Following an announcement earlier this week that the Tamworth Phoenix are looking to add to their coaching staff, #TeamDC chatted with the recently appointed Tamworth Head Coach.
Already a very well known name in the Britball community, this isn’t Coach Jason Scott’s first rodeo – with a wealth of coaching experience at all levels of the British game, as well as across the pond.
But it might be his ‘buckiest’ ride yet, following his appointment at the University of Nottingham ahead of this Uniball season – taking on the top post at two programmes with exceedingly high expectations and an overlapping season, DC spoke with Coach Scott about the hectic Britball calendar he has ahead of him:
So, Coach, first things first – Congratulations, or perhaps, double congratulations on your two recent appointments – now Head Coach of both the reigning National Champions, the Tamworth Phoenix, but also what looks like a post with a lot of potentially exciting opportunities with the University of Nottingham.
Still, that’s taking on a lot of responsibility with two programmes that surely have very high expectations of their Head Honcho – considering the overlap between the Senior and University seasons, it’s surely going to be a busy next few months for you! How are you planning to balance your responsibilities? What’s going to be the key to you being able to contribute fully to both programmes?
At both programmes we’re hugely blessed to have a great back-room staff and fantastic committees. The Tamworth crew are already laying the groundwork for the new season, with off-season work-outs, a new website, and opportunities for the younger members of the community.
Being the Head Coach of two teams does allow me a certain degree of control – myself and James Hossack (Tamworth President) were able to identify key dates during off-weeks for UoN to have team work-outs and plan for the season, and that communication will continue throughout the BUCS season.
We’ll continue to empower and delegate responsibility to the staff and coaches to keep things ticking over when I’m not available, but ultimately being the Head Coach of both the Phoenix and Nottingham University just means fewer hours to myself, which is no bad thing. I mean, what’s better than football?
We’re seeing a lot of growth in the links between University and Senior programmes, especially as scholarship opportunities bring more and more highly experienced players to the British game. Speaking candidly, how much of a factor was this in you taking on both roles? What benefits do you see being brought to both your teams by improving the links between them and is this something more University/Senior programmes should be looking to replicate?
Honestly, the scholarship athletes weren’t really a factor. We have several UoN representatives at Tamworth; who were eager for me to take on the role when Coach Phil Wood announced he was stepping down. James Ramsay (Tamworth DB and UoN President) approached me, and invited me to tour the facility, and see what they were building. Coach Wood has put the foundations down, and has done a great job so far, and I’d love to be able to help Nottingham reach the next level.
Personally, I have a degree of unfinished business at the University level, and would love to win a BUCS National Championship, whilst developing enthusiastic, young university footballers. University of Nottingham was a good fit, and I’m looking forward to all the challenges that lie ahead.
In terms of establishing links with University teams; I think it’s something we’ve always done at Tamworth. I think back to the key moments in our growth; Tom Worrall was the MVP of our D1 Championship whilst playing for both Loughborough and the Nix. Pat Daley replicated that feat at Britbowl XXXI whilst at the University of Nottingham. The D2 final ten years ago was laden with student talent from places like Loughborough and Birmingham.
We allow students to take the next steps, in a very ‘uniball’ type environment; we’re progressive, look to coach the individual and the player, and give constructive feedback. The Nix was developed and created by four University of Birmingham players with that in mind; to create an environment that fosters the growth of the athlete in a positive environment. We’ve been doing that ever since.
Focusing on the Phoenix, obviously you were already part of the programme ahead of last year’s campaign and a big part of their Britbowl success, but even so – taking the lead of a programme following their most successful season to date and looking to fill the role of Head Coach in the season after a team’s first National Championship – that’s got to be a pretty intimidating prospect, even for someone with your coaching credentials and experience? Does it help to be taking on the role from someone you’ve worked so closely with, and in an environment you’re already familiar with?
Myself and Coach Hilton have been friends for a long, long time, and we’ve both been involved with the Phoenix from the very start; the ability to take over and build on what we’ve created as a staff is hugely beneficial for everyone involved. It helps to know the programme inside and out; something that really helped me when I was a young, inexperienced coach taking over the Head Coach reins from Coach Sweeney at Loughborough all those years ago.
I don’t think intimidating has ever been a part of it; it’s an exciting time for me and the programme. We have the highest goals and have the ambitions to achieve everything we want. The sky is the limit.
Looking back to last year, can you talk us through what it was like to be part of programme who were finally able to leap that hurdle and take the Britbowl Trophy out of the capital. Obviously in the top tier you have to come into the season believing you can win it all, but when did it really click that you had a team capable of besting the big London sides?
At breakfast, the morning of the Britbowl we talked about “achieving the impossible, because we’ve seen the invisible” – Everyone hears about the wins, reads the match reports, and sees the scores, but what a lot of people didn’t see was the hard work we put in. Those hours on a muddy school playing field with only 10 players three years ago, rebuilding the committee to benefit the players, and the tireless effort and belief put in by the players, the committee and the coaches.
The biggest piece of the jigsaw was James Hossack becoming Team President, he’s given us stability and a safe pair of hands off the field as well as on it. His leadership is invaluable to what we’ve grown and developed.
I don’t think it was ever a case of “IF” it was a matter of “WHEN” – We always believed that we had what it takes, because we’re blessed with great players and little ego. We have players like Steve Gregory and John Maisey, who do their job with little fanfare, work hard, and pour themselves into practice and apply themselves in games. We talk about being selfless, about being relentless and being ambitious; these intangibles got us to a National Championship, and will help us to continue to build on the foundation we’ve set.
Was there a specific moment? I don’t think so, just a growing realisation of what we were building was something special.
Is there one moment, perhaps even a specific play, which really stands out from last year for you?
It would be easy for me to talk about Pat Daley’s performance in the final, Will Hussey’s huge game in the semi, or Ben Davies’ pick six to secure the win, but for me the most memorable play for me was Raphael Omozusi’s strip six against East Kilbride. Raphael has been with us for the best part of four years, and has continued to grow and develop as a player, and now as a coach for us at UoN. It was extremely satisfying to see him get the rewards for working hard and get the first TD of his career.
Not a lot of people talked about Alex Lenkowski – who was perfect during the semi-final and final, kicking the points we needed, under huge pressure, but even fewer people would talk about our long snapper Chris Elliott who was superb throughout the season, allowing Alex to kick those points.
And then, to the future. In your mind, what’s next for the Phoenix? What do you think is going to be different with you at the helm?
Nothing will be that different. It will be business as usual. We’re going to keep growing, working hard and developing. The great thing about having a consistent coaching staff, is that we understand what it takes to win, and the processes that allow us to succeed. Any developments are a product of the foundation built over the past four years, and the tireless work of everyone in the programme.
Yes, we have plans – over the past month, we’ve been in discussions with a new home venue, talking about European opposition, and developing a cadet flag team. In terms of the on-field product, we’ll still be the same team, giving the same effort, working hard for one another.
Looking at Britball 2018 – Is it Britbowl or bust for the Phoenix now? Do you think Tamworth have what it takes to become the next ‘dynasty’ with back to back Championships, a la the Warriors, and the Blitz before them?
The goal is always Britbowl. Why else would you play the game? If we don’t get there, will it be a disappointment? Maybe, but other teams train hard too you know. There’s a lot of talent out there. All we’re going to do is work on getting better each and every week, and not worry about the scoreboard. If we continue to get things right on the training ground, we won’t ever have to worry about the final result on a Sunday. The aim is always the process, not the outcome. The result is what happens if we do the small things right.
And what about further afield? Last year we saw the London Warriors competing in the Northern European Football League, in the past the Blitz have had success in international contests – will the Phoenix be venturing into European football at all?
We will DEFINITELY be playing in Europe this season. We are ambitious, and we want to continue to grow and test ourselves. Whether we do that as part of a European competition, or as a series of high profile exhibition games, we will be stamping our passports this summer.
A lot is made of players leaving the British game to ‘play in Europe’, well at the Phoenix, you can have your cake and eat it. You CAN play high quality European opposition without having to leave the UK.
Looking outside the Senior team, to the Phoenix programme as a whole. Obviously the ‘Nix have taken some shtick over the years for drawing in a lot of the top flight talent from other nearby programmes – the midlands are notoriously crowded when it comes to Britball teams, and the Phoenix are still seen as ‘young usurpers’ by some. Are there plans to build off of the recent National Championship success to also enhance other aspects of the programme? Is it expected that the U17 and U19 teams will also see a boost thanks to the seniors’ success? And perhaps will there be a focus on these to enhance the sustainability of the programme and ensure last summer’s success was not a one-off?
We’ve never actively recruited from other programmes; it’s a case of players leaving one team to find something that we were able to offer. We’ve never waived subs, paid players, or ‘poached’ athletes – my belief in recruitment, is that ‘if you want to come to the Phoenix, then you’re our sort of player. If you want to go elsewhere, then you’re not’. We hold all our players and coaches highly accountable. If they’re found wanting, then – invariably – they will find an alternative team. It’s apparent that success is not for everyone.
We’re excited about our off Season work-outs, and we’d like to invite anyone who is interested to come along. If they are ambitious and, if they want to play alongside one of the hardest working teams in British football, then we’d love to have them investigate what we do! We have a proven track record of developing talent, winning games and having a lot of fun. If that’s not sustainable and successful, I don’t know what is?
The Phoenix are going to keep building our Youth programme, and we’re looking at launching two teams at the U17 age range this summer, so we’re able to build a sustainable, long term U19’s team. This week we’ve started a U13 flag programme, and we’re planning to develop a women’s team at some point in the next 12 months.
Coach Mike Fearn (and Coach Andy Garrett before him) have done a great job with the U17 teams, and we’re starting to see some of those players emerge in the senior team this summer, following the proud tradition of the ‘original’ Tamworth Trojans like Steve Gregory, Dan Norgrove and Tom Tandurella.
The Phoenix have announced this past week that they’re looking to add to the coaching staff. Is there one particular quality you think you personally look for when considering adding a coach to your staff?
Enthusiasm. Everything else we can coach. Are those coaches willing to put in the effort, and be highly energised at practice and at games? Coach Alan Steel and Coach Gary Hodgson were huge pick-ups for us last year, not just for their knowledge, but also for their infectious passion for the game. If we can have more like them, that’d be great!
And finally, to look beyond your current roles, you’ve always been someone who’s willing to give back to the wider game – a part of the BAFCA committee in recent years, a regular and popular speaker at the annual convention, and always willing to share your time and knowledge with other coaches and players. As someone who’s been part of building a programme up, basically from scratch, to a National Championship, if there was one thing you could recommend to other programmes, or coaches, to help turn them towards the path to success – what would that be?
Stay on the path. Don’t compromise, and be yourself at all times. You’re going to hit bumps on the road, but trust yourself, and remember that anything worth having doesn’t come easy!
Thanks for your time coach, and good luck in your hunt for extra coaches to add to the Tamworth Phamily!
The Tamworth Phoenix have their first Organised Team Activity this Saturday, 18 November, at Cheslyn Hay Leisure Centre – beginning at 1200.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Phoenix #Phamily, please head along to the venue and introduce yourself to the coaching staff.