Read what Under 17 Flag Head Coach Dan Dart had to say about the 2023 season…
With the Exiles Flag Teams all in agreement that we should withdraw from BAFA for this season in the best interests of the programme due to the unreasonable requirements being put upon teams, we organised and faced a schedule of ‘friendly’ organised tournaments where age groups and specific rules could be set by the host club. In the main,
this worked out reasonably well, although we did have to flex our squads across U17s and U14s. This actually proved pretty successful as the two sets of players had been training together more often in practice sessions so knew each other and this year, were starting to run similar playbooks.
Despite losing some key older players for certain tournaments, through a combination of U17 fixtures and also U16 & U15 matches (using the Kent Exiles Outlaws team name and ‘borrowing’ some younger players from our U14 squad), we finished the year with a respectable 4-5-4 (Won/Lost/Tied) record. It should also be noted that 3 of those 5
losses came against either the reigning British Champions or the prior year’s British Champions. In addition, 2 of these 3 losses were merely by a single score.
Another particularly pleasing aspect to this season was just how well the new, ex-U14 flag players (and also some rookies and those completely new to flag football) all settled in at U17 level and were able to compete. I can honestly say that with their commitment to training, their existing skills and their determination and focus on game days, not a single one of them looked out of place, comfortably holding their own against opposition who were older, bigger, faster and more experienced than they were used to. Most even managed to excel on particular plays or in phases of certain games, which was great to see, and gives me real confidence going in to next year.
We have to say goodbye, following this, their last season, to both Otis and Jake, who have been real stalwarts in this team for a number of years. However, I’m delighted that both have stated a real desire to assist the team(s) with flag coaching support and to therefore provide that continuity and flag knowledge to younger members of the programme. As they leave the team, we look to welcome a good number of graduating and experienced U14 players who I know will strive to repeat the success of their predecessors.