Articles

Wembley Stallions’ plans for the future

Written by Ben Clubley

The future looks bright for Wembley Stallions, with head coach and chairman Warren Smart looking to win the top division within the next few years and bring a large crowd to games.

The main target for head coach Warren Smart is to be the best, having both male and female players from the Stallions representing Great Britain across Europe, and to go on to win the Southern Premier Division within the next few years.

There is also the hope of bringing in large crowds in the hundreds for home games. American football is growing fast in England and especially around Wembley. Over 80,000 people turn out for the NFL International series games every year, a fraction of that will be greatly beneficial for the Stallions.

Head coach and chairman Warren Smart states how he remembers when he started playing American football back in the 1980’s and how they would play using bicycle helmets instead of the proper equipment.

Equipment however is easier to come across in Britain now with the Stallions having enough pads and helmets for the team, and necessary training equipment. The club also boast a full 100-yard field which is rare in the country.

In the near future Coach Smart would like to have the club purchase a scoreboard so that the supporters can clearly see the score line adding to their experience.

Further down the road there are hopes of improving the facilities on site, bringing in portable toilets, and maybe even adding portable stands to give the fans a better view of the game.

Another idea which Coach Smart talked about was of having special themed games like they do in America. College and high school football in The States is filled with themed games such as homecoming and senior games. Doing so could help increase the interest in the game within the local area and improve match day attendances.

One of the rising tools online is that of YouTube and Facebook live streaming. With Wembley Stallions already owning a camera tower there’s the potential of using the equipment to live stream games online for followers to watch. This could also help increase the clubs fanbase.

With all these ideas circulating around the Stallions camp, and American football on the rise in the country, the future of the side looks strong. The plans will improve the fan experience at home games, which may entice more people to come down and watch the games. All this will make the sport more of a spectacle, challenging that of other sports.

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Trial and Combine Day

Written by Ben Clubley

Preparation for the 2017 season kicked off on the 26th November as the annual Wembley Stallions try-outs and combine day took place.

The new season may not start till April, and pre-season may still be 2 months away, however the Stallions have already begun their preparation for the 2017 season with the hosting of the try-out and combine day.

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Over 106 faces showed up early for the try-outs, with participants spending 15 minutes at each of the 7 stations, each station dedicated to a different position amongst the team.

The day put players new and old from ages as young as 13 to the test, with over 3 hours of drills and testing taking place on what was a very cold but clear day.

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Pulo, one of the young new-coming participants trying out for the under 19’s team, stated that the experience was “really good” and that they “got to try everything on the day.”

Try-outs were held for all 5 teams, from the under 14’s, all the way up to the senior and women’s sides. The new female players joined in with the fully paced women’s practice session ahead of their trip to Sheffield for their final tournament in the Opal Series.

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One of the spectacles of the day was the hard hitting, 2v2 Oklahoma drill which was put on show by the returning players. Showing the new-comers to the team what they were getting themselves into.

After a short break the players were on to the second half of their day and the NFL styled combine. Individuals were put to the test physically, with drills focusing on speed, strength and flexibility.

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The day was ended with players taking part in what seemed a gruelling 1 mile run around the field.

The next time the players will be back playing will be January 21st when the first day of pre-season commences.

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The Stallions – A Team Managers Perspective

My introduction to American football was about 20 years ago, yes I know you didn’t realise it had been around so long! Channel 4 started showing NFL at about the same time and Dan Marino was playing for the Dolphins, I loved the colours and the razzmatazz that came along with the game, and of course the Crunch of play. I starting to help out at a local team the Stanmore thunder, with sideline and stats, and have loved the game since.

It was about three years ago when my husband, head coach Warren Smart, and I had the conversation about starting the team in Northwest London, we had identified there was a gap for a senior team in the area as the Warriors and Olympians covered the south London area and the Blitz to the north east. We wanted to make it easy for people to take part and try out the sport for the first time, that’s why we provide a loan of equipment to reduce the monetary barriers into American Football.

We also wanted a team that stood for something in the community, which is why we chose the ‘Stallions’. Wembley has a long history with sport and in 1923 the first ever FA cup final was played, with nearly twice as many supporters turning up to the game as expected. A brave white horse, known as Billy, had to control the fans as crowds invaded the pitch, to this day it’s still referred to as the ‘white horse final’ and why he is our mascot and our motto, ‘Respect All, Fear None’ to commemorate Billy’s exemplary work.

Apart from game day management, dealing with the governing body BAFA and recruitment of players I also apply for grants to help support the club with equipment and start up of other teams within the club. We are extremely grateful to Wembley National Stadium Trust for our very first grant which really kickstarted the club and enabled us to buy 10 helmets and 10 shoulder pads. So far we have probably introduced over 200 people to the sport, including our under 17s, under 19s and Women’s Team.

The dream is for all areas of the club to be successful, our senior team currently at 7-0 have their eyes on the prize, while the under 17s are playing in their first year of tournaments. Our women’s team had a fantastic first season coming runner up in the Southern conference of the Sapphire Series in their debut year. To achieve this we need volunteers and helpers from all areas, parents, partners and football fans who want to be a bit closer to the sport. The hardest thing for me is actually watching a game as there is so much to do, but I love looking after the Team and really feel like I am part of a great family with focused goals, determined spirit, and inspirational passion.

So if you want to be a part of the team, try the pads on for size or be a super fan please get in contact with teammanager@wembleystallions.com or via our Facebook page

Thinking of trying a new sport? Grace Hilbourne tells us about her experiences joining the Wembley Stallions Women’s team

It’s daunting to join a new team. Regardless of how old you are, how much experience you have or how ‘fit’ you consider yourself to be, joining a new team will always have some measure of nerves and hesitation attached to it. That’s exactly how I felt a few months ago when I first approached Team Manager Jackie Houtris and asked whether the women’s team was taking on any new players. I had text her in the late afternoon and by that evening I had been added to the team group chat and already exchanged hellos with most of the coaches and players.

It was this inclusiveness and camaraderie that really drew me to the Wembley Stallions. Gone were awkward introductions and exchanges of names that you are bound to forget when meeting someone face to face for the first time. Instead, I got to speak to the other players and coaches for a few days before I finally did meet them. When I walked in to the changing rooms for the first time, it already felt like I was joining in with a group of people that I knew and had chatted with.

They couldn’t have been more helpful either. I was nervous about starting a new sport. I had never even picked up a football that wasn’t round and had no idea of the rules on field. I had no kit and no clue but was just ready to try something new. Before I’d even asked the question of what I needed to wear or bring for a game, one of the girls messaged me and gave me a full list of everything I’d need to have. Surprisingly it wasn’t that much either. I thought starting American Football was going to cost me a fortune, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was simply told to bring a gum shield, a pair of navy socks and some boots. The rest could be sorted out for me while I decided whether I wanted to play long term. Of course, you can buy your own pads and helmet but there are always plenty of both that you can borrow week in and week out which some of the girls on the team do.

The rules as well were something that came slightly easier than expected and that’s all down to the amazing support of the coaches and the ladies of the team. Head Coach Warren Smart is everything you’d want in a teacher and coach. He’s extremely knowledgeable and tremendously hard working. He coaches the men’s, women’s and youth team. Not only does he do this, but he does this equally. You can see it means just as much to him when we win as to when the men’s team or youths win. This is something that can be quite rare in a male dominated sport, so it’s really nice to see and really encouraging as a player. He will beast you at training and then have a laugh with you on the side line when it’s all done. It’s this balance that makes you work hard for him and in return you get taught by one of the best coaches in the league. The support of the assistant coaches and team management also help no end. Every coach can give you tips and techniques that you can actually feel develop you as a player. They’re all always there to answer questions or queries and you feel comfortable asking them which is a really lovely situation to be in when you’re new to the sport.

However, it’s the team mates and friends you’ll make within this group of people that make the Wembley Stallions a really special thing to be part of. We are all completely different. The women’s team is filled with women of different ages, different sizes and different sporting histories. Some girls have played for a while, whilst this season was the first for some others.  I joined nearing the end of the season and the women’s team finished second in the league having ended with 5 wins and 3 losses. Away in Norwich, we won our last game of the season 26 – 2. When the whistle blew I was hugging every member of the team like I’d known them years and singing along on the coach home like I’d been part of everything since day one. It was this experience that showed me how much I wanted to play for the team and what a great group of players and coaches that I had joined.

All in all I’ve had a really great time with the Wembley Stallions so far. The sport as a whole is expanding for women and it’s going to be a really exciting few years to see how it grows and develops. As a new team member and a new player to American Football, I’ve felt included and part of the group since day one and I’d encourage anyone who’s even thinking about joining just to turn up and give it a go. It’s a tough sport, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Now I’m just very excited now to see how far this team can go.

Grace Hilbourne

Running Back & Corner Back

The Importance of Mindset in Sport: A female perspective

Many women (and men I’m sure) worry about joining a new sport or team for many reasons. They’re worried about not fitting in, ‘not being good’ at their sport, or about other members of their team being significantly better or more experienced than them. Perhaps they aren’t particularly confident as a person, or in their ability to play sport, and it has taken them months to pluck up the courage to go and join a new team. For women, any initial reservations about taking up a new sport are compounded by the fact that most sports are heavily male dominated, which raises a multitude of new concerns. The sport of american football, one of the sports most often perceived as being a ‘man’s world’, is therefore not the obvious choice for many women. The thought of being ignored is one thing, not to mention the fear of being harassed or made the butt of a sexist joke passed off as ‘banter’ or ‘just a bit of fun.’ These scenarios do happen in sport, and it is a shame, because teams are alienating some potentially talented athletes. But women (and men) interested in taking up the sport should take heart- it doesn’t have to play out that way.

I first became involved in american football during my final year at university. Though I was never in a situation in which I played competitively, I enjoyed joining in with kitted practices and drills alongside a small group of other like-minded women. It wasn’t until joining the Wembley Stallions that I was able to pursue contact football seriously. I can say with total honesty that I experienced none of the unfriendliness, cliques, or unfriendly behaviour I mentioned above. More importantly, the expectation from the beginning is that I would participate in all the same drills and activities as the senior men’s team. As more women joined the team, this attitude did not change. Our head coach reiterates to every new player who joins that they will be treated in exactly the same way as the male members of the organisation- discrimination, sexism, whatever you want to call it, just doesn’t figure at all. If you’re turning up to training, you’re getting stuck in with whatever everyone else is doing, regardless of gender.

Now I should preface the remainder of this article by saying that I wholly accept that there are physical, biological differences that separate men and women. Men are, typically, stronger and faster purely by virtue of being men. That’s the way it is. But in a sport like american football, there is a great deal to be said about the importance of mindset and mental state in relation to success.

In a conversation with my head coach recently, we spoke about this very issue, agreeing that there are plenty of players who join the sport without accepting just how physical it can be, which can cause all sorts of problems for them. We talk about making a ‘commitment’ to the tackle or block, or about taking ‘big hits’ during play, all of which involve considerable amounts of physical contact (we don’t wear helmets for nothing!) A player who doesn’t yet have the toughness and strong mindset will, unfortunately, struggle with this sport, both in terms of being successful and also staying healthy and injury free. I have had the chance to meet and speak with players from multiple football teams, some of which are good friends of mine. They can all tell me of situations when either they or one of their team mates has expressed a degree of uncertainty, fear, or apprehension about playing such a physical sport. In fact, I would say that anybody who says they have never felt that way, even if just for the first snap of their first ever game, is probably not being totally truthful. And there’s nothing at all wrong with feeling that way to begin with. It goes completely against the human survival instinct to put yourself in a position where you could get hurt. The key is to develop yourself mentally and physically in such a way that means fear is no longer a factor. Often, this happens naturally through experience of playing the game and getting used to the physicality of the sport- how long it takes depends on the person and the people around them.

But how does this relate to women? Am I suggesting that women lack this crucial mental skill that players need to succeed? Absolutely not. In fact, quite the opposite. Coach Smart has mentioned on multiple occasions how impressed he has been with the way female players (most of whom have joined the Stallions as total rookies) have immersed themselves in learning proper tackling technique, showing little to no ‘fear’ or nervousness. Indeed, both Coach Smart and other coaches of our team have commented that some of the women demonstrated a mental strength and toughness that some of the seniors could learn from.

The fact is, there a many factors that influence and contribute to success in sport, for both men and women. Diet, exercise, training are all key, of course. Some coaches talk about seeing ‘natural ability’ on the field, or having ‘born athletes’ on their team. This may also be true. But anyone who has played american football will always tell you how important your mentality and mindset are, both on and off the field. How well you deal with setbacks, how you process them, will be reflected in your on-field performance. In our first season in the league we dealt with losing games and players getting injured which, for a team whose players are not all experienced in dealing with those kinds of mental knocks, could have seriously impacted us going forward. But as a team, as a unit, we pulled together, we supported each other and, with the help of our coaches, we turned those knocks into success. We built up resilience with every knock- and we finished our season 5-3, coming second in our division. In our first season. If that doesn’t speak huge volumes to the importance of a positive mental attitude, I don’t know what does.  

 

Claire West

Centre

Captain

 

Wembley Stallions vs Essex Spartans in photos

A big thank you to Stallions fan Paul Borzone for his fantastic photos of Sunday’s win against the Essex Spartans. Thanks for supporting us and looking forward to having you join us at our next game! 5-0!

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4 days to go! Wembley Stallions v Essex Spartans

On Sunday, 12th of June, the Wembley Stallions (4-0) will be taking on the Essex Spartans at home.

Kick off 2pm. £2 entry. U16 free. Match day programme and BBQ.

The game will be held at The Ranch, Hussain Close, Greenford Road, HA1 3Q

Wembley Stallions’ first ever U17’s home tournament

Our first ever home tournament for the U17’s.
Today we hosted the London Warriors, East Kent Mavericks and the London Blitz in a 5-a-side contact tournament.

The first ever games for the Youth team under Head Coach Kenny Blake. Unfortunately the Stallions could not must a win but they played really well and held experienced teams to close scores until experience and injury made their presence felt.

Round 1

  • Wembley Stallions 13 – London Warriors 16
  • London Blitz 22 – East Kent Mavericks 20

Round 2

  • Wembley Stallions 15 – London Blitz 21
  • London Warriors 26 – East Kent Mavericks 43

Round 3

  • Wembley Stallions 0 – East Kent Mavericks 34
  • London Blitz 42 – London Warriors 6

For the Stallions everyone played really well. Big shout out to Andre Neves playing at WR and filling in at QB in the final game. Cyrus Bourne and Pratik Ramesh. All others played out of their skins.

More details to follow but all the Stallions management wish to thank all the helpers, medics and others.

Wembley Stallions vs London Blitz B in photos

A big thank you to Stallions fan Paul Borzone for his fantastic photos of yesterday’s win against London Blitz B. Thanks for supporting us and looking forward to having you join us at our next game!

Stallions game day – Wembley Stallions vs London Blitz B

The Wembley Stallions brought home another win against London Blitz B yesterday. Final score 33-15. Well done Stallions and a big thank you to the side-line and fans who came to show support. 4 wins!

The Stallions will be playing their next game on the 12th of June at home when Essex Spartans will be coming to The Ranch. Kickoff will be 14:00. Come show your support.