As you may know a few of the Valkyries attended BAFA’s Flag Football Development Day! Head Coach Simon (and also an offensive GB Flag coach, who was running the day) had this to say about the event:
“The development day was a new format, where we sought to challenge participants mentally about the game rather than focussing on fundamentals. Through this we focussed on two main areas. First, the question of why? Why do we do the formations we do? Why do we run the concepts we do? Second, we then looked at what information we could gain from the opposition. What ‘tells’ can they give us through their alignment or body language? Then what we can do with that information to make our play more effective.”
As we players reflect on the event, there is no other better way to say it but “What a day”! We battled the elements to earn the right to call ourselves football players. It was great to see how many women had taken the steps to show up to better our performances on the pitch – which is exactly what we did. As the day went on the progression of each player was easy to see. But let’s start at the beginning…
It was an early 6.30 start for the Valkyries from Cardiff. A brief stop on the way to stock up on caffeine and a clean-eating, protein-rich, gain-friendly cake or two and we were soon in Portsmouth to begin our classroom session. Simon led the engaging session with lots of questions and feedback from those there to learn.
Ruth: “Luckily for me (a WR), we started on offence: What should we be looking for in a defence? As a WR, who only started playing football in January of this year, I generally look at my Corner and maybe the inside players if I was taking an in route. But now, I know what, who to look for and how to exploit weaknesses and where gaps may from. It was then time for defence to learn about the offence and what things that should be looking out for – which then taught me a lot about my position too! Such as, if I am running an in route – don’t look at the players as you’ll give the game away! Or better yet, always look at all the players.”
Zoe and Sheryl: “Though this was a flag football development day we were also attending with tackle football in mind. For the both of us we often view flag being an excellent theoretical tool in our personal understanding of the game, and we can already see after the development day that our skills in both flag and tackle are growing. The layout of the classroom session in addressing both the O and D we really found to be a primary tool. Knowing of course your own movements, your own potential ‘give always’, but also about the O’s. Where are they stood? What routes can they do from there? Which shoulder do I try to manipulate? Moving onto the practical, unfortunately Sheryl with an ankle injury had to sit out (but took some boss photographs!!). However I (Zoe) think one thing the Valkyries holds dear is our strong friendships. When taken out and put with other players – for me – it was quite daunting at first. Will I be confident in myself as a player to speak my voice in the huddle and plays with different coaches? What about trying out a new position and new plays? But really, it was an amazing experience to do those things. I think my abilities to think in speed about what words, what doesn’t work, who is a prime target for the ball, how should I cover certain elements of the field? All of these I feel so much more confident in doing. Certainly we would both highly recommend this development day to any player”.
After a spot of lunch it was time to face the elements and put theory into practice. It’s all very well seeing static X’s and O’s on a board but how would everyone face a fast and dynamic game? It turns out – pretty darn well! Obviously, when you bring different team members into one there are a few teething issues but the offensive and defensive teams soon gelled well and we were all having a lot of fun in true Valkyries style – despite the rain. We started with scripted plays concocted by Coach Browning and then went freestyle with our own plays that the team called together. Just as the weather was not on the side of the offensive’s passing game it also made pulling flags very difficult, which allowed some sneaky manoeuvres and runs. We soon had a standoff between the offence and defence with both teams playing very well with the added element of reading each other to improve the play beyond anything we most likely could have done before. The final drives really struck home to the players and the coaches how much we had all benefitted from the day.
The coaches finally let us in to dry off and (for those of us who had brought them) a change of clothes, although most of us would have liked to have stayed out and played a full game! A relaxed, indoor warm down was followed by a final round up in the class room. We reflected upon what we had learned and what we could see from examples of offensive/defensive lineups. finishing on a high note with a group picture.
The fun and developing atmosphere was certainly recognised by Coach Browning; “The day was great fun for all the coaches to deliver asa result of the engagement and enthusiasm of the participants. It was great to see them pick it up so quickly and then apply it on the field despite awful conditions. With GB coaches in attendance, there was a chance to impress and the players certainly did that with all coaches noting the high performance levels of all involved.”
It was really wonderful to see women (& coaches) from all over the UK coming together in unity & friendship for a chance to learn from each other and the best coaches in the country. Despite playing against each other in the past, we joined as one team! Look out for more development days in the future, as you can see from our experience, it’s worthwhile!