This week we take some time away from one of the busiest men in the Kent Exiles organisation, Club Treasurer and Offensive Coordinator of the U17s Contact team – Coach Martin Jefkins.
Whether its flag, youth, women’s or adult team football, in one capacity or another, coach Martin is always on hand to lend some help. Coach Martin can often be found sizing up helmets and pads for new and growing players, or ensuring the clubs coffers are always looking healthy; he is certainly a key figure throughout the club.
We take a look at the story behind Coach Martin’s history at the club and look forward to the coming season for our fantastic U17’s team…
How did you get into American Football?
There was a buzz around the game back in the late 80’s after the NFL began showing on Channel 4, and some of my friends started playing it during breaks at school so I joined in. It was easy to get hooked as it was fun, different, exciting and a strategic game – so it just grew from there with me! We soon looked for a team to join, but there wasn’t one I could get to for U18’s, so I went along to the Tonbridge Tigers with Dave Pester, who was old enough to play there, and helped on the chains and things until I was 18.
Did you play American football/what position did you play?
I played wide receiver mainly, although like many teams back then you had to be versatile and fill in occasionally, so I also took snaps at quarterback, running back, defensive back, linebacker and pretty much everything on special teams! I like to think I was pretty good; I still hold some club records, and once led the league in scoring. I also played for the South of England, Wales and was invited to professional trials with the London Monarchs, I still have the invite letter somewhere!
What position did you dream you could play?
I always wanted to be a receiver. I was never the biggest, but I was clever and disciplined so ran good routes and got open, I could also catch! I always tried to watch Steve Largent as I thought of myself as more of a possession receiver than a deep threat.
Why the Exiles?
The Tonbridge Tigers folded a week before my 18th birthday, so I never got to play for them. I was pretty gutted as I’d waited for ages to finally play. Thankfully, some of the team formed the Exiles soon afterwards so I was there for the first training session as I knew the people, and more importantly Dave could give me a lift there each week!
What is your greatest achievement in this sport so far?
I’ve got lots of things I’m proud of as part of my role in running the club, but as a player getting invited to trial for the Monarchs based on my achievements was the best. Opening that letter was something I will remember for a long time! I’m also proud to have won the clubs players player award a few times, getting awarded that by my teammates means a lot.
What motivates you to coach football?
Most of the time it’s a lot of fun, especially with the younger age groups. However, for me it’s the chance to have a positive influence on my players lives and help them achieve as much as they can in the sport whilst also taking that attitude into their personal lives as well. When I look back in a few years i’m sure my proudest moments will all be about the players i’ve helped to be their best.
What are your goals for the U17 Kitted team over the next 5 years?
This one is easy; we’ve got a great record of success and I want to maintain that. We want to be the best not only on the pitch but how we train, how we influence our players, and how we represent the Exiles as a whole. I want to see more championships won, and then those players going on to win things at U19 and Adult level with the Exiles as well.
Aside from the Exiles, which team do you support and why?
I’m a New York Giants fan and have been since 1985. I liked the fact they were a good team, but also that they had a great history. We are not having the best few years, but it’s been great seeing them win a few Superbowls over the years, although I couldn’t watch as Scott Norwood kicked that field goal back in Superbowl XXV!
If you could have one NFL or college player on your team who would it be?
That’s a difficult one, as it would be great to have a skill player like Kyler Murray, Partick Mahomes or Julio Jones. However, a team wins when it is dominant up front, and those guys have time and space to do their stuff, so it would have to be Quenton Nelson, Joel Bitonio or Taylor Lewan. Plus, they would be able to train the rest of the o-line to be nasty blockers!
What sets American football apart from other sports and why do you think it is growing so well in the UK?
It’s a great team sport, it’s rare a team wins consistently due to just one good player, so I think that really helps. There is a chance for everyone to contribute, and things are celebrated when they make a difference. It’s not all touchdowns and sacks, but teammates celebrate with you for a good tackle, a key block, a fumble recovery, interception, a catch or run for a first down… It really builds a good atmosphere. I find that once a player comes down to play they easily get hooked. But it’s also growing because of the accessibility of the sport now, you can watch the NFL, XFL or College ball on TV all the time, and its fun to watch as it’s exciting. American Football does not have a divisive element to it like soccer, you rarely hear fans insulting other teams or chanting insults, so it is fun and upbeat; a good environment, and people want to be a part of good things.