The Growth in the Game
The growth of American Football is largely due to two factors here in the UK. The first is the NFL games played at Wembley and BBC coverage of these, and secondly the rapid growth within the Flag game.
For many, especially parents, the words American Football conjures up visions of violence, hard hits and helmets. They do not see the remarkable team work involved the tactics of the game and the closeness of the teams that almost become family. The game of Flag American Football is all the tactics and none of the contact, and this is encouraging many to take up the game at all stages of life.
At present in the UK, the Opal Series is taking place. This is the Women’s Flag Tournament run across the country. Last Saturday I attended the Northern Opal Round 2 tournament as a GB Scout. Even I was surprised at the turnout and the talent on show – and I have been involved in the GB programme for a while.
There were teams from across the North competing in the tournament, from young to old. Myself and the GBFW Head Coach saw the progression since last year immediately. What I noticed though was the amount of players in ‘cross over’, those players who play at tackle and flag, had increased. This is something that I was incredibly happy about. Though some skills are slightly different, the core skills are the same – movement, footwork, finding space and ball handling. This can only benefit both disciplines, as the more that our players involve in the game the better they become.
Though the playing of this sport is on the rise, I was attending a women’s tournament, and the majority of the head coaches were male. Even though I saw many on the field who have qualified in coaching, and who were actively coaching, they were in positional roles. There are 2 teams in the North with a female head coach – both are active players in tackle or flag.
I asked myself why this is, and I have come up with no explanation. The ladies were acting as extra officials, they know the rules, they were correcting and encouraging each other – they are perfectly capable of the role of coach, yet they were not rising through the ranks of coaching. Is this due to the thought that they are lesser qualified? Lesser experienced? Have less knowledge? Do not want the role? In all honesty I do not know, what I saw was very experienced and qualified ladies talking and encouraging each other, with amazing knowledge of the game, incredible passion for the game but not actively coaching the game that day.
I understand that the player/coach role is very difficult and many of the ladies are at playing age still, but what concerns me is that do we have to wait for them to finish playing before they decide on coaching or leave the sport altogether? If that is so, then we have a long wait. I am a career coach, I don’t play, never have played – but I chose the coaching pathway and sometimes I think that this clouds my view. What my aim would be is to bring these qualified coaches through and help and encourage them to take the roles that many so richly deserve – and help with the player/coach role.
I worked for a time with Jacksonville Jaguars in London, taking the game to local schools. What encouraged those new female players was having a female coach walk in and look like them – and the young ladies realising that this is a woman’s game too. These new converts to the game need to see that you do not need to play to be involved but that you can be a woman on the sidelines, we are coaches, we are officials and we are players. We are knowledgeable, we are tough, and we are a huge part of the growth of this amazing game, and will continue to be so. I am so proud of each and every woman that steps on a field whether it be to play, officiate or to coach.
Bio: Sarah Jauncey is an American Football Coach from the UK and wear many hats within the sport. She is a Coach Developer for BAFA, Board Member of BAFCA, a Coach Educator and the only female coach in the GB Lions set up. To find out more about Sarah, read our exclusive interview with her HERE
Sarah’s role with the FCN is to lead the creation of a Global network of female American Football coaches. To contact Sarah please email: firstname.lastname@example.org