I spent a session with the American Football team and they’re not just wannabe rugby boys

Hike the ball bro

A sport brought over from our pals across the pond, American football is not one for the faint-hearted.

As an Essex girl myself, this sport was definitely not something I would ever have considered taking part in. I’m the type of person who runs in the opposite direction when I see a ball.

I would much rather be pampering myself in the nail shop or shopping in the Vic Centre than chasing a ball around, and so my lovely bosses at the Tab decided it would be a great idea to send me out into the field to train with the NTU Renegades, and what an experience it was.

I arrived at the Clifton campus at around 7pm and was welcomed by Hicky Stainton, the social sec and was then introduced to some of the current team members who welcomed me with open arms. We went into a lecture theater and I started speaking to some of the coaches. I found out they were all voluntary and dedicated all their time into American football without being paid because they love what they do.  Harris Tzen, the current president of the team, told me about upcoming games (their first one is on the 31st October) and this was the first meet up for the new influx of freshers.
In the lecture theater, there was only sat about  40 people, which I thought was quite a lot at the time, the doors then flung open and a heard of freshers stormed in, I’m not joking it was probably around 100 boys, oh and one brave, brave girl.

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The lecture started with head coach, Adrian Giles, giving a talk on the different positions in a team. I’m not going to lie, I only recognised the “quarter back” position, only because I watch shitty stereotypical American TV shows. Anyway, here is what I learned in the lecture, it’s all very complicated for someone who’d never heard of a ‘linebacker’:

There are three main phases in a game of American Footy: Offence, Defence and ‘special teams’.
The offence has four main groups of players: offensive line, quarter back (hey hey), running back and wide receiver (pardon the pun).
The defence has three main groups of players: defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs.

Getting hyped

Getting hyped

The lecture was all very eye-opening and I discovered American football is quite different to rugby, because rugby players don’t wear helmets do they.

I then made my way outside to the AstroTurf feeling quite overpowered by testosterone.

Watching game footage

Watching game footage

The coach gave me a navy American jersey so I could feel the part and then we started with some warm ups which I was happy about because it was bloody freezing out there. We began running around the pitch, where I was obviously lapped by everyone, we then did some stretches and eventually everyone was split up into the positions they wanted to play. I had no idea where to go and so asked Mr President, Harris, which position would be the ‘hardest and most physically challenging’ for me, and he answered with: “oh, in that case you need to be a linebacker,” and off I went.

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Just doing some stretches

I was with a group with 12 other boys and we started doing some catching with the ball. (God knows why it’s even called a ball, because everyone knows balls are round). The coach would throw the ball at us and we had to catch it, simple enough right? Wrong. We were told to stand in a line and the coach proceeded to give us a number (mine was 9, the amount of times I’d considered what would happen if I caught pneumonia out here), we then had to turn the other way and when our number was called, turn round and catch the ball.

Trying to catch the ball

Trying to catch the ball

Whilst waiting for my number to be called out I remembered how very afraid I am of flying balls, how whenever one would come towards me, I’d run in the opposite direction. “Nine” called out the coach, around I turned as the oval ball flung towards my face. Needless to say I screamed and ran at this point, much to the amusement of everyone else. After a few tries however, I got the hang of it and could easily grab the balls which were flying at my face…
Some of the other drills we had to do were really difficult and I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Lining up waiting for the drill to start

Lining up waiting for the drill to start

At the end, Hicky told me what it was like having a girl come and train with the Renegades, he said: “It was interesting, in my time last year we didn’t have any girls train, but this year we’ve had 8 or 9 sign up and a few have already attended training, they’ve all been ready to go and putting in as much as anyone else”. He added: “You seemed enthusiastic which is what we look for in new recruits and current players, which is probably why you fitted in well with the rest of the team”.

ellie bratt

me and the lads

The whole team here

The whole team fucking here

I then asked if I was good enough to make the team, his reply was: “You didn’t do too badly for a first try, I personally looked over every now and then to see how you were doing and you looked fine, for making it onto the starting team… probably not yet, but  if you persisted and stuck by it I don’t see why you couldn’t be in the squad in a couple of months”.