Ahead of this season’s first tournament, being held at home this Saturday – we wanted to find out a little bit more, newly appointed U17s Flag Team Head Coach, Dan Dart.
How did you get into American Football?
Like most around the mid-80’s, I started watching the Channel 4 coverage on TV. I bought a ball, and also a weekly publication to learn more and played for hours on end with my brother in our local park, before joining our local junior team, the Maidstone Pumas.
Did you play American Football / what position did you play?
Yes, junior two-touch and then youth kitted with the Pumas, and then adult with numerous teams including the Kent Exiles, of course. I played mainly at receiver through youth and into a few seasons of adult football, before moving to QB (disgruntled at regularly getting open and being underthrown!)
What position did you dream you could play?
I guess I was lucky in that I got to play receiver a lot and that was my chosen position. I’m probably a bit of a control freak so then moving to QB and calling my own own plays and being responsible for the success or failure of the offense probably suited me!
Why the Exiles?
In my time in the sport I’ve never felt as at home with a team and club as I have with the Exiles. I have a great respect and fondness for all the people who have remained with the organisation for many years, putting in countless hours of work. The club retains it’s local community feel despite it’s size and success.
What is your greatest achievement in this sport so far?
At Junior/Youth level, gaining the record for the most points scored in a game (50) and also playing for the GB Crusaders. At Adult level, probably leading the country in passing with the Exiles in 1998 and captaining the England team, throwing a TD for the team’s first ever score.
What motivates you to coach football?
Probably similar to other coaches, I love the sport and hope that imparting some my knowledge to help our players grow and develop as football players (and as individuals) gives us all a sense of satisfaction and achievement.
What are your goals for the Under 17’s Flag Team this season and beyond?
I want the team and individuals to at least be competitive in tournaments, and to demonstrate improvement in the execution of their play, and enjoy it whilst doing so, of course! Longer term, it’s about making them better all round players so that they have a good grasp of correct techniques to take on to the next phase of their football journey (hopefully U16 or U19 Contact with the Exiles).
Aside from the Exiles which team do you support and why?
I’m a Giants fan so loved it when the team I chose to support in 1985 went on to win the Superbowl the following year. I’m excited about our prospects this year also, with Saquon back and healthy, and the players we’ve acquired through free agency and the draft.
What sets American Football apart from other sports and why do you think it is growing so well in the UK?
It’s exciting and explosive, where supreme physical traits can certainly aide success, but it’s also extremely complex so can appeal to those who appreciate the strategy side of things. Perhaps the success in the UK is down to a desire for something different to the traditional UK sports and football provides that glamour and appeal that was previously lacking (until many adopted certain aspects to enhance their own offering).
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?
It’s a hard one to call as we all missed a season of competitive play last year and all teams will have changed with previous players progressing to contact or simply becoming to old for an age group. I feel we’ve been able to progress well with the practice sessions we’ve had, focussing on fundamentals for all players and trying to raise standards now it’s U17s, as our squad is relatively young.