Ahead of this season’s first tournament, being held at home this Saturday – we wanted to find out a little bit more, newly appointed Head Coach, Darren Mitchell.
How did you get into American Football?
I started out with American Football as a kid living in California, I played in high school and of course we played back yard pick up games as often as we could.
Did you play American Football / what position did you play?
I played football in high school rotating from DB to WR and special teams.
What position did you dream you could play?
The position I always dreamed of playing was DB as I was a big fan of Everson Walls from the Dallas Cowboys.
Why the Exiles?
I discovered the Exiles in April after moving to Ashford, I initially thought upon moving to England that I would never see American Football again, even my son’s first words to me, upon discovering that we were moving to England were “what about college football? “. A simple internet search for “flag football” put me in touch with Claire and off we went.
What is your greatest achievement in this sport so far?
My greatest achievement in this sport is actually my players greatest achievements such as obtaining full ride scholarships to schools such as USC, Oregon, U of Washington, Arizona State, UCLA and Duke to name a few. Also seeing them graduate, seeing some of the them move on to the NFL and of course seeing them progress through life’s ups and downs.
What motivates you to coach football?
I am motivated to coach this sport by my players, my goal is to share my passion, energy and effort for the game so that they too may develop the same type of love that we have for football. Football is a life changing sport that is not for everyone and those that have played it have a bond that others don’t know. I always tell my high school players that when you return for your school reunions you won’t be talking about school, you will be reliving the games and practices with your teammates
What are your goals for the Under 11 and Under 14 Flag Teams this season and beyond?
My goals for the U11 and U14 players are pretty much the same, show them the fundamentals along with growing them as a team while constantly challenging them both physically and mentally. It is not an easy task initially due to all of our players not knowing each other outside of our 2 hour practices but they are all coming along and showing respect for each other and the game. My biggest goal is ensuring that every player has a positive experience and comes back year after year while continuing to progress through the Exile program.
Aside from the Exiles which team do you support and why?
Outside of the Exiles I support the Bears and Niners due to friends playing on those rosters but I am a bigger fan of college football due to the fact that 95% of the players will never play again and they are truly playing for the love of the game
What sets American Football apart from other sports and why do you think it is growing so well in the UK?
I think American football sets itself apart from other due to many things such as the physicality, the precision of plays, playing with many teammates, playing for many coaches, etc. it truly is a game of being in the trenches which sets it apart too.
I think the UK has a hunger for it because many kids here can play due to their experience with soccer and rugby and that makes the physical transition easier. I still have much to learn though in regard to why the hunger exists in the UK, but looking forward to growing that.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s tournament – tell us a little bit about what to expect and how your preparations for this season have gone so far?
Looking ahead to our first tournament I feel that the players are all hungry for some action other than their own teammates, our practices have been very good considering many of the players are new to the sport and new to each other. Coach Adam and Coach Neil are doing a good job preparing them on offense and defense and I think they are hungry for some “real” action too!
The U11 has low numbers but we have some talented kids at QB and WR, they haven’t had a ton of work on defense but I anticipate they will be just fine.
The U14 team is looking pretty good with decent numbers and definitely have some talent to show come our first game. I expect them to put up some points and get their “feet wet” playing defense. I would like to say that all of our players have been very respectful and have shown a tremendous hunger for learning their fundamentals and it is showing out there.
I would like to add that I am impressed with the number of our players that arrive an hour early each practice to perform QB drill with the older players, hard work always pays off!