Following the success of 2017, which concluded by hosting the International School of the Hague (The Netherlands) for some end of season fun, 2018 started either cold or very cold! We lost 2 Sunday training sessions and we also had to abort the opening South East Youth American Football (SEYAF) tournament, when a blanket of snow found itself firmly on the ground at Beaverwood.
Nevertheless, we continued with rebuilding the programme. Player recruitment continued to be good and we successfully rebuilt the older age group, promoting many of the 2017 SEYAF championship under 11 team to the under 14’s. 10 players of the under 14’s decided to move up to Youth Padded.
We also had to rebuild the coaching team with Coach Bryan Man moving to the Youth Padded team. A huge loss to flag, but the clubs/youth programme gain. This meant a little coaching reshuffle. Richard Powell moved from the under 11/12 group and took over the under 14/17 group. We formally welcomed Adam Sharp to the under 11/12 group to continue with Mark Summers and Mary Smith and at under 14/17, Jonathan McCabe was given a role to work with Richard. We also welcomed youth players, who were in the process of completing their Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, Bailey Man and George Fear continued with their mentoring and volunteering work. James Sharp, Malachi Slue Williams and Luke Jefkins also assisted with training, game time.
We also very lucky to get a visit from Coach Andy Scott from The Jacksonville Jaguars UK schools programme to assist at a training session.
I would imagine that you are quite confused as to why we have two different age ranges?
I realised that the direction of SEYAF driven by the member clubs was away from developing flag football and more towards youth padded. Therefore, as an Exiles group, we decided to enter the BAFA National League. We realised that this would be a massive set up, but our whole purpose is to develop the children and to enable the children access to as much football as possible.
Our fears of a lack of competition was evident at the first SEYAF tournament, this continued to the final tournament in July.
Due to entering 2 competitions, we had more football than ever before. Therefore, it is only right that I pay tribute to the Coaches, players and parents, who have been on a journey around London and the South East. I would also like to thank Zac Ritchie for inviting our QB’s to his QB camps!
It was determined, pre-season that we would not play for a Championship, as we had a lack of teams to make it a real challenge.
First up was, what we used as pre-season with a trip to Maidstone. Kent Phoenix had moved grounds and we were used as guinea pigs to see whether the ground was okay for flag football. The usual suspects were joined by Gravesend Grammar school in the under 14/17 age range and South Coast Spitfires in the under 11/12 group. A good warm up for what was to come.
Successive tournaments at Canterbury, Hellingly and again at Maidstone concluded a strange season with a range of mixed age teams, playing against our proper age range teams.
The under 17 group attended all 4 tournaments and came out with a record of 2 wins and 10 losses. I was very proud of the way we stuck at it. We also found that we needed some help with some older players. Along with Hertfordshire Cheetahs, we were both the youngest teams in the competition. However, great news for the future.
The under 12 group only played in 2 tournaments. We had to take a view that the two long trips to Southampton & Lowestoft were a stretch to far. However, despite smaller numbers we hung in and fought hard.
Highlight for the season was the final tournament, where we hosted London Blitz and Solent Seahawks. The Blitz, who had drifted through the competition, undefeated and unchallenged. Our team, came together and put up a fight, holding The Blitz to 6 -6 at half time, before the heat and height took hold.