Ruth Lewis has been a part of the Cardiff Valkyries since 2017, she played in the first contact tournament and caught the first TD. Ruth was recently appointed to the Athlete’s committee for British American Football, here she tells us about life with the Valkyries and the future with British American Football.
So how was your first tournament and how did it feel to catch the first touchdown for Cardiff Valkyries in a contact tournament?
To be honest, I didn’t realise it was a touchdown! I remember it was raining and I kind of stepped in as a receiver [Wide Receiver] last minute – I’d been training as a DB [Defensive Back] until the game day. I had no clue about routes and plays but on this particular one I found some space, caught the ball and it happened to be in the end zone. I didn’t really know the rules and I only knew I’d scored because people were cheering!
What made you get into playing football in the first place?
Well, to keep fit, I had been going to the gym and rock climbing with my husband but when my son came along it was difficult for us to manage at the climbing centre. So, I started looking for a group sport that would have a social element to it – somewhere I could make friends. I found that and more.
You found yourself in the GB squad?
Ha! Well yeah – that was a surprise! I hadn’t dreamed that this was where the Valkyries would take me. I just wanted a group to get muddy & go down the pub then all of a sudden, I was down the gym again and playing for different teams, including mixed teams, trying to skill up!
How did you end up on a mixed team?
I went to the GB Flag trials as a kind of ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ Magically, I ended up on the squad and knew I needed to train with a flag team, so I reached out to the Cardiff Hurricanes and they kindly took me on.
And what about the GB contact squad?
As with many women who play contact in Great Britain I wanted a chance to play 11v11 so I took part in the (previously named) Diamond series. Again, magically, I was called up to the contact squad. I worked hard and managed to get myself selected for the Euros [the IFAF European Championships 2019].
What was it like playing for Great Britain?
Absolutely phenomenal. I mean, I suffered a calf strain at the camp right before our first game so I didn’t play as much as I hoped but I’m so proud of what we achieved and my journey through the practice squad with the team.
Did your son come to watch you play?
Yes he did! He saw Mummy play and win for Great Britain and there’s no feeling like it in the world! He was so proud of us. He also watched the other games on the TV at home and I’m so thankful to Ruth Matta. Every time the commentators said she had the ball my son thought it was me – I haven’t corrected him yet!!
Now to BAFA. What made you apply for the Athlete’s Committee?
At first, I didn’t apply. Then I had a think and I realised that I represented quite a few different personas including: Wales, Flag players at club (mixed & women’s) and GB level, contact players at women’s club and GB level and my Mommaballers [mums who play American Football]. I also have an interest in the youth teams as I will want my son to be able to play but currently there’s so little for youth teams in Wales.
Is a Wales youth team something you’d be interested in developing?
I want to develop all forms of football across Wales. We’re very much a rugby nation (myself included) but I think football gives different options that make it safer than rugby for younger generations to get involved. I think it would require someone to dedicate themselves to it and while I’m a player I just don’t have the capacity. I’d like it to be a part of a wider plan for football in Wales.
So what do you hope to achieve with your position on the committee?
I’d like to be a voice for the little guys like us who have the talent but struggle with numbers. I want to represent Wales’ interest and bring our thoughts & experiences to the table. We don’t have many teams but the teams we do have do very well – just look at the men’s teams successes last year in contact and flag. We’ve just recently brought together the flag teams of South Wales to support one another and I’d like to represent them as best as I can.