Category: Tackle Football

Tackle Football


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

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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?” 


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.

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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.

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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.

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Flag Football

Aim, upgrade, improve.

Two Valkyries had another early start as they traveled to Warwick University to attend an ‘Upgrade Your Catching Technique’ course run by the Head coach of the GB Women’s flag team, Andrew Gambrill.

The day started with introductions and a classroom session, reminding us all of the fundamentals of the catch and how one might catch on different routes. On the field we were introduced to a couple of finger strengthening and dexterity exercises, that most people will no doubt have practiced over the Bank holiday already! It wasn’t long into the Quiet Fingers catching practice that the session was unfortunately rained off and attendees sought shelter & lunch. Back out onto the field and rain, once again interrupted the Clock drill. Thankfully, the good people of Warwick Uni found a sports hall to continue the session.


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All participants nailed the various drills including, over shoulder, wrong shoulder, overhead catches and easy ups under the watchful eye of Andrew, who provided great feedback. All participants had grown in confidence in their catching throughout the day that there were no qualms when it came to the dreaded one-handed catches! Each attendee caught the ball one-handed after sticking with the fundmentals they had been taught throughout the day. A final test of the ‘low ball’ competition (won by our Valkyrie – Ruth Lewis) which tested the longevity of your squat as well as your catching and reaction time and it was time to head back to Wales.

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“I had a really great day – well worth the 5am alarm! It’s great to go back to basics every now and then and focus on one element of the game. If you can nail the catch and make it second nature then you can concentrate on other things – like how you might dupe the defence! Andrew broke the day & the techniques down in such a way that there was something for everyone. One attendee commented that she hadn’t realised before that you catch with your fingers, not your palms; while it was clear that others’ catching success and confidence were through the roof by the end of the day. I’ve already been practicing my finger strengthening exercises and can’t wait to put them into practice on the field!”

Tackle Football

Diamond Series 2018 review

This years’ Diamond Series – a full 11 a-side series – was not one to forget, seeing a number of Valkyries play in the first ever newly formed Heartlands Shock. Over three training sessions and two game days they played their hearts out, and they had this to say about the team and their experiences;


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Ruth: Wide Receiver #88

Diamond 2018 was phenominal, I relished every minute! It was so great to work with new coaches who had fantastic insights and who never stopped supporting us. Meeting with and playing with women from all over the UK, from all different divisions was a great experience. There are so many talented women in Britball I can’t wait to see them all again.

The highlight for me was my touchdown but I would say the best part of the whole series was meeting and working with amazing people. It surprised me how much different the 11a-side game was to the 7 aside – more people around you to take you out! A lot a of different challenges in both types of the game, but I hope to incorporate everything I’ve learned in 11s to 7s.

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Lauren – Defensive Line

With this being my first time participating in the Diamond series, and only having competed in Sapphire twice as my only experience of playing American Football prior (both times playing 7-a-side), it’s understandable that I approached the event with some trepidation. My knowledge of the sport is still shaky at best (being that I don’t tend to watch sports, just play them), and having only just got 7-a-side football knowledge under my belt, jumping up to 11-a-side felt incredibly daunting.

Nevertheless, once I got stuck in and attending two of the three training sessions and the two game dates, I thoroughly loved every minute of it. This year was my debut to Defense in Sapphire, and I continued this as I went through to Diamond, registering as a defensive end. Diamond also introduced me to the world of Special Teams, which was an entirely foreign concept to me in itself. The learning curve felt steep at some times, but it doesn’t take long to see that a lot of players are in the same boat and that everyone—both coaches and players—are there with the primary goal of making sure that everyone is just basically having a good time.

Over the course of Diamond, I feel that I definitely improved as a player—but not just in improving the things I was currently doing, but also being able to identify the areas that could use further work, such as tackling and handwork. In saying that, the toughest part for me was definitely in the second full game of the second date whereby injuries meant I had to fill in for a few positions I’d never been coached in! But as nerve-wracking as that was, I knew no one would judge me as long as I tried my best, and I think it’s a privilege to be part of a team like that.

More than anything, I think Diamond was a fantastic opportunity to build on my current skill set, try something new and also—most importantly, in my opinion—to make friends and play the sport we all love.


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Sheryl – Defensive Line #98

Development as a player: was able to focus on more d-line specific skills through Diamond than I have ever been able to which I’m hoping will help me up my game next sapphire with coaching and direction from people who play in a GB capacity or within their own 11 a side teams. 11 aside experience was good. Helped bring everything together and bring through the importance of all of the individual units working together to achieve a common goal. My goals next sapphire are just to be the best I can be in a d-line position


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Zoe – Linebacker #58

Diamond  Series was such an amazing experience. From the knowledge developed in training, to the full-on 11 aside games, to the new friends made, it was a series that I certainly won’t forget.

The opportunity to have access to such experienced and passionate coaches was a privilege I don’t take likely. They spent so much time with us, tweaking the smallest of details, but also making sure we were having fun all the way through. On a personal level I’ve learned more about football full-speed at 11s than I have before, as well as points to improve. I’m so excited to take all of this knowledge and hopefully develop further.

I do think, however, that one of the memories that will stick with me most is being chosen as one of the defensive captains. It was such an incredible honour–something I wouldn’t even think was a possibility as I signed up to the series – and although we didn’t take away the win everyone should be incredibly proud of themselves and what they’ve achieved. Everyone came together and continued to work, work, work, making history as the first Heartlands Shock team.

Women’s football in the UK is growing and developing at an amazing rate, and I think Diamond Series is a testament to that. Let’s see what next year bring for the Heartlands Shock! #ShockItToEm


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Sarah – Offensive Line #59

So only taking up American football at the beginning of this year due to a rookie day with cardiff Valkyries I found myself this year signing up for Diamond, my first time at 11 a side! Attending Training was nerve wracking and finding myself on the Offensive line with some amazing ladies and some GB players who towered above me, definitely made me feel worried at my American football knowledge. Training was really structured and throughly enjoyed the team moral that was building between all the players, getting stronger with each session. I did struggle at first with getting my head around new play calls but with the experience on the line and the guidance of the O Line coach Ross, I soon got my head around them and practice did make perfect! The games were another level and loved seeing be enthusiasm of the teams, the coaches and each player. We were graced with beautiful weather and even though the distance to travel to the games was a killer, we gave it our all!! I loved the experience of diamond and the skills I’ve learnt I cannot wait for sapphire to start up to show my development. I would encourage anyone that’s never done diamond to try it just once!! I’ve made friends for life and cannot thank the Heartland Shock team bringing us together!

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Claire – Offensive Line #79

Diamond was awesome! An incredible opportunity to learn so much about a specific position. I was so lucky to get such an amazing team of incredible ladies on the O line. I actually really miss them now it’s over. I really miss football too. Can’t believe I’ve got to wait till November now

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Elleanor – Defensive Back #24

Speaking on behalf of Elleanor, there are two words to describe her awesome sauce performance during Diamond Series…Interception City!

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Simon – Receiver coach #1 <3

Being able to coach in the Diamond Series for the newly formed Heartland Shock was an honour and a privilege. That a new team needed to be created to cater for the demand says a lot about how far the sport has come in just a short space of time.

While I couldn’t attend every event, those that I did were amazing experiences. The sheer energy and ethusiam shown by everyone was immense. For almost every player, they had never experienced 11-a-side before so were truly breaking new personal grounds. For others, it was their first taste of football at all. Everyone gave absolutely everything into the sessions and games, but more importantly did it with a smile.

It is this aspect that I will take away most from the series. No matter what was happening. No matter what the situation. No matter how hot it was. Everyone was always smiling. Everyone was always enjoying themselves.

It was great to see a number of Valkyries attending the series. Putting yourself in these unfamiliar situations is not an easy thing to do. However, they all took to it completely naturally and played brilliantly. Whether it was Elleanor making interceptions, Zoe getting hits in the backfield, Lauren and Sheryl putting pressure on the QB, Ruth getting big catches, or Sarah and Claire doing all the unseen work on the Oline, each made their impact to a team full of some of the best talent in the country. They certainly caught the eyes of other coaches and (hopefully!) GB scouts as well. I couldn’t be prouder of their efforts.


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Sapphire Series 2018

Sapphire 2018 awards ceremony

It was an incredible night on Saturday at our end of year awards ceremony! Here is a review from our coaches of our MVP winners for Sapphire Series 2018…

One of the reasons why this club is going strength to strength is because a lot of people are doing a lot of different things. We were developing really quickly, throwing a lot of stuff at the team this year. We had injuries, different absences, and we were being forced to especially on offense to go into games with one recognisable receiver, as well as no running back. It’s not what you usually go into a game with.

But overall, the fact that the team were able to respond the way that they did, putting new things in, trying things out (and often at the drop of a hat), for us it makes it that much easier – so the whole team should all be proud of themselves of what they’ve done this year, and we’ve really set the foundation now to go on next year.


On to the the awards…

Coaches’ Player – Zoe John

This is a new award for this year. The coaches player is not about the best player, it’s about the intangibles that go around being part of the team, and there was quite a debate as to who should get this. As a coaching staff we were seeing all these different things by players, and at one point there was a five way race. Then down to three…

One player in particular was said to be one if not the most coachable players on the team, and for one of the coaches, one of the most coachable players that he’d been around in football over the course of this playing and coaching careers. That was Holly – always learning, carrying on. This was was definitely recognised by the coaching staff.

The other person in the final three was someone who kept going, kept trying, kept working with everything. She kept wanting to know more “what am I doing?”, “how can I get better?”, “what can I improve?”. We’ve asked her to play different roles within the team as well, and she responded really, really well to that and put on some really great performances. That player was Mandy.

The final person and the winner of the overall coaches player is again someone who throws herself completely into the squad. She’s in and around everything, and a lot of the feedback that we get via different routes is that she’s always helping people, always trying to make other people around her better. The winner of the coaches’ player is Zoe.


Offensive MVP – Maria Mercedes May

There’s been a lot great individual performances this year on offense. We went in wanting to do a particular thing which we were then unable to do, and we were effectively adjusting on the fly. Which, again, is never an easy thing to do. Getting Kira to run the offense in training and even in a game isn’t easy, and one of the things we want to say again is we’re trying to give players the knowledge so that they can respond. We had a lot of players on the offense doing this and really stepping up, and also giving a solid performance so that we could continue to compete.

But the winner of the offensive MVP,  not just in respect of the film but in the feedback as well from different players and things we hear throughout the year as well, is a particular player who not only gives a solid level performance every single time that’s of a high level, she’s also helping other people. Always trying to get the best of people that’s around her. And that’s one of the reasons really why she’s getting this award – so the overall offensive MVP is Maria. (Maria was unable to make the award ceremony, but Simon did a smashing job at posing…)



Lineman MVP – Jamillah Robinson-Heather

Another new award for the year, again, we had a lot of good performances on the line on both sides of the ball. It is an area in which we feel quite confident in, and we threw a lot of stuff at the line with a lot of different blocking schemes, really trying to put a lot of stuff. Both sides of the ball we really started to get there, which will be another major strength in the Valkyries going forwards. But, the person who’s won line MVP has had quite a dominant season. Right from the start she was noted by other people from other teams, and we were getting people coming to the coaches, and making comments about this player. This was the case right back from Topaz all the way through into Sapphire Series. The winner of the line award is Jam.



Defensive MVP – Lauren Oldacre

We were really, really proud of our defense this year. I think we went in with a really strong unit, and unfortunately we had injuries and we had to adjust, and it’s never an easy thing to start with a completely new set – especially with no practice. We think every player stepped up and gave us the option to compete like that. It was a really hard choice to actually do the MVP, though there’s a couple of players we’re going to mention who we were very impressed with.

For instance, Mandy. We think she had great defensive season. We asked her to play in two roles that’s she’s never trained in, and she showed a lot of skill and a lot of determination, and she made me really proud of having such a determined player who just picked it up and ran with it. Another person was Sarah who had hardly any training sessions and none on the defense and all she had to go on for this position was a classroom session. We think she did a wonderful job.

The defensive player that we’ve chosen we also ask quite a lot of. We’ve asked her to play more than one role, and she shows a lot of determination and aggression in her play. It was such a pleasure to watch her, she was getting better with each game, her tackles were getting more aggressive, better at reading the opposition, and knowing where the play is going to. So it’s our pleasure to give the defensive award to Lauren.



Overall MVP – Ruth Lewis

Although our overall MVP is nominated early for the the nomination of Sapphire Series MVP, it’s important to acknowledge the reasoning for the nomination. This is someone that gives everything in every single play. When you’ve got opposition defences screaming out where she is on the field and rotating their entire defense to the side of the field to where she is standing, you know that she is a key player. You know that she’s given oppositions a hard time, and to still score the touchdowns that she is scoring with the entire defense watching her says a lot about that. Also then coming across to defense and having to pick up more and more on defense as well, and towards the end pretty much involved in all the tackles at one point – again, throwing herself into a new role and giving everything at that. The tackles, the chases the pursuits – and it’s not easy playing both ways as corner and receiver. So overall MVP is Ruth.



Valkyries’ Valkyrie – Zoe John

For the coaches this is the most important award where most are concerned, because this is the one where we ask who the players believe epitomizes what it means to be a Valkyrie. And what was great was that there was eight people who were nominated for this, and it was almost a four way tie. Looking at some of the comments there was a general theme, and what’s great is that the general theme is about how supportive everyone is. It’s one of the those important things to our culture as a club that we are seen as that family type atmosphere, so this was brilliant. So just picking out a few comments, there’s a couple for Sheryl ‘Shed’ “for being a good shed”, as well as for her leadership as Defensive Captain. Maria, again, for bringing in the new players onto the line and helping them. Holly with some votes, for helping players and being very supportive behind the scenes, Kira for “keeping everything upbeat and taking everything in her stride”, Jam for keeping things up and asking question being involved, and an overall “good egg”. Lois as well for her knowledge, still coming to games and training even though she has one leg, still on the side-lines, being involved. Ruth as well, helping others and and calming nerves. It really is so positive to hear everyone’s comments.

The person who has won the award this year has received comments alongside others around the help she gives, but also in that the soul of the team. She takes on all of the challenges that she’s faced, and she’s there for teammates who are injured. A good all-round teammate and she does so much for the team, too. The Valkyries’ Valkyrie this year is Zoe.


The Flump award : Lois and Jam

Let’s not forget an additional new award for Sapphire Series 2018, the ‘Flump’ award. The ‘Flump’ award is given at the end of each game to the person who made the biggest ‘flump’. The overall Flump award this year was a difficult decision…but it was decided to be a joint winning between Lois for tearing her ACL in the first first (and not even bothering to run for a touchdown may we add…) and Jam, for tearing her achilles without realising, and returning to play in Sapphire Round 4 and practically obliterated it. **Also need to point out how two players can swear a leg brace and a big heckin’ leg boot and still make it look super fly…**



Well done to all of the team for what they have accomplished this year. Going up to 7s in just our second year of tackle was a big leap, and we couldn’t be more proud of you!

With many thanks to O’Neill’s St. Mary Street Cardiff for hosting our event and putting on a fantastic spread!


Tackle Football

Sapphire 2018: Round 1 recap and MVPS

The Valkyries started their game days with the usual early alarms and coffees, and again we faced an entirely new game format with 7 a-side– the nerves were certainly there. However, we knew this was going to be part of something special for Sapphire Series 2018.

Cardiff Valkyries v Wembley Stallions

The first game of the say saw us against Wembley. On the defense we proved to be a strong unit, including a sack by rookie linebacker Ceri Yeoman and pressuring their run game. With all players showing a development in their theoretical knowledge and coverage, the pressure from the whole team was evident in the game. We all know the Wembley are a very talented team, so this really does say words about the D.

On offense the pressure was on with Wembley’s speed. As a result there were several turnovers on offense with slips and slides on the ball. However we did spice things up a bit with an entire offensive line (that’s right – 5 and even 6 offensive lineman!) and played around with several new positions for vets and rookies alike in game time.  Not only this, but some great runs by QB Kira Walker and Han O’Connor at RB, the offense were gaining yardage and never losing spirit.

End score Wembley 36 – Valkyries 0


Cardiff Valkyries v Portsmouth Dreadnoughts

Then after a few minutes rest came the Portsmouth game. Once again defense were a strong performance. Portsmouth’s run and switch plays saw the ability to get past some of the D, scoring up the points. However this doesn’t reflect how many great tackles were made and the pressure that the defense consistently maintained.

Offensively we really started to find our feel for the game (and in such bad weather conditions that really says something…), starting to move the ball more on runs and passes – with a fantastic long catch by Lois McConville. Unfortunately the catch was followed with an injury, and the game was called with ten minutes to go. Even in a shorter game it seemed like a different offense performance – a really great advancement!

End score Portsmouth 32 – Valkyries 0


Offensive MVP

The offensive MVP for round 1 goes to one of our centers, Maria Mercedes May. Off with injury for several months and going up to 7s are major issues for any player, though you wouldn’t have been able to tell for MVP Maria. Maria made a big impact coming on to the field, not only not only with the snaps in bad conditions but also with her blocking against a strong, physical team. Alongside this she also gave great support to the two rookies playing alongside her in their first ever games.

Special mention goes to rookie running back Han O’Connor who really grew into the day and put a great effort into the day with some really great runs. Coming in with limited exposure to real game experience, she grew into the tournament and really started to get it going towards the end with some strong runs. Though with little experience games you would think she has been at the position much longer with the heart she showed in the games.


Defensive MVP

Defense MVP goes to defensive end, Sheryl “Shed” Dame. Sheryl proved to be a dominant force in both games, keeping up the pressure and ensuring some great tackles. Some great pressure and tackles through the games, always putting in the effort to get in and around the action. Had fun in the second game with all the attention she received from the guard and TE at the point of attack but held up well against the blocks. Close to several sacks as well leading the team, defensive captain Sheryl was no doubt a visible influencer in the game.

Special mention goes to receiver and corner, Ruth Lewis. Not only some big hits but also some great covering tackles, including the big chase down along the sideline to prevent a score.


Clearly there are lots of things to take away round 1. We looked to adjust and try new things and it is a testament to where the team are that we were able to try new things and have success with them. Not every team can go out and run an offence that has never been practised at any point at the drop of a hat and with minimal instruction. Not every defence could be put in a completely different alignment and still get success. Not only that but players moved around different positions to cover. Both Mandy shifting over to the DL and then Lauren Oldacre moving to LB to cover was great to see.

It was a long day from start to finish. It was cold, wet, injuries here there and everywhere. But we played with heart the entire day. We know where we can improve, and we know we will. Last year our comparison from round 1 to round 4 was definitely noticeable…let’s see how we improve in comparison this year…


On the note of Lois’ injury we would like to take this moment to thank the medic and the Portsmouth team for their help, with several of their players and coaches staying after the game for quite a significant period of time. Lois will be out for the remainder of the season but it doing well.

Tackle Football

Topaz 2017 – Round 1

Topaz round 1

We always knew that it would be tough taking on two established 7’s team right at the start of our journey. However, anyone that has been following the Valkyries will know we love a challenge! We had a couple of players getting their first ever contact experience and others playing out of position but they all stuck to their tasks really well and developed through the day amazingly. It was great to get that experience of just what 7’s is all about

Read more “Topaz 2017 – Round 1”

Tackle Football

Valkyries are recruiting! Rookie day information…

The time is nearly upon us where the Valkyries welcome some new rookies to join the team and try out the awesome spectacle that is contact football on both the 3rd and 17th September. Our taster days are an incredibly exciting day for the team, hoping to expand and hoping to introduce a fun new sport to the women who attend. Now understandably, not a lot of people know anything about American Football. Even more understandably, some of you might be nervous!

We know exactly how it feels to have a go at a completely new sport, so we thought we would take this opportunity to write a blog about our feelings in the past, present, and future of the team, and also go through the idea of American football in general. Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to know the rules, routes, or even have an idea of American Football. Just turn up and have a go!

Read more “Valkyries are recruiting! Rookie day information…”

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