Carl Alexis, aka Coach Carl, has led the Exiles Women’s team since its origins in 2017 as a 5v5 side. Since these humble beginnings, Coach Carl has used his 34 years of experience in playing and coaching American Football to help the team reach new heights. Now, the women’s team is preparing to compete in their first season of Division 1 of the British American Football Association’s (BAFA) Sapphire Series. In this interview, Coach Carl shares his motivation to play his part in developing and growing women’s American Football in the UK.
How did you get into American Football?
Back in 1986 a women’s team near where I lived (The Catford Felines) was formed and with my love of football (I’d been a fan since the early eighties), I prompted my then partner to join. Sadly, due to lack of interest, the team lasted no more than a few weeks. However, by then, I had become friends with the coach who also played tight end for the Thames Barriers (I was unaware of any teams remotely close to me at the time). He convinced me to join them, and the rest is history.
Did you play American football/what position did you play?
I played left guard for the Thames Barriers and Bexley Barons, and nose tackle/defensive tackle for the Kent Exiles. I also managed one play at running back for -5yds, an Exile record that still stands today!
What position did you dream you could play?
Why the Exiles?
After leaving the Barons, I didn’t have the time or money to play and, although I followed the British game, I didn’t think I would ever play again. That was until my brother Aaron convinced me to play again. He had played for the London Capitals Junior team but wanted to play senior ball and had found a team not far from either of us, the Exiles). Strangely enough I had been following them (although I was unaware of their location) in the weekly American football paper called First Down. I always thought that if I were to go back to football it would be to a team like them as their record was not great. so therefore their expectations may not be as high and I might be able to make an immediate impact with them.
What is your greatest achievement in this sport so far?
Taking the Exiles Women’s team to the finals every single year we have been in the league, along with coaching the 2016 U19’s National Champions Exiles defensive line.
What motivates you to coach football?
The players; their attitude and dedication, seeing them develop into football players, doing things they never thought they could and knowing that I had a hand in it (no matter how small that may have been).
What are your goals for the Kent Exiles Women’s team over the next five years?
To be Division 1 National Champions and, just as importantly, to have players graduate to becoming coaches with the intention of them becoming not only positional coaches but ultimately one of them becoming a head coach. I truly believe that this is how we can continue to take strides in developing the women’s game in the UK.
Aside from the Kent Exiles, which team do you support and why?
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish because of their rich history and ethos pf making education as big a priority as their football programme.
If you could have one NFL or college player on your team who would it be?
Lawrence Taylor for his pure destructiveness (sadly he was NOT a great person off the field) or Jerry Rice for his work ethic and leadership abilities.
What sets American football apart from other sports and why do you think it is growing so well in the UK?
Excitement! The game can change dramatically with only minutes or seconds to spare.
Why do I feel that it’s growing? Well, I feel that has a lot to do with its inclusivity as anybody and everybody can find their place on a team, including those that may have avoided well established sports before due to attitudes within those sports. With American football you can start afresh with no preconceived ideas from the coaches or other players and have a chance to achieve goals that you may not have been able to in other sports.