A sunny but cool Saturday morning in a school in Lancashire, UK and over 60 women are taking part in a development day for BAFA Flag Football. But this is a new experience as it is the first development day coached exclusively by female coaches. Why is this such a break through? There are many women qualified to coach American Football in the UK, but few head up teams. So to get these ladies together on a field, leading sessions and passing up knowledge is an amazing show of the growth of the game. It was an amazing day for womens football, and this is the first of many. The day was promoted by BAFA (British American Football Association), who are the strength behind the rapid growth in womens ball.
Photo Courtesy of Garry Charles.
(Left – Right: Jennifer Macchia, Natalie Parker, Phoebe Schecter, Sarah Jauncey, Judeth Sinfield, April Mayling)
It all started at 10.30am on a sunny spring day in Leyland, Lancashire. Four of the coaches presented chalkboard sessions, quarterbacks, snapping, blitzing and routes were covered……for some of the presenters this was their first experience at these sessions. They were informative and engaged the audience with questions and laughter, feedback was very positive…
“I found your classroom talk today extremely inspirational and it was the first time I sat back and didn’t over think anything and really enjoyed the day!!” – Zara (Chorley Buccaneers)
That really set the tone for the day, it was not meant to be something to be endured, but something that was fun, engaging and enjoyable. We had previous GB player’s right through to brand new teams and those who have only been playing the sport a few weeks, girls who have competed at national level in tackle football and girls who have joined a club recently. It was a great mix of ability and background, everyone learnt something new.
Here are the voices and thoughts from two of the coaches;
Coach Phoebe Schecter
Catching Methods for Flag Football
Coach Phoebe is currently the HC of Staffordshire Surge Women, STC at Staffordshire Seniors. She is a playing member of Birmingham Lions and also one of very few females to play actively on an all-male team. She is the current Team Captain of GB Lions contact team. (Watch this space for an interview with the force that is Phoebe Schecter!)
Q: How did you approach coaching so many new faces on the day?
A: My role on the day was to lead the catching methods station and at the end, to coach one of the 6 teams. I am lucky that I have always had amazing coaches and that I coach as well, so I approached it as I would my own team. I knew what I wanted the players to get out of the station, and I feel they did just that. Most importantly, I wanted everyone to have a fun and memorable experience. From the feedback, it seemed that everyone took something positive from the day, learnt, and made new friends in the football community.
Q: What was your highlight of the day?
A: My highlight of the day, was looking across the field, and seeing all the teams being led by my fellow coaches. The players were put into teams where they may not have known everyone, but were able to instantly bond together. There is something so special about women’s football, where everyone is so encouraging of each other. It was a rare opportunity for all of these women to be given the chance to show their coaching skills and share their knowledge and experience with the next generation.
Q: When asked about the future of womens football and coaching in the UK, Coach Phoebe told us:
A: “For the past 3 years, women’s american football in the UK has been rapidly growing. We now are able to get more females through the coaching system, and the next generation of players are here to learn and share in our experiences. The GB Women have the world’s next year with contact and flag, and that can only be fuelling people’s desire to play. When you have a goal and an opportunity like that, to represent your country, everyone wants to be involved and support you. The women’s programme are very lucky to be so well supported by BAFA. Even though this sport is in its infancy in the UK, I think the next couple years, it is going to rocket.”
This was without doubt a ground breaking opportunity for female coaches within the game to take control of the day, Coach Phoebe added “I felt very privileged to be a part of it. This is definitely the time for women to be standing up and leading, thanks to the hard work of people before us, across all sports.”
Coach Judeth Sinfield
Blitzing Techniques in the 5v5 Flag Football Game
Judeth started playing flag football 15 months ago. “I was one of a few mums who stood on the side line watching our kids and we decided to give it ago”. During the last 15 months, Judeth has taken her level 1 coaching badge and has taken up the post of assistant coach for her local Youth Flag team. “I also do some of the coaching with the ladies. The more I do, the more I love it and the more ideas I get!”
Q: This was a ground breaking day being the first ladies football day coaches exclusively by women. How did you feel about being a part of it?
A: Initially when GB Head Coach Andrew asked me, I was in shock. I haven’t been coaching long so it hadn’t entered my head that I could coach at the development day. After the initial shock I felt honoured, excited and just a tad nervous!! I still can’t get over the turn out, around 50 females, I loved it and still can’t believe that I was part of the coaching staff on such a ground breaking day. I met some great ladies and some extremely talented players, not to mention some inspiring coaches.
Q: Could you describe your role on the day and how you approached it? How did it go?
A: I was involved in the organising with Andrew as I am part of the Development Day group and also with Chorley Buccaneers, as we were the first to host this year and I am the ladies team manager. I even helped mark out 2 pitches on the Friday before as our club were also hosting the cadets and Youth flag T1. It meant that when it came to playing our games, we had proper marked out pitches.
Being part of the coaching staff was an honour and exciting but I won’t lie, I was terrified. I knew that I would have to present not only to some Rookies but also players who are far more experienced than myself, including some GB flag players, a classroom session and then a drill session out on the field.
I spent time chatting with various coaches getting hints and tips, watching clips on you tube and reading lots of different pieces of advice from various coaches within football.
I ran part of the drill with my ladies to see what I needed to work on, which definitely helped.
I think it went well. I love engaging with different people and it was great to see that people were listening and understanding, as well as enjoying what we were doing.
I had an absolutely awesome day and can’t wait to be back coaching our Youth this Saturday
Q: What was so different about this development day?
A: The difference lay in the coaching, it was females coaching females. So often in this game the women play and the men coach – but this was led by the female coaches who in most cases have come into coaching from playing. In fact nearly of the ladies are still actively playing themselves. For me personally, the difference lay in the atmosphere – there was a ‘togetherness’ and freedom that is rarely experienced elsewhere. This came from not only the act of coaching the players, but the sharing of knowledge and techniques amongst the coaching staff. There was no power struggle – which was refreshing, also nothing to ‘prove’. We did not have to be better than our male counterparts that day, as we had all earned our place as a lead coach.
I have heard so many times from fellow coaches that as a woman we have to be ‘twice the coach’ of our male colleagues. That there is an atmosphere of ‘she’s only her because she’s a woman’ – but this day we were all women, we all had been chosen for our ability to coach and lead rather than the fact that our gender is a minority in this sport. The fact that the women who attended this day were able to take inspiration from those lead coaches, really made this a special and trailblazing day for UK Womens American Football.
I cannot leave this article without thanking all those at BAFA who backed this and made it possible. Coach Andrew Gambrill (HC of GB Women Flag), was one of the leading lights behind this development day. He, along with Coach Jon Wyse (President BAFCA, Director of Coaching BAFA), and Coach Jim Messenger (HC GB Women Contact and Head of Womens Football for BAFA) are encouraging the women in this game to coach and develop the next generation of female players. They are working with local clubs, and existing female coaches to bring the next generation of coaches from beneath the shadow of their male counterparts to become the best that they can be.
I was part of the coaching team for this day, and in 24yrs of coaching sport it was the first time ever that I was on an all-female squad. The feedback from the players has been great, and in a way goes to prove that for some being coached by another female makes a difference. We are just as competitive as the male coaches, but maybe it is just the way we explain things.
The future is seeing more of these development days arranged, these running alongside the tackle football for women also. It is definitely heading in the right direction!!
FCN American Football Co-ordinator:
Sarah Jauncey is an American Football Coach from the UK. From the glitz and glamour of multi-million dollar franchises in the US, Sarah coaches the sport in much more humble settings. Sarah is the Head Coach of her local team and the only female coach in the GB set up. To find out more about Sarah, read our exclusive interview with her HERE
Sarah’s role is to lead the creation of a Global network of female American Football coaches. To contact Sarah please email: firstname.lastname@example.org