What we are up to...

Blog

Uncategorized

End Of Season Awards 2020

Valkyries award night zoom session
Valkyries Award night Zoom session

This years end of awards event came a little later than usual due to the circumstances surrounding Covid and events getting pushed back.

Although we still pressed on and hosted the 2020 end of season awards ceremony through Zoom.

Message from Simon Browing Head Coach and presentation of awards:

A general overview of the season, we said it multiple times during the year, we throw a lot at you as players. There’s a lot we throw mentally and physically, and we trying to develop something and I think this year very much so you could see the development in everyone. One of the things we talk about is coaching the process not the product. It’s not necessarily he end goal we’re interest in the game, whatever. What we’re interested in is the path your own. So as coaches we try and work with you, so what is your journey, where you want to go. We’re coaching that journey and trying to push you and look at each individual person in their own right. Because you’re all different people, you’re here for different reasons, but overall as a club we’re trying to develop a team which has a lot of player autonomy. We don’t want robots, we don’t want players that just replicate what’s written on a page somewhere. We want players that can adapt at speed on the field, that are able to talk to us and say what they think should happen in a play. If you look at the journey we made at the start of a year, taking our performance against Leicester. We’re in a situation where we were essential running two defense, now I don’t know many teams that can do that. Yes you might change week to week, but to change to a completely different defense, that is a very difficult thing to do to shift from one game to the next.

The way that you were able to do that each time, and keep going, and know what you were able to do and talk communicate to each other and the coaches is just a testament to what you put in all year. And from our side, it’s down that journey, from where we were last year to now and completely deserved that win.

We’re looking to keep that going this year, to build on that and again that’s part of the journey.

 In terms of offense, we’ve got loads of games here. once again, it goes back to what I was saying about the amount of work people we’re putting in over the year. If we look at that last game I had Lois coming across playing as receiver, Lauren as recievr, you know, members of the defence coming over. Wilder playing at QB. Poor Mandy with all the heights to snap! But a testament to yourself that yes, you started on defense, but came across. SO again, thank you for everyone who stepped in, filled the gaps as needed. We had Katie, Jen, Gale coming over to the line sometimes at a moment’s notice and fitting in, and looking like you belong there. It’s just a testament to you.

There’s so many more names, like Ruth and Sara putting the effort in. Sara you first year shining completely, looking like you’ve been there for years. Ruth, giving us everything we know she can give us. But the one that wins the award is someone that put in the effort quietly all year, worked really hard to be ready, and when she was ready, boy was she ready. She really put in a really good shout on the field. The winner for this award is Katherine!

Defense

Again, it was great to see people getting in and getting their first touching on d and contributing. The likes of Cookie, sometimes nervous but still willing tog et on the field and playing the best of their ability. Hats off to her, it can be really daunting stepping on the field for the first time. Big contributions from our rookie class again, we’ve been lucky this, Sara again on defense putting in a lot of effort, the likes of Wilder coming across and filling in at Safety making it look like she’s been there for years. She did a great job. Lois as well at corner, it’s always useful when you have someone like Lois on corner because it takes that pressure off in the defensive backfield – a completely asset to the team. Lauren coming back as well from injury and coming back with a bang!  But overall, somebody that just gives absolutely everything every single play, gets everybody sorted every single play. It’s interesting as well reading with similar comments for “Valkyries’ Valkyrie” as well. But form our side, the organisational ability, the leadership that was displayed on defense – so the defensive award goes to Zoe.

Line

There’s a lot of people who contributed all over the place, Sophie, Hayley coming in, Jen, Katie. There’s a lot of people we asked to contribute. If we look at the way our defense, a lot of what we do needs to start upfront so people like Lauren and Katie and Zoe J can fly around making those plays, it’s because of the d-line making those blocks. It’s not necessarily he most glamorous, not necessarily the one making all the tackles, but it’s the one that’s eating up all the blocks and allowing everything to work. And I can’t fault the effort that everyone put in who was on the line. It makes everything else work, that unseen effort. My hat goes off to everyone who was involved, often at a moment’s notice! But in terms of who wins, it’s someone who held it all together. Again, reading some of the VV comments this is reiterated and it’s great to see it within the player group as well. It’s someone who’s constantly trying to help those around her, helping everyone understand what the play calls are, it’s that kind of glue that holds it all together. So our winner of the award goes to Mandy!

Rookie

Like I said we have a really deep rookie class this year and we threw them on the field, getting them stuck straight in. pulling you from different positions, here there and everywhere. Like Hayley coming in, understanding what your job is, what you need to do for the team and doing it! That really quick ability to understand what you need to do, and execute those roles. It makes everything work, and that level of trust around the team that you’ve worked and understand it. Katie and Jen again, coming across and play on the line, going into the game thinking LB and now you’re going to play RG! Completely rethinking what you’re doing – just that willingness to knuckle down and get on with it is the Valkyries’ spirit. ‘how can I help the team, how can I help the team get better’. And the fact that you understood it and had confidence to ask when you were unsure, it can be easy to stay quiet and pretend you know. But all of you as rookie class was willing to ask if you weren’t sure.  But for us, the rookie award, goes to someone who contribute both sides of the ball and at times just looked like a grizzly vet on the field. She was everywhere, making tackles, running routes, so our rookie award goes to Sara!

Overall

When we look at someone overall, we’re looking at someone who impacts wider than their position. The person who wins this gets the award because there’s a contribution on defense, there’s a contribution on offense, there’s a contribution both on and off the field. Be that helping people in training, outside of training, asking questions, trying to be better, challenging us as coaches so we get better as well, and constantly pushing the bard. So for us this award goes to someone who is constantly pushing that benchmark, someone who is demonstrating leadership throughout the year, embodying that Valkyrie spirit. So for us, the person did all of that in our eyes, bit of absolutely everything, be that last tackle to save TD, running routes or filling in whenever asked. So our overall award goes to Ruth!

Coaches player

This is different from the overall, this is not necessarily performance specific related (although this player did do what we asked her to do). But it’s that general vocal spirit, that coach-ability, that willingness, to just buckle down to do it. Between conversations of the coaches, she is so willing to learn, so willing the buckle down, to fix it, to be involved with questions, she’s always trying to push herself. And that to us embodies what it means to be coaches player. That someone who is always willing to push themselves a little bit more. Not always the loudest player, the most vocal, but always someone constantly willing to learn, to be better, to drive herself in her own way. Because again, you’re all different, you’re al at different points in your journey and for some of you, what might appear small for someone else is a big jump for you personally. That’s what this CP is trying to embody and ward for for, such a positive impact and development for themselves that it’s worthy of this ward. The person we’re giving it to is Jen! 

 Valkyries Valkyrie

This is the one I enjoy the most. It’s really interesting to see how you all talk about each other, and how you feel together, and that’s the V Valkyrie. There’s some really great comments in there.

We have: “Lauren, Showing up to all the sessions she could despite injury, keeping spirits high and joining in as a body to help us out with reps. So happy she got a sack to validate all the hard work she put in and the patience she had to manage to get there. She’s incredible and I love her fun-loving attitude and endless optimism.” We’ve got: “Katherine, As a rookie she made me welcome, and helping me throughout all the sessions”. Then “Zoe Wilder, She has made huge contributions and plays both on the offense and defense, always goes into each play with 100% and has gone into other positions when duty calls”. And this is one of my favourites. “I would like to nominate Mandy Gould as she has been so patient and supportive with not only me but whoever else has been put on O this year and is terribly confused”.

Now, I’m not sure if Mandy is confused, or if it’s those who came onto the line…but you look through this and it’s hard to name just 1 person as all players have helped me out at least once! But I put a vote in for Lois. I can’t thank her enough, she’s helped me so much and if not for Lois I wouldn’t have been able to play. She helps not only the directions but also her support that I needed. In every game she was on my shoulder. From helping me on day 1 to put my top on until the final she has helped me so much.

We’ve got: “Zoe John. As a rookie I haven’t had a great deal of time to get to know everyone yet but you have answered every weird and stupid question I’ve had, you’ve taken time out of your own schedule you gave me the direction I needed in a solid, motivating “let’s have at them” tone as opposed to a frustrated “just get in a fucking gap”. Wouldn’t have minded either, but appreciated the first!”.  And lastly “Cookie for getting on the field even though she was very nervous and unsure of herself and making a great tackle. She doesn’t always have confidence in herself but has the potential to do really well”. It’s so great to see we’re recognising each other and that we’re all on different paths in your journey.

It’s great for me to see because it’s all about support, and different people are named primarily because of the support you’re giving each other which is just brilliant to read. We’ve tried to build this culture that everybody can come in and help each other, there’s always someone you can turn to. There’s were eight people nominated, so across the team as a whole and it was quite close at the top, but the winner of the Valkyries’ Valkyrie is Zoe John.

The journey you’ve all done this year is phenomenal. We’re looking to push us forward even more next year, so it’s exciting times for when we eventually get to play the next season! Well done!

Summary of Awards :

Offensive MVP – Katherine Fretwell

Defensive MVP – Zoe John

Line MVP – Mandy Gould

Overall MVP – Ruth Lewis

Rookie MVP – Sarah Pratt

Coaches Player of the Season – Jennifer Davies

Valkyries Valkyrie – Zoe John

Well Done!

Tackle Football

#IWD2020

Today marks in important day: International Women’s Day. Across Britball and football across the world, huge steps are taken to increase awareness of the women’s game, and women’s involved in football. From refs, to coaches (including our very own Coach Kate), to managers, to players – women are continuing in strides.

Coach Kate and her merry defense

There are so many reasons that women join American football, and there are so many ways it changes our lives, motivates us, empowers us. Here are a few of the Valkyries and what American Football (and being a woman) means to them.

Katherine (QB, Receiver)

I joined the Cardiff Valkyries about 18 months ago, and it has been one of the best decisions. At first, it was just for a team sport, something to keep me motivated and give me purpose to the (bare minimum) running I was doing. It became so much more than that! I was inspired to start lifting weights for the first time (and ditch the running) and started feeling like my body has purpose. I realised that I am strong and powerful, and my body can do so much for me. Through both football and lifting heavy things, I learned to love parts of my body that I had previously struggled to accept.

Being a woman in sport makes me feel strong and empowered. I have a huge sense of achievement in playing well, and huge level of pride watching the women around me succeed in the sport and learn the strength and power of their bodies. For me, American Football is unique in bringing this to women: we require players that range in shapes and sizes meaning those who have previously been characterised as “unsporty” or “not athletic” have a place on the field where they can demonstrate their individual strengths

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and outdoor

Ruth (QB, Corner, Receiver)

Empowered has become the phrase of the year in many respects. By the very definition of the word it is something given not taken or created for oneself. So, who gives empowerment, and can we give it to ourselves? I’ve often wondered if I, myself, feel empowered. And what does it mean? Do I have power and authority? In some aspects yes. In football, I recently took a turn as QB and began calling my own plays. I, ultimately, could influence (but not completely control) how the play would pan out. 

The catch, of course, is that as humans we have a habit of using and abusing power (see the History of the Patriarchy), so how do we avoid falling into that trap? The answer, is to empower someone else. to borrow a phrase, ‘Aligned Autonomy’ i.e. we’re heading in the same direction but how we get there is up to you. In football, as a QB I asked my team in the huddle, “What play do you want?” At first I was met with blank stares, for which I would fill in the gap but as the game went on players would come to the huddle with input and suggestions as they’d seen gaps and openings that I hadn’t. We worked together and made great gains – we’re getting in that endzone and we’re going together. There was also a time when I had to identify when a player didn’t feel empowered:

“Were you open on that last play?” 

“No.” 

She was. 

She was wide open but I could see the look in her eye that said ‘Don’t pass to me’. OK. Next time. As the game went on she came into the huddle after the ball fell incomplete “I’m open.” I took a mental note: Empower others who are ready for it. 

Make 2020 the year that you become motivated to empower others and you may just find that you give yourself the power & authority to empower yourself.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Rachel (Corner, Receiver)

It gives me such a sense of purpose being involved in a sport but especially a team sport and a women’s team even more!! High school is a long time ago and I’m a mum of 3 now – watched my children many times in the last 20 years.

You forget that you’re more than a Mum a lot of the time but as much as I love my children, I forget that I am when its training or game day!!

Zoe J (Linebacker, Lineman)

I’ve had many years struggling, never feeling like a fit into a category of ‘right’. This was mostly on how I looked, with low self esteem being a huge battle for so long. But being in this amazing sport empowers me year in year, year out. There is so much more to my body that what it looks like. There is so much my body can do that I didn’t realise was possible. American football, this team, has saved my life, and I encourage every girl and woman out there to try something new, try something different. It’s never too late to make a change and to get out there and show yourself and the world what you are made of.

In the last few years of football I’ve learned some incredible things, but it’s also given me confidence outside of the team. I’ve learned to have a voice, I’ve learned to speak my opinion, I’ve learned that making mistakes is okay, but not speaking in fear of rejection isn’t.

Women can be agile, tough, terrifying, skilled, fast, powerful. Women know the game. Women are the game. We are American footballers – period.

Image may contain: one or more people and people playing sports

Hayley (Lineman)

The last six weeks with the Valkyries changed my life. From the physical health, to the mental resilience of taking my first big hit, only to get back up and do it all over again 30 seconds later. Playing… how well is debatable, a tournament after just three training sessions and being part of a team winning their first game on home soil is something I’ll never forget. The best bit of all, I feel like I’ve gained a second family – I may have grown to like being referred to as a ‘Rookie’, but aside from ability, I certainly don’t feel like one. Make sure you follow our team and be inspired, like I have, by this incredible group of women. I promise you won’t regret it.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and outdoor
Sapphire Series 2019/2020

Sapphire 2019/20. Round 4 MVPs and Recap

GAME 1: LEICESTER FALCONS

The first game of the day welcomed the  Leicester Falcons to the fantastic facilities at the House of Sport. The last time the two teams faced each other in the series, defence had been dominant on both sides resulting is a nail biting finish. With both teams having more time to prepare for the matchup the question was whether the offences could match the defensive aggression.

For the Valkyries, despite losing the skills of last round’s overall MVP Sara Pratt due to injury, this round we saw the return of last season’s defensive MVP and line-backer Lauren Oldacre who immediately picked up where she had left off before. With both teams hungry for the win, it was again the defences that started strongest. The Valkyries shutting down the Falcons on the first possession while the Falcons’ heavy pressure forced a safety on the Valkyries’ first possession.

Undeterred, the Valkyries defence led by the line-backer unit of Lauren, Zoë Wilder, and Zoe John continued to put the pressure on the Falcons, forcing sacks, fumbles, and limiting their strong run game. When the Falcons were forced to pass, corners Lois and Ruth were in position to nullify the threat along with Lauren who dropped back into coverage to make an interception. The pressure from all defensive personnel was evident all game, never allowing the Falcon offence time to get established and it was great to see rookies Maria Cook and Hayley Dobbs getting plenty of valuable game time.

For the Valkyrie offense, they began to feed off the energy that the defence was bringing. Patience was the key here. With the defence ensuring that the Falcons were kept out of the endzone, the offence were able to adapt the game plan to target the weaknesses of the opposition. With the Falcons needing to account for the ever-present threat of receiver Ruth Lewis, the Offensive Line began to create lanes for the strong running back trio of QB Katherine and Running backs Laura and Zoë Wilder.

The breakthrough came on a piece of individual brilliance from RB Laura. Taking the run to the left she was swarmed by Falcon defenders and it looked like it was going to be another safety for the Falcons. However, breaking free of the would-be tackler she reversed direction and came all the way back across the field before turning it up the sideline for a full length of the field score to put the Valkyries up.

With the offence full of confidence and the defence continuing to put the pressure on, the interception by Lauren gave the ball back to the Valkyries in touching distance of the endzone. After a few strong runs, QB Katherine powered over the line to take the score at half time to 12-2

The second half was a carbon copy of the first. The Valkyrie’s defence continuing to exert pressure and deny the Falcon running game any time or space, while the offence continued to run the ball effectively. A Falcon fumble again gave the Valkyries the ball close to the endzone with the same result as before, with Katherine pushing through Falcon defenders to cross the line. A new formation saw LB Zoe John come on at wingback to lead the blocking for the extra point that saw Laura take the snap as QB and run in untouched.

With the Falcons needing to move the ball quickly and turning to the pass, Ruth Lewis came up with a big interception to again give the Valkyries great field position. With Ruth now showing the Falcons the versatility of the Valkyrie’s backfield by moving to QB herself, she called her own number and, with great blocking on the edge, forced her way into the endzone for another score.

The celebrations began when the final whistle sounded – A first win for the Valkyries and on home ground!

Final score:

Cardiff: 25 – Leicester: 2

Image may contain: 2 people, sky and outdoor

GAME 2: CHESHIRE BEARS

Unfortunately for Leicester, who lost several of their team during our game, they withdrew from their game against the Cheshire Bears, which gave the Valkyries a quick turn-around to get ready to face the Bears.

Injuries within the Valkyries meant that we started the game without standout QB Katherine, with Ruth taking her place at QB. Three plays into the game and Laura Johnson was unfortunately injured requiring medical treatment. A little while later and Ruth was also forced from the game after suffering an ankle injury after a hit from the Bear’s defensive line.

However, despite losing three key players on offence, the heart of the Valkyries’ efforts shone through. With Zoe Wilder now stepping as the fourth string QB, players from defence were asked to come across and fill in the spots required. With corners and line backers playing at receiver as well as line backers and defensive line filling in at wingbacks it meant that most played the full game going both ways. With the classroom work really being tested on the field the newly formed offence began to gain some success against the strong Cheshire defence. Some good runs got chunks of yards and it was great to see corner Lois hauling in the pass from Zoe to help move the ball. However, despite the efforts, the Cheshire defence overall proved too strong and ultimately snuffed out the attacks

On the defensive side of the ball, there were hard hits and lots of energy from the Valkyries, as well as an interception by Zoe John. Though the tackles came in thick and fast, the Bears’ offense kept driving and driving. With fresh legs and an incredibly strong offensive line, the Bears gradually began to pull away as the gaps in the defence began to open.

Play after play the Valkyries fought, and although the end score giving a loss of 37-0 to the Bears, the coaches couldn’t be any prouder of the team. Head coach Simon Browning comments:

“As the dust settles on yesterday and the end of the Sapphire season for us it is still hard to put into words how proud I am of the team and my fellow coaches.

I have been around the sport for many years. I have been on teams that been facing large deficits and watched them quit, or point fingers. I have never seen that with this group. As I looked onto the field with a few minutes to go I saw my corner at receiver, my Will backer at slot receiver, my Mike backer at Wingback and my RB/FS operating as the 4th string QB. But what made the moment special was that I watched my 4th string QB lead a huddle with more defensive players in it than offensive, call her own plays and have success. Everyone was working together. There was no quit. There was no finger pointing. And as I turned back to the side line I saw a rookie playing in her first ever games. She had a huge smile on her face and said “this is awesome”.”

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

MVPS

Evident through the round reviews, there are several names mentioned which indicate how essential they were to the game. These player MVPs are well deserved, congratulations!

Defensive: Lauren Oldacre

Offensive: Katherine Fretwell

Overall: Zoë Wilder

We hope all injured players make a speedy recovery. With thanks to Leicester and Cheshire for an incredible season, we wish the teams luck in their fight in the finals on March 14th!

It is with our continued thanks that we mention LexisNexis® Risk Solutions who sponsored this event. This tournament would not have been possible with their sponsorship, let alone in the high standard of facilities at House of Sport.

Sapphire Series 2019/2020

Sapphire Series 2019/2020 Round 3 recap and MVPs

The Valkyries returned to action for round 3 of Sapphire. Having suffered several injuries, this was to be the first action since the 7th December, having been forced to miss out round 2.

Despite several key injuries remaining, the squad was fortunate to welcome back a couple of key players to the squad who were hungry to get back out onto the field

Cardiff v Cheshire

The first game saw the Valkyries pitted against the ever strong Cheshire Bears. Right from the start the Bears proved why they are the force to beat in the division establishing their run game behind a great performance from their O-line. With strong blustery conditions present all day, the game turned into one that saw the run being the primary play call on both sides.

Despite the early onslaught in the first half the Valkyries defence began to rally in the second and create some stops against the formidable Bear’s run game – really epitomising the never say die attitude that the team has.

On Offence, Ruth Lewis, taking her first snaps at QB began to settle into the game and formed a great 1-2 threat with running back Laura Johnson. With holes beginning to open on both sides as tiredness set in, Laura managed to break a couple of tackles, reverse direction across the field and take it almost the full length of the field for the score in an amazing solo effort. As the game went on, and with the wind now behind them, the Valkyries tried to open up the game with more of  passing threat. After a few near misses Ruth hit Katherine Fretwell, one of the players coming back form injury on a deep ball over the top of the defence with Katherine doing the rest for the long TD play.

Overall the game finished 54-12 to the Bears, who were deserved winners. However, the manner of the performance in the second half provided some confidence going into the second game of the day.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and outdoor

Cardiff v Leicester

After a short turnaround the Valkyries were back out on the field, this time facing the hosts Leicester. With confidence on the rise, dancing on the sideline and a new defence ready to be unveiled the team were in high spirits.

With the wind still posing a factor, but dropping for periods, there was scope for the Valkyries to try to continue to open up the playbook and look to be more balanced in attack. With Ruth continuing to gain confidence in calling plays from the QB position and some excellent play from the back-up O-line of Katie Rappell and Jennifer Davies, who were forced into action for the day following injuries, the options began to open to attack a very spirited Leicester defence.

Overall the game was one of near stalemate. While the Valkyries offence found ways to move the ball, the Leicester defence continued to make critical stops at key times to stem the drives. On the other side, the Valkyries defence played possibly its best game to date and managed to shut down what was a very strong running attack of Leicester, giving no room to operate.

Despite rotating players into the defence in order to keep bringing in fresh legs, they never let up. Led by outstanding play from veteran linebacker Zoe John and ably supported by Free Safety Zoe Wilder and Corner Sara Pratt, they kept turning back the Leicester Offence.

Finally the deadlock was broken by a piece of individual brilliance from Ruth Lewis. Despite a pass play being called, Ruth read the situation, tucked it and took off for a full length of the field score. Despite not converting the extra point, this put the Valkyires in front 6-0.

The game continued to go back and forth for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, a fumble on the Valkyries 5 yard line, recovered by Leicester in the final minutes meant a high drama finish to what had been an enthralling game. With 3 consecutive stops it all came down to the final play from just a few inches out. Unfortunately the power of the Leicester run game saw them push over the line for the tying score. Another fantastic tackle at the goal line denied them the winning extra point and ensuring that the game finished a draw 6-6

Despite the end, it was great to see the performances from both sides of the ball. The games really showed the hard work that the players had put in and with many playing out of their usual position there was great experience to be had for all. They quite rightly finished extremely pleased of themselves and their performances and left the coaches proud.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

MVPs

It was hard for coaches to select MVPs as there were lots of great performances. However, following much debate the following were selected.

Defensive – Zoe Wilder

Had one of her best performances in her Free Safety role. Always up looking to get involved and make tackles, she was a constant disruption on the day and certainly relished her amended role against Leicester

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a sport and outdoor

Offensive – The O-Line

With veteran Mandy anchoring a line consisting of not only 2 rookies, but rookies that were recently playing other positions they not only held up well against a powerful Cheshire D-Line but started to really create time and space for both Ruth and Laura in the backfield. It was a great performance and really set the tone for what the offence was able to do on the day

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a sport and outdoor

Overall – Sara Pratt & Ruth Lewis

This was the hardest one to give. When looking at overall MVP coaches look for a player that had a profound impact upon the outcome of the game. In both Sara and Ruth there were two players that influenced the game both on Offence and Defence.

Despite playing Corner, Sara was asked to play a heavy role in the defence of the run game and never backed down form any tackle. She not only set the edge brilliantly on the day and let the help get there but also made the tackles when they were needed. Not only that but she made several long chase downs that saved scores – showing immense effort and hustle to be involved in every play. Alongside this Sara played WR and made some critical blocks out on the edge to allow runners to get extra yardage.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and outdoor

On the offence, Ruth showed a high level of poise and composure to run the offence in her first games at QB. Despite the nerves to start, she quickly settled into the game and began to read the defence in front of her, making critical decisions on plays to take advantage of what the defence gave her. A sign of her growing confidence was her ability to take on more of the play calling through the games or to recognise what needed to be done. The level of play, and the confidence she gave to the rest of the team, was one of the fundamental reasons for the success of the offence on the day.

Image may contain: people playing sports and outdoor

The next round will be held in Cardiff House of Sport on February 29th! See you there!

With thanks to ‘Photos by Furfie’ (www.photosbyfurfie.com) and Peth (@pethsphotography) for the incredible shots!

Uncategorized

HOME TOURNAMENT SPONSORSHIP!

We have some amazing news…We are very excited to announce that we have been sponsored by LexisNexis® Risk Solutions to host our home tournament in Sapphire Series! Here’s a little more information on our tournament sponsor:

“LexisNexis Risk Solutions uses data and advanced analytics to help businesses make quicker and smarter risk decisions. We design systems that help find and identify people, detect all manner of financial crime, like identity theft, fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as helping people without credit histories, obtain access to funds.

As a business we highly value resilience and teamwork – two essential attributes for success in any sport, not least the physicality and speed of American Football. As a Wales-based business with strong links to the United States, it felt more than a little appropriate to get behind Wales’s only all-female American football team for the forthcoming Sapphire Series Tournament. We’re delighted to offer our support and we wish the Cardiff Valkyries the very best of British and American luck in the forthcoming tournament”.

Anyone who has experience hosting large events will appreciate the financial implications involved for a club. So we are honoured that LexisNexis have chosen to sponsor us! This sponsorship will help the team cover essential costs for the tournament, including pitch hire, medical cover, and other expenses.

The event will be held on February 29th, with full details to be announced in the event page!

For more information about our sponsor, please visit their website: https://risk.lexisnexis.co.uk/about-us…

(LexisNexis is a registered trademark of RELX Inc., used with permission)

Sapphire Series 2019/2020

Sapphire 2019/20: Round 1 review and MVPs

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports, grass, sky and outdoor

CARDIFF VALKYRIES v CHESHIRE BEARS

Final Score: 36-18

The Valkyries had faced the Bears before in the 2018/19 season and so knew that the game was going to be a physical affair. With players having also competed in various Diamond series there was a great sense of rivalry between the teams as friends off the field got to go head-to-head on it.

From the outset the game went as envisaged with both teams going back and forth at each other. The Bears landed the first blows with some powerful running for a score, but undeterred the Valkyries hit back through the powerful running of Laura Johnson.

Both defences were bringing the pressure and time after time saw Valkyries in the backfield, either shutting down runs or putting pressure on the Bears QB. In the secondary Zoe Wilder almost had a couple of interceptions and it was great to see club President Lois McConville, in her first match back from injury, solid in the tackle when needed.

With both offences facing heavy pressure, it was a case of looking for that big play and the Valkyries found one in a great pass from QB Kira Walker that found the ever-safe hands of Ruth Lewis, who did the rest taking it the distance.

Despite only 2 points separating the teams at half time, the size of the Bear’s squad began to show in the second half. Fresh legs kept the pressure up on the Valkyries and the pressure from the powerful Bear’s Defensive Line was rewarded with several defensive scores to end the game 36-18

Despite the score line it was great to see the new wave of Valkyries in action. A true baptism of fire against a powerful Bears squad did not deter them and they showed the “never say die” spirit that typifies the Valkyrie way. Fighting to the end, they did themselves proud.

CARDIFF VALKYRIES v LEICESTER FALCONS

Final Score: 20-8

With a short turn around of 20 mins the Valkyries were back in action again, this time facing the Falcons. With previous gaming experiences as the Division 1 Derby Braves, before forming as the Falcons, there was a sense of the unknown for the Valkyries.  With only a brief chance to see them in action against the Bears, the game was one of new challenges, bringing a fascinating and very different gaming experience to Cheshire.

Offensively, the Valkyries faced a very different style of play resulting in a different game plan to game 1. However, with the offensive line opening holes, the outcome was the same with more powerful running form Laura Johnson leading to another full field run for a score.

The game became another where both teams traded blows with Zoe Wilder coming in at running back to gain the hard yards and another long throw to Ruth Lewis ultimately coming up short of the endzone.

On defence, the Valkyries were facing a new style of offence and rookies were constantly tested to adapt to the well drilled and executed blocking schemes of the Falcons. On the outside, corners Lois and Ruth, as well as rookies Sara Pratt and Maria Cook, were called upon to play a big part in the run defence making plenty of big hits. Defensive adjustments began to cause pressure on the Falcons with Linebacker Zoe John causing fumbles and also getting a safety.

However, despite another non-stop effort, the Falcons execution ultimately proved to be the decider with the relentless running punching in for a couple of scores to seal the game 20-8

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

Round 1 MVPs

While the score lines may not have gone in our favour, there was no denying the heart and spirit that the team showed throughout the day. The team took several rookies to the tournament and all not only contributed on the field but embodied the Valkyrie spirit of playing hard to the final whistle with a smile on their face. This is also despite being asked to play a range of positions through the day as well as adjust to new plays and tactics in real time, a true testament to how hard they have worked during the pre-season.

Given the effort shown by all, choosing MVPs was a hard job for the coaches as there were many great performances. However, the final decision came to…

DEFENSIVE MVP

Such a great performance from across the board. Rookie Sara Pratt showing immense hustle chasing down the ball carrier to save what seemed like a certain scored that typified the effort she showed all day. At Linebacker, both Katie and Jennifer gave it everything they had with constant effort and determination. They were constantly hustling to the ball and looking to play aggressive with real tenacity. Katie also came across and covered on the Oline as well in great two-way performance.

Overall though, the defensive MVP was Zoe John. Leading from the front, the veteran Linebacker made tackle after tackle. Always a thorn in the opposition side she seemed to always either be in the QBs face or hunting down the runner. A true captain’s performance and one whose energy and enthusiasm positively affected all those around her.

OFFENSIVE MVP

Facing strong pressure across both games the Oline gave the QB the time needed at key points allowing the explosive plays to the receivers. At receiver, Sara Pratt executed her role brilliantly. With crisp routes and great blocking on the edge it was great to see her develop and she showed the potential to really grow as the tournament progresses.

Overall though, Laura Johnson was the game changer. Either breaking runs to the outside or straight up the middle, she was a constant threat with ball in hand all day and thoroughly deserves the MVP award.

OVERALL MVP

Overall one player stood out across the board. Another veteran leader of the team, she helped inspire those around her to greater levels of play. Asked to play the majority of tournament both ways as both receiver and corner she executed both to the high standard we have come to expect. On defence she was hustling to the ball and making key tackles in the run game. On Offence, she played her role to perfection and was duly rewarded for her efforts.

Congratulations Ruth Lewis.

Uncategorized

Coaches’ Corner: BAFCA Coaching Convention

The annual BAFCA coaching convention kicked off in Nottingham with coaches from all over the UK in attendance. With a mix of classroom based and field based sessions there was so much to take away that can be utilised in developing the coaching practices at the Valkyries. The day started off with a talk on building a team with plenty of real life applications, advice and points to consider. Following that was two excellent talks from ex-NFL coaches on O-Line and QB play. The sessions were full of clear coaching points and tips that were a fascinating insight to the intricacies of these positions. Ending the day was a chance to watch these NFL level coaches in action on the field for live drills. It was an excellent chance to watch them in action and see how they pick up on different aspects of player performance and then rectify it. Overall copious notes were taken and thoughts are already turning to how they can be incorporated into Valkyries training to boost player development.

Day 2 carried on where day 1 left off with a range of classroom sessions. In the spirit of looking at different areas for new ideas I went to both flag football sessions to see how they handled issues around philosophy, game planning and scheme. Led by both Kenny Bello (defence) and Joe Cotterill (Offence) they were a fascinating insight into how they not only prepare themselves but, more importantly, their players to have success. The talks were full of points that were easily translatable into the contact version we play and certainly provided a lot of food for thought. Following that was an offensive session from Coach Mazzone who gave multiple insights into how he prepares for both games and training. A key phrase to come out of this was how he looks to “give players the answers to the test before they take the test”. Here is the emphasis on preparation and communication and ways in which we as coaches can convey information to players so that they can understand it. Again, many take always on how information can be structured and presented which will certainly be a help to us

The final day continued the trend of providing thought provoking sessions that really challenged us to think about what we were doing. First up was an in-depth look at constructing a defence for the women’s game that was full of key insights and statistically based theory. It was a truly fascinating look at how the best team in the country go about it and thanks must go to Coach Branagh for providing that level of detail and openness. This was one talk that certainly had the most direct take aways capable of making an immediate impact on the Valkyries. Following this was an offensive talk that forced us to really consider the ‘why’ behind what we do. At times a very uncomfortable talk due to the way it really made you consider exactly why you were doing what you were doing but ultimately one that gave very positive reinforcement and practical tips on how you could move forward so that you placed your players in the best position to succeed. In amongst these were talks about how to incorporate the Tight End position into an offence drawing on Phoebe Schecter’s direct experience with the Buffalo Bills and more from Coach Mazzone who went in depth on play install both in the passing and running game.

Overall it was a fascinating convention. Full of excellent talks that were full of direct tips and advice that could be taken away and utilised. It presented lots of challenges to our established ways of working and gave us new insights into how we might develop and, ultimately, give our players a better chance of success. Alongside this it was a great chance to meet coaches from all over the country and talk about how they do things and how they have overcome issues. Cant wait now to look to see how we can put these into action here at the Valkyries.

Physis

Valkyries Mention of the Month

With the women’s season in a stand by, the Britball nation is ongoing through other platforms, including the lead up to the European championships for the GB Lions squad.

For both the flag and tackle squad, they are hard at work preparing, and in BOTH of the squads we have Valkyrie, Ruth!

An incredible achievement and a true demonstration of what hard work and belief can get you, June’s Mention of the Month – Sponsored by Physis Ltd – goes to Ruth Lewis!

Physis

Valkyries Mention of the Month

Bringing our year to a fabulous close, our awards ceremony at the start of the month went out with a bang! At any event, there’s lots of organising to do – ordering trophies, food, venues (and one with a fabulous karaoke facility of course…). SO…this month’s Valkyrie of the month – sponsored by Physis. Ltd – goes to Zoe and Mandy for the work put into making our fabalous event happen!

Thanks to you both!

Sapphire Series 2018/2019

End of Year Awards 2019

With the season at a close, we come to our awards ceremony which celebrates the achievements of the team, but importantly to those individuals who provided a stand out and influential performance on the team…

Rookie MVP

We had a lot of rookies this year that we threw into the mix, with very little instruction from the side-line because you couldn’t physically come off for us to tell you what you need to do. But again one of the greatest thing we had as a rookie class you picked up what we were trying to do very quickly. In many respects it was easy for us to do what we needed to do, to basically trust you to go out and do it because as a class you showed that desire to learn you showed that desire to get better and understand what was going on. Not just physically in the game but outside and beyond as well. And there were certainly a few people we could have given this award to, there were several stand out rookies. The person that we went to was one that gave a contribution both sides of the ball. On the offense often doing a lot of the dirty work, the less glamour side of stuff. On the defense being thrust into positions not fully understanding. Effectively learning on the fly, but again giving a solid contribution in that as well. So the person we’re giving this award to is Zoe Wilder.

Lineman MVP

This is for both offense and defense, and there were many contributions on both sides. Again we were plugging and playing people with very short notice without necessarily a lot of training sessions behind them, but going in there and doing what we asked of them to do. The person we are giving the award to gave a consistent presence on the line, the leadership she showed and developed through the season really helped a lot of this to actually work, the way she coordinated people and what they needed to do to take control of the line situation. And then that epic day when she never ever came off the field even though she begged us to do it, so this award goes to Mandy.

Defensive MVP

I really loved all of your efforts this year I thought it was incredible, and there was a huge amount of trust. I want to mention a couple of people who I thought did an absolutely outstanding job. One was Zoe Wilder who did an outstanding job at free safety with little experience of the position, and then corner as well. She really picked it up and she really did a great job and made a real difference on the field. And the other person I want to mention is Sophie. You did an incredible job, you always chased them down and it really made a difference for our line to put in that effort and we can’t wait to see what you do next year. And the person who’s getting it, she was a real game changer, she was in every play and our defense would have been different without you, Lauren.

Offensive MVP

The player that’s won this, as an offensive coach you realise when someone’s come to a particular point when the defense it trying to get that player out of the game. We’ve seen it before in the past, and you can see opposition coaches try and take this person out of the game. And that to be is a symbol of what this person was. She was a real threat on offense and she really had the potential to change the game and make defences worried. And then again sort of typifying that, with the Kent game, stepping in and catching the eyes of GB scouts just on one performance, so our offensive player of the year goes to Laura.

Overall MVP

Again, we’ve got a lot of talent in this team so picking an overall player of the year is not easy. We’ve got players that are playing the game at a very high level for us and putting the effort in, and all round and helping all round. Someone like Ruth helping people and guiding them through, helping us on the side-line for example. But the person who won the overall one had in our minds a dominant year and who contributed on both sides of the ball she’s someone who was dominant in her chosen position but when placed on the other side she put in outstanding performances there. Going up to Hereford as well and suddenly realising she’s now turning into a running back as well so just on pure impact throughout the entire year this award goes to Lauren.

Coaches’ Player

This isn’t about who is the best player, this is about somebody who we as coaches feel has contributed to the team than in more ways that just on the field. It’s somebody who’s practices and games outside of all those sessions. The player who’s won this has not only had a very good year from a playing point of view, how she’s developed from where she was to where she is has grown dramatically, and she’s someone who constantly pushing us as coaching staff, constantly asking questions, constantly striving to get better, constantly striving to improve her performance and be the best that she possible can be. And again from a coaching point of view that’s ideal for us, is pushes us to get better, it pushes you to get better. And from what we can tell she’s been a great team player as well. Unfortunately she’s not here tonight in true form but coaches’ player is Katherine.

Valkyries’ Valkyrie

Finishing off with Valkyries’ Valkyrie. The reason why we do this last is because in my mind it  is the most important of all. This is just by the players, someone that epitomizes what it means to play for this club. I’m lucky enough to read some of the comments you’ve made with you nominations, it’s one of my favourite parts to see how you view each other. Reading just a couple of comments before announcing, we’ve got Lois for her dedication to the team this year even as she’s not able to play because she’s injured, still turning up, taking warm ups, still being involved. Zoe for her hard work and her dedication. Kira, for always helping others on the line, always helping others, making people feel welcomed, and being very approachable. Lauren as well. Ruth – and a comment there being “half the stuff this year I wouldn’t have been able to have done without Ruth”. We’ve got one for Katherine about how much she’s improved, how motivating she is to everyone. Another one for Mandy and her dedication to training, meeting outside of training to help with playbooks. This is one of those things that are really great to read that as a club you’re all coming together, you’re all helping each other in a supportive environment, which is one of the most important things we do as a club. But, there was actually a tie this year for Valkyries’ Valkyrie: Ruth and Lois.

Flump Award

Perhaps the most prestigious award, the Flump Award is the clumsiest award for the night. It’s for things like Ruth, breaking her fingers, and then playing again, and then breaking her thumb and tying to play in a cast. Things like Zoe, getting two flags in one play. And there’s many other things. But the one it goes to is for someone who stepped into a certain position, not really sure what she was doing, made an excellent run with the ball, covered MILES, and then threw the ball forward. So this award goes to Laura.

For the coaches and our President

We just wanted to say a big thank you to Simon and Kate as a club from all of us to our wonderful coaches this year just for always being there for us, making sure we’re okay, dealing with our humor, dealing with the fact we love dogs, and have very short attention spans…and just to say thank you for sticking with us and coaching us. Although a lot of our players were on the field all the time, for you still still give us feedback, pointers, it’s just really amazing. So thank you again.

And to our Club President, Lois. She works incredibly hard as president of the club. There’s a lot of things that go into this team and being this team is really special. There’s ups and downs and we also look forward despite any struggles. You are a major cornerstone in this outlook.

To the team. thank you very much for your hard work, and we can’t wait for next year. Roll on next year!

#RideOfTheValkyries

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Instagram