Stallions Clinch #1 Seed

Stallions Clinch #1 Seed

A 44-12 and 25-20 win over East Essex Sabres and East Kent Mavericks respectively clinched Wembley Stallions the #1 seed in the Southern half of the SFC2 playoffs, with a perfect 10-0 W-L record.

A 25-20 win against East Kent put Wembley on a 9-0 record, before finishing off the regular season with a 44-12 win against East Essex.

Two rushing touchdowns from Junior Ejehu, a pick six from Zoltan Kadar, and 2 safeties earned Wembley the win against East Kent.

While another touchdown from Ejehu, as well as 2 rushing touchdowns from Emmanuel Olagbaju, and receiving touchdowns from Casey Walker, Charlie Douglas, Sharif El-Fiky and Brett Parnham gave Wembley a 44-12 victory of East Essex.

Stallions Clinch #1 Seed

The game against East Kent was one of two very strong defences, with both teams forcing turnovers, with East Kent leading 13-7 after the first quarter, Wembley’s lone score coming from a defensive pick six from Kadar.

A safety brought the gap between the two teams to just 12, with Tom McGinty returning the resulting punt to the East Kent 30-yard line. A strong run game saw Wembley get their first offensive touchdown, Ejehu running it in. The score now being 21-15 at the half.

The third quarter saw both teams fail to score any points. But the Wembley stepped up once again like it had all season, forcing a fumble in the fourth quarter, recovered by Kadar.

A second rushing touchdown from Ejehu, and a 2-point conversion catch from Seb Pettican, made the score 23-20 to Wembley, before a second safety forced by the Wembley defence put the game out of reach for East Kent.

Stallions Clinch #1 Seed

While the game against East Kent showed Wembley’s power in the running game, and their strength in defence, the game against an East Essex side who had improved greatly over the course of the season showed Wembley’s efficient passing game, with Art Bakmanidis, connecting with Walker, Douglas and El-Fiky all the first half, to put Wembley up by 13 after two quarters, with the score 19-6 to the visiting team.

Rotations at quarterback didn’t hinder Wembley’s creative passing game, with tight end Parnham adding a further touchdown on Wembley’s first drive of the half.

East Essex scored another 6, before Wembley began to run down the clock, as well as putting up a further 12 points thanks to Olagbaju and Ejehu touchdowns.

With the regular season now complete, Wembley turn their heads towards the playoffs, with their quarter final home game against #8 Hertfordshire Cheetahs on Sunday 20th August.

Stallions Clinch #1 Seed

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Stallions Go Unbeaten at Home

Wembley Stallions beat Essex Spartans 40-14 to go all season unbeaten at home. The win puts Wembley at 7-0 with 3 games remaining.

5 Running touchdowns from Aaron Greenidge, and a receiving touchdown by Chris Treacy were the difference between the two sides.

Wembley kicked off the game, with Essex returning the ball back to their own 27-yard line. It was a quick three and out and Wembley were soon on the field, and soon on the board.

Runs from Greenidge got Wembley into the Essex half, where quarterback Lawrence Wild threw a dime straight to Treacy to get the first touchdown of the game.

Essex tried to get back into the game. Moving the ball from their own 15 up to their 37-yard line. With 4th & 2 looming Essex decided to go for it. A sack however resulted in the possession of the ball changing hands, with Wembley taking charge on the Essex 34.

Another run by Greenidge earned Wembley a first down. He was soon to add a further six points, running into the end zone on second and goal. The failed point after attempt however meant the score was 13-0.

Wembley soon had the ball back, with Dylan Flanaghan recovering the fumbled ball on the kick return. Once again, Wembley started on the Essex 34-yard line. Wembley moved the ball all the way down into the red zone before the end of the quarter.

An array of errors put all the work to waste however. A false start penalty and a sack led to 3rd & 18. It got worse when Essex picked off the ball, returning it to the Wembley 38.

For the first time in the game Essex were in the Wembley half. However, the home sides defence was on point to show why they are undoubtedly the best defence in the division, Glenn Trafford-Smith showing up with a pick of his own.

Unfortunately, another drive for Wembley ended with a pick. This time Essex took the ball all the way in for a pick six, putting the difference between the two sides a one score game.

Wembley’s special teams did a great job of returning the kick off to the Essex 45-yard line. Turnovers once again cost the home side, this time fumbling the ball, Essex recovering.

The Wembley defence however held firm and got their offence the ball back. Greenidge took the burden of the ball, running the ball on multiple downs to give Wembley a 12-point cushion.

Essex were keen to make the game a tight affair. Starting on their own 30-yard line, they ran the ball all the way down to the Wembley 1-yard line. The bunch formations were brought out by both teams, but it was Essex who got the best. Bundling the ball over the line to make it 19-13 at half time.

Wembley received the ball to start the second half. Emmanuel Olagbaju and Greenidge were once again the work horses of the Wembley offence, with the later running in for his third touchdown of the game.

Essex started on their own 35 and moved the ball well up to the Wembley 45. Another run moved the ball up to the Wembley 34 as Essex looked to once more get back in the game. Essex were eventually brought to 4th & 11 where they set up to punt the ball. It wasn’t a punt however and was a trick play, Wembley were sharp to the decoy however and Essex failed to move the chains.

Ben Lyons was next to join in being to one to carry the workload of moving the chains for Wembley, with Tom McGinty also making a crucial catch to put the ball on the Essex 12-yard line. From there Greenidge once again took charge to put another score on the board.

Going into the last quarter Essex found themselves on the Wembley 45. Essex once again fumbled the ball which was picked up by Danny Hounslow. Wembley’s running game which had been effective all day came out once again. With Kushal Upadhaya and Olagbaju moving the ball into the Essex half.

McGinty once again found himself open and made a strong catch to move down to the Essex 29. Penalties and misses throws cost Wembley once more who saw the ball turn over and Essex once again take charge, looking for a miracle to come back.

It wasn’t to be however. With Wembley once again forcing a fumble through Johann Johnson, with the drive eventually seeing Greenidge get his 5th touchdown of the day.

The game ended 40-14, with the teams due to play the reverse fixture tomorrow.

5 truths of the female American football player  

Stallions shut out Dread-‘noughts’ to win 2017 Sapphire Series

American football is a fairly niche sport in this country. Despite that, it’s growing – especially in the female game. As a current player for the Wembley Stallions, it has quickly become my life. In my opinion, it’s the best sport you can play, but with it being relatively unknown the thought of joining a team can be intimidating. However, if you are considering it, here are some truths about the sport from a female perspective.

  1. No one looks good in spandex

There’s a phrase in football – Look good, play good. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment, I can’t help but question its truth. Sure, there’s the aesthetic pride you feel when an action shot makes its way on to Facebook, but in reality football is not an attractive sport. If helmets and shoulder pads weren’t bad enough, the creators of this wonderful activity decided to team it with stretchy, and often shiny, spandex leggings. In case you still feel a sense of body confidence after squeezing in to the dreaded pants, you’re then required to stuff blocks of polystyrene over your thighs and hips until you’re so bulky you feel worse than you do after powering through a whole tin of Quality Street on Christmas Day.

Despite that, this complete lack of importance for appearance is what’s refreshing about the sport. There’s never an expectation for you to look a certain way. No one cares if you wear a full face of make-up; no one cares if you don’t. You can walk around freely in sweats all day and there’s no Netflix in sight. The only thing you need to do is turn up and give your all.

  1. The first five minutes of training are the worst. The remaining hours are the best

After working all week, the idea of waking up early on a Saturday to run around a field isn’t very appealing. As a team, no one is happy when we’re kitting up and we often discuss why we’re so stupid to get up and do this.

However, after a few minutes those feelings begin to fade away. You look around and realise that you’re playing a sport that is truly awesome and that so few people in the U.K. get to experience. It takes a lot of effort to play and you have to be committed, but it rewards you like you wouldn’t believe. Be it fitness, friendship or competition, this is a sport that has it all. Whilst finding the effort to go to training may be difficult, it’s always worth it in the end.

  1. Losing is painful but the winning makes up for it 

No one likes to lose. It goes against our very nature of survival to come in second place. A loss is worse in American Football. When you have spent the last hour pushing your body to the limit and quite literally throwing yourself in the way of defeat, it hurts more than ever when the result doesn’t go your way.

While the hurt of a loss aches, it makes the winning that much better. This season, the Wembley Stallions women’s team won our first divisional title. It made up for all the early mornings spent practicing. It made up for the bruises and exhaustion. While you may have to harbour the pain of a loss from time to time, there is no reward greater than winning in this game. It’s one of the reasons you’ll keep coming back for more.

  1. You’ll have more WhatsApp groups than actual team mates 

Offence, defence, coaches, captains… these are a few of the WhatsApp groups I’ve had over my time playing football. As a footballer, you’ll need to brace yourself for the ongoing notifications for the foreseeable future. While that may not seem too much of a plus, it’s quite nice knowing there’s always someone on the end of the phone. There’s always an answer to your question should you have one. There’s always someone up at 1am when you can’t sleep to help go through the playbook with you. It’s a support system as much as it is a team.

It also reflects the diversity that comes with this sport. You are not limited to one position. You can choose to play offence or defence or both. If you feel like your size and strength are your main weapons there’s a position for that. If you feel that your speed and agility are your go-to skills, there’s a position for that. If you think you have nothing to offer, this sport guarantees that you do. It encompasses the best that everyone has to offer and while tens of WhatsApp groups might not sound appealing, at least you’ll know there is most definitely a place for you.

  1. A group of strangers will become your family 

Joining a new team can be nerve wracking, but after the nerves from the first few sessions have gone, you’ll start to realise just how much your team mates begin to mean to you. Sport brings people together. You understand what each other is going through, be it good or bad. You realise that despite the occasional tiredness or stresses that come with playing competitive sport, you get to spend a day of the week with some of your favourite people.

Being on a team means you always have each other’s back, even when things are their rockiest. In American football, that is something that you are guaranteed to have. People always say you find your best friends in school, but I’ve found more than that. I’ve found a group of women I consider to be my family. You can’t pick your family and you can’t pick your team mates, but somehow you always end up loving them just the same. This will always be the greatest reason to play this sport.

The Wembley Stallions Women’s team is holding an open taster session on Saturday 15th July from 10am – 12pm. If you are interested, please contact teammanager@wembleystallions.com.

www.wembleystallions.co.uk
www.facebook.com/wembleystallionsafc/
Twitter – @stallions_AFC
#thisgirlcan #Britball #respectallfearnone

 

Sensational touchdown helps Stallions move to 3-0

Sensational touchdown helps Stallions move to 3-0

An 86-yard blocked field goal return by Alex Brockhurst helped the Wembley Stallions move to 3-0 in the BAFA SFC II Eastern division.

Offensive touchdowns from Emmanuel Olagbaju and Tom McGinty saw Wembley Stallions beat London Blitz B, 21-0.

For the first time in the season Wembley received the ball to start the game. A penalty on the London defence moved the chains for Wembley before QB Art Bakmanidis connected with TE Brett Parnham for a 15-yard gain. London once again helped move the chains for Wembley with their second offside penalty of the drive. The ball was placed on the 3-yard line, from which Olagbaju rushed into the end zone for the first score of the game.

After adding the extra point, kicking the ball to London, and quickly holding them to a three and out, Wembley had the ball on offence once again. The drive didn’t start as hoped, with a holding penalty pushing Wembley back a further 10-yards. Runs from Aaron Greenidge and Junior Ejehu helped move the chains. A pass interference call on London moved the ball down to the 13-yard line, however the travelling team held strong, forcing a change in possession after Wembley went for it on 4th down.

Sensational touchdown helps Stallions move to 3-0

The game suddenly became one of defence as three, three and outs followed back to back. Throughout the three drives the clock ticked close to the 2-minute warning. Wembley started the drive on their own 35-yard line, and after successfully running and passing the ball downfield, found themselves into the red zone.

Bakmanidis looked to link up with McGinty on 2nd down, however a drop in the end zone meant Wembley would have to wait for their second score.

The wait wasn’t long however. With Wembley going straight back to the air, McGinty this time hauling the ball in for an 11-yard touchdown. The successful PAT gave Wembley a 14-0 lead at the half.

Sensational touchdown helps Stallions move to 3-0

Wembley’s offence didn’t see the field in the 3rd quarter, with London’s first drive of the half chewing away almost all the clock. A holding call on defence during a London punt caused frustration amongst the Wembley side-lines, with the call giving London a first down. The defence mounted 4 sacks during the drive, with Kwame Sarfo, Drew Fisher and Johann Johnson amongst the action.

Sensational touchdown helps Stallions move to 3-0

London eventually brought out the field goal team, and what followed was something sensational. The Wembley line bull-rushed through the London blockers, tipping the ball. After bouncing down to the 14-yard line Alex Brockhurst swept up the ball, and made way for the other end of the field. The 86-yard run (the last 10, looking extremely tiring) put Wembley up 20-0. The PAT eventually made it 21-0.

Sensational touchdown helps Stallions move to 3-0

After a long break, the Wembley eventually made it onto the field in the second half, the drive could only result in a three and out however.

London looked to get into the game and were essentially forced into going for it on 4th down, however an interception by Zoltan Kadar put away any chance of a London comeback.

Wembley took over on their own 25-yard line. Once again passes into McGinty and runs by Olagbaju and Greenidge moved Wembley deep into the London half.

The only memorable moment for the travelling side may be the pick which followed, denying a sure touchdown for Wembley.

The clock eventually ran down, with Wembley coming out on top with a 21-0 victory.

Wembley Stallions next game will be the reverse fixture on the 11th June.

 

Cardinals crushed as Stallions storm to 1-0 record

Wembley Stallions Ipswich Cardinals

Wembley Stallions stormed to a 1-0 record after beating Ipswich Cardinals 42-0 on the opening day of the 2017 season.

Three rushing touchdowns from Aaron Greenidge, two from Junior Ejehu and a receiving touchdown from Brett Parnham helped ease Wembley to an opening day win.

After winning the coin toss, Wembley decided to defer allowing Ipswich to make the first move on offence. Ipswich gained little yardage on their first drive and punted the ball to Wembley who returned the ball to midfield.

Shortly afterwards Wembley took the lead after a long run by Greenidge found the end zone, the resulting field goal converted.

Ipswich responded with a strong drive, a deep pass finding their way into the red zone. Ipswich were then gifted an extra few yards after a face mask penalty was called on Wembley. Ipswich were now 12 yards from the end zone, however a poor hand off led to a fumble, which Wembley recovered. Ipswich wouldn’t come across a better scoring chance all game.

On the resulting drive Art Bakmanidis connected with Nick Glenday for a 30-yard reception. After running the ball into scoring position, Bakmanidis found Parham for Wembley’s second touchdown. The field goal this time, unsuccessful.

As the quarter came to an end, Wembley held Ipswich to a quick three and out, with the ball being returned to the 45-yard line after the punt. A great catch by Tom McGinty got Wembley down to the 9-yard line. Shortly after Greenidge ran in for his second touchdown.

Wembley then pulled out the trick plays, with a fake field goal seeing McGinty catch the ball in the end zone for a 2-point conversion making the score 21-0.

Ipswich were once again forced to punt despite putting together a rather productive drive. Wembley were quick to put some distance between themselves and the visiting team, running the ball down the field, with Ejehu eventually taking it in for 6 points.

The woes continued for Ipswich who were once again forced to a three and out after some great pressure by the Wembley defence on the quarterback. After receiving the ball back, it took the Wembley offence two plays to get the 5th touchdown of the game.

Wembley could have easily added more points before the half, having worked the ball down the field thanks to another big reception from Glenday. Complacency may have seeped into the team however, seeing a fumble on the snap which was recovered by Bakmanidis, and then an interception thrown the play after.

35-0 up at halftime saw the officials bring in the Mercy rule. Meaning the second half would see a continuous rolling clock unless Ipswich scored.

The second half started slower, Wembley being held to punt the ball after a false start pushed them further away from the first down marker. Ipswich once again were held to a three and out.

A call from the officials looked to displease the Wembley side line. With Bakmanidis rushing for what looked like a first down. However, the officials spotted the ball 2 yards short of the first down. Bakmanidis rushed once more this time gaining a first down after rushing out of the bootleg. Wembley however couldn’t put more points on the board after another false start hindered their chances.

As the game headed into the 4th quarter Wembley were gifted their 6th touchdown. After a poor punt from Ipswich saw the ball end up on their own 28-yard line, Wembley were in prime position to score.

The first play of the drive saw Ejehu run 31 yards to the end zone. Ipswich tried to score late on, going for it on 4th down on the Wembley 30. An unsuccessful pass however saw a change of possession, and by the time Wembley were out on the field, the whistle had blown.

Wembley Stallions Women go 3-1 in Sapphire Series

Wembley Stallions Women go 3-1 in Sapphire Series

Two wins in the Sapphire series last Saturday saw the Wembley Stallions women go 3-1, putting them behind the Dreadnoughts on point difference.

Wins against Portsmouth Dreadnoughts 23-22, and Oxford Saints 60-25, pushed the Stallions to 3-1 in the women’s Sapphire series after a fine display on offence and defence.

The Stallions started the day against the team heading into the day in the top position, the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts who were sat on 2-0.

The game asked the question to which team had the better defence. The Stallions looked to answer that question early with a pair of safeties, with Delta Npuna and Tikka Taylor key to denying the Dreadnoughts moving the ball downfield.

The offence also started strongly, with Lina Malden catching the first TD of the game. However, the Dreadnoughts kept in the game, responding with a pick 6. Chloe Flowers got the second TD of the game, making the game 16-12 at the half.

Wembley Stallions Women go 3-1 in Sapphire Series

As the second half started it was clear that the Dreadnoughts had upped the temp, starting strong. The Stallions extended their lead through rookie Tamara Croucher, with Grace Hilbourne converting on the PAT, in what would be a pivotal play.

The Stallions defence fought with aggression to hold on for the win which moved them to 2-1, and handing the Dreadnoughts the first loss of the series.

Next up for the Stallions was Oxford Saints who after beating Peterborough Royals earlier on, were also sat on a 2-1 record.

The Saints tried to run the ball early in the game but to no avail, with Demi Adesanya making key stops to deny the run game.

Wembley Stallions Women go 3-1 in Sapphire Series

Grace Hilbourne got the first TD of the game, and her second of the day. The conversion attempt was intercepted by the Saints however who looked to take the ball to the Stallions end zone. What occurred after was something you usually only see in the movies.

The Stallions reacted quickly to the interception, forcing the Saints to fumble the ball, the Stallions recovered the ball and looked to take the ball back to the intentional destination of the Saints end zone. The ball was however fumbled once more, the Saints recovered the ball, and took eventually got the ball over the line.

This sparked the Stallions into life. An injured Angie Sowerby, who cracked her ankle in the game against the Dreadnoughts took the ball 35 yards to the house, outpacing everyone to put the Stallions back into the driving seat.

Another touchdown by Chloe Flowers followed shortly afterwards, while the Stallions defence allowed little, with Anna Young making a crucial tackle to deny the Saints moving the ball.

Ny Clarke-Williamson made what could be called the play of the day, diving low to make an ankle height catch to earn the Stallions another TD.

Wembley Stallions Women go 3-1 in Sapphire Series

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!

U.K. Gridiron 13