Guest author Sarah Jauncey is the Head Coach of American Football at the University of Chester, as well as Director of Education for BAFCA and QB coach for Great Britain Ladies Flag Football.
I recently interviewed the Head Coach Dale Bottomley about the university teams’ progress to the BUCS Div 1 final in Sixways Stadium on the 26th March, and how they have fought through to a place in the BUCS Premiership North league.
Coach Bottomley is the current HC at the team, but he also oversees all American Football at the university, including the Carnegie Chargers women’s squad and the Academy programme. The programme was founded in Early 2009 with the first full season being in 2009/2010 under the guidance of Head Coach Paul Wake, who coached the team for seven seasons and laid the foundations, along with the alumni, for the success they have achieved this year. The team has had a winning record every season and made the play-offs on a number of occasions. Alongside that he is also an education deliverer for BAFCA, and one of 9 coaches qualified to deliver the Player Safety Course.
The last few weeks has seen some tough games for Leeds, a close game vs Nottingham in the semi final where the game was won in overtime, and a physical match winning 36-18 against Sheffield Hallam.
“It has certainly been a tough few weeks; the programme has never had to play so many games week after week but Morale is high. We’ve had to do it the hard way – visiting three very strong teams away from home but we have come into form when it counts most.” Commented HC when asked about the road through the play offs. Though when I asked whether he thought that there was a turning point in the game Coach Bottomley replied “I don’t think there was a turning point, we just ensured the players were focused on playing to the best of their abilities and if they did that then the result would go our way.” This speaks volumes about the self belief and high standards that have been instilled in the team over their time within the leagues.
Coach Bottomley added that the help that they have received from their Student Sports Therapist Thomas Carling has been one of their most valuable assets for the team in preparation for playing 2 finals in a very short time, “We also had to spend quite a bit of time rehabbing the players; with an average of 22-24 players attending gamedays, ensuring they are as fit and healthy as possible has been crucial for us”. Scouting and game plan is also a crucial part of their preparation – know your opponents.
Speaking of opponents, Leeds will face an unbeaten team this season in the Portsmouth Destroyers at the Bowl game. Any team who has gone unbeaten is going to be worthy opposition, so how are they facing this latest challenge?
“We don’t tend to focus on the outcome of games; the lads know that if they play to the best of their ability and work as hard as they can for each other, then the coaches will be satisfied and very proud of them. Portsmouth will be a tough challenge for us but one that we are very much looking forward to, its set to be a great game,”. It will be a great game to watch, and I am very much looking forward to seeing this one. The team are using the same preparation techniques that have been successful for them so far, “… lots of rehab work, scout and then working through our game plan on the field”.
Regardless of the result at the Bowl game on 26th March, Leeds Beckett will be a Premiership team next season. Their promotion was sealed with the win over Sheffield Hallam. It can be a big jump for teams to move division and Coach Bottomley stated that they have their players on S&C programmes in readiness for the new challenges ahead.
New teams are emerging each year in the BUCS league, and knowing how difficult set up can be for teams I asked Coach Bottomley his advice for these young teams.
“I’d say reach out to people that have set up teams before or been involved in that process. There will always be barriers to overcome but with passionate and hardworking individuals, great things can be achieved.”
Finally as a coach Dale Bottomley is charged with overseeing the whole American football programme at Leeds Beckett, so what has been his highlight of this year?
“I can’t think of one stand-out moment but it is great to see how the different teams within the Leeds Beckett programme support each other and link-up to help each other achieve.”
Good Luck to both Leeds and Portsmouth. The Bowl games can be seen at the Sixways Stadium in Worcester on March 26th 2017 where you can see the Div 1 final at 12pm and then at 4pm the Premiership Final between Stirling and Durham.