Mel Martin of Australia is at The Oakland Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex participating in Training Camp 2009 as part of the Raiders' International Guest Coach program along with coaches from Austria, Spain, Mexico and Sweden.
The journey from Australia, home to hotel in San Francisco took just over 24 hours. It was not an unpleasant trip just very, very long.
On arrival at the wonderful Oakland Raiders facility in Alameda I was introduced to four of the other guest coaches, two from Austria, one from Spain and one from Mexico, (the Swedish coach and my roommate Alex Adamo was due to arrive later that night). We were then treated to a stretch limo ride to the Marriott hotel and spa in Napa, where the Raiders have held there pre-season camp since 1996.
After introductions to a number of people not least of all Amy Trask, Chief Executive of the Raider organization, we attended a meeting with the NFL officials who explained the rule changes for the upcoming season.
Finally it was practise time and the main purpose for the trip, to witness firsthand how the very best conduct their practises and the drills the coaches use. The main thing that struck me was the speed of the practise - there are no breaks. No minute is wasted and even movement between drills is done at a quick pace.
Over the next day or so we slotted into the camps routine: 6.45am wake up, breakfast, practise etc. We met and talked to coaches and players all of whom were very gracious with their time even though they were extremely busy. The support staff were wonderful. All of them are extremely helpful and friendly. We were made to feel very welcome by all.
Saturday the 8th of August was the Raider Nation fan-fest held at the Oakland Coliseum. It is an opportunity for the Raiders to introduce to their fans the 2009 team. Since our arrival many in the organization have made mention of how much they love their fans and after experiencing the fan fest I can see why. These guys are fantasic. Many went to the effort of dressing in their game gear. Just amazing. This type of support is just seen in my country. We have fantasic fans but nothing to compare with the Raiders fans.
The day itself was just one out of the box. Starting with a police escort from Napa to the stadium, given the state of the traffic on the freeway coming in I could see why. There were champion players from the past walking round, all of whom seemed excited about how the team is shaping up this year.
These have been a real treat and I am looking forward to the rest of the week. I get the feeling this is simply the beginning both of my adventures and of a great year in Raider history.