Flag football has come a long way
It really has. The growth in all aspects of the game has been phenomenal and I’m delighted. It’s got to the point now where that really is a community driven sport, as opposed to two or three individuals putting in an intensive amount of work. I feel now it is at the stage where if I was to step away from the game, the women’s game would continue to flourish and that’s a good thing, both for the game and me personally. And whilst I still have an interest in all aspects of the game I can really focus on the GB program now. We have Jade Archibald running the Opal series to great effect and of course a director on the BAFA. We have Sarah Jauncey on the BAFCA board. And I’ve been able to handover the development work to Simon Browning of Cardiff Valkyries. We now have a dedicated informal group of people at the heart of women’s flag football working together to promote it and represent each aspect of the game.
How’s the new staff groups settling in?
Phil Gaydon has been around Womens Flag Football since the first official game took place between Coventry University and Warwick University back in 2011. I remember when I was coaching Coventry Jets women, we played against his Warwick Wolverines teams his defences gave me the hardest task. Every time I felt my offence had the upper hand, Phil would make an adjustment and stop us. Phil would always get me off page 1 of the playbook with within the first drive.
Although Mik hasn’t had a large amount of time in Women’s Flag Football he was part of the Leicester Eagles program that often had female players in every squad. The job he did get in the Eagles to the play-offs in 2014 was phenomenal and I admired his in game adjustments.
Both of them had outstanding interviews for their respective positions and their experience, strategy and knowledge of flag football made them stand out. We also have Gemma Eaton on the staff. To the best of my knowledge Gemma was the first ever female flag football player in the UK playing for Leicester Eagles back in 1999 possibly earlier. I’m sure she’ll correct me. Of course she won some national titles both as a coach and a player. Gemma has a solid knowledge of blitzing which something quite unique to flag football. She also knows Mik’s playbook having run it for many years with the Eagles. We also have Danika our team manager who does the tireless job with all the administration.
We also fortunate to have our trainer Naomi. I think all I need to say there was we took 15 athletes to the European Championships through an intensely gruelling tournament and thanks to her expertise all 15 were able to finish the tournament. What I like about my coaches is that they share my philosophies and approachesto the game.
At QB coach we have Sarah Jauncey. I’m always amazed how she manages to fit in time for the GB program as she has such a busy schedule working for the Jags BAFCA and her own university team but she does and even contributes to some scouting that we do as well as.
We recently appointed Josh Clark as our strength and conditioning coach. Again as the game develops this becomes more and more important aspect at international level in fact it is a key aspect. Just being a gifted athlete isn’t enough anymore the level of fitness displayed at the last European Championships was incredible and we not only need to match it but better it.
Our first session of the year was held at PureGym Leicester with Josh having a full day to work with the athletes, he has also continued this work and will do so for the rest of the season.
So, are the trials about the best players who turn up on the day?
The trials are part of a process. It’s not just a one off occasion.
As I’m sure all the players and coaches of been aware myself Mik & Phil attended each every Opal series. We also had the support of our chief scout Dale Kirby.
Additionally I was able to film a lot so that we could share that between the coaches. . I would not advocate only using the trials system as every player can have an off day due to injury or a plethora of other circumstances. What we do get out of the trials is to see how the players interact with their coaches and see if they have the character, attitude and personality it takes to be a GB player and play in a high intensity tournament. It also allows us to see players operate within our system. One of the key things differences between Opal Series & international football is the kind of defence used.
You started the GB programme earlier this year compared to previous years?
Yes we want to maximise our time together as a group. Of course the squad of 12 we have now may not be the squad that goes to the European Championships but it still important for the coaches to refine the playbooks and for those that do go on to be selected. The only issue was the unpredictability of the weather, and the impact that can have on a practice plan. As I said earlier, A level of fitness is something that we are keen on this year and so the February session in the gym was not impacted by the weather. However at the planning stages when I considered a session in March I recalled our first session last year in April where the practice was disrupted by a hailstorm and the conditions underfoot were not conducive to quality practice. So I decided we would have our first practice in doors which has its limitations of course but they are predictable and we can plan for them so the weather will not impact.