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Roll learned skills behind iron curtain

Posted Apr 5, 2013

During the mid-1980s, Browns strength and conditioning coach Brad Roll learned weightlifting techniques in Russia and East Germany.

Tensions between the United States and Russia were high in the mid-1980s, but that did not stop Brad Roll, the new strength and conditioning coach for the Browns, from crossing the “Iron Curtain” and honing his craft with well-known coaches and professors in Russia and East Germany.

During his final two seasons as the strength and conditioning coach at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Roll had the opportunity to join Dr. Ed Enos, who at the time was the director of sport in Canada and Canada’s Jr. Olympic coach, Augustin Brassard, and nearly a dozen other strength coaches from North America on the trips overseas.

After trips to the Moscow Sports Institute during the summers of 1985 and 1986, Roll studied with the German Olympic weightlifting coaching and training staff in Leipzig, East Germany, in 1987.

“I learned all about Olympic-style lifting at the time, which was not done at any great level in the United States with football players,” Roll said. “I have always believed in that philosophy of speed, strength movements, trying to isolate the explosive parts of a player’s body, like an Olympic lifter does, and making the movements sport-specific for football, taking some of the lifting patterns that are in Olympic-style lifting and putting it in a way where it’s safe and you can put it in the program to train an American football player. I took these ideas from these guys and really, have stayed with them throughout my entire career.”

At the time of his visits to Russia and East Germany, the Berlin Wall was still up and separated the Eastern and Western parts of Germany. Getting to cross the Berlin Wall gave Roll a better understanding of the differences between the cultures of Soviet-run Europe and the United States.

“That was kind of a cool deal to actually go from West Germany to East Germany, which, at that time, was a big deal,” Roll said. “Going into Moscow, Russia, at that time, was a lot of fun.

“It was a huge, huge learning experience for me and made me appreciate living in this country, the great country that we live in. I met a lot of great people over there and had a great, great time. It was just a very significant time. I was just starting and got some deep, core beliefs in evaluation and philosophies from the time I spent over there.”