust in you as a coach.”
Between his time playing with the Barnstormers and coaching the Cougars, Mohring’s life consists of football year-round, a lifestyle he wouldn’t mind continuing for some time.
“Ideally, I would like to be a head coach,” Mohring said. “I think that some of my better traits are recruiting talent and being a good judge of people’s character.”
Those plans are in the future though. Mohring’s only focus now is on winning championships in 2013 – first as a player with the Barnstormers, then as a coach with the Cougars.