Club Chairman Andrew Peart gives us an update of the growing Women’s team:
Throughout the Oxford Saints organisation we’re working hard to develop a culture of optimism, ambition, motivation and a strong desire to push the boundaries of what we can strive for, both on and off the field.
The men’s team has started the 2016 season in great shape, albeit safe in the knowledge that we remain a long way from achieving the standards we set for ourselves.
Despite the talented roster, experienced coaches, fantastic new playing facilities and a growing fan base, we still felt there was more we could do to bring exposure and enjoyment of the sport to a wider audience. Key to this was the development of a women’s team.
Sounds simple, right?
Sadly, all too often the motivation to do something such as this is quickly defeated by lack of resource, lack of help, lack of guidance and perhaps most importantly, lack of players. We’ve since discovered that these elements, and more besides, are needed if an ambitious plan can be turned into a successful, sustainable reality.
Step forward, some really brilliant people! Brilliant people have been the reason why this new endeavour has got off to such a fast and encouraging start. The Witney Angels is a local women’s rugby team that has, as we’ve since discovered, an abundance of brilliant people.
When several of their players contacted us about the possibility of starting a women’s football team, we were very keen to help. When the sheer levels of enthusiasm of players like Josie Mcinerney, Bonnie May Bickford & Laura Weiss also became apparent, we were even more keen.
When it then became clear that there were many more like them with equal levels of crazy enthusiasm, we moved beyond keen & into the realms of subtle delirium.
Checking back to our list of necessary elements, we now had the players. As a club, we could provide the motivation to get it started & could help with the resources. Putting all this together meant we were able to host a taster session at our home ground of Tilsley park.
The event was a great success, notably due to amount of players (around twenty eight), the outstanding raw ability of the players (this helps!) and most importantly, how much the players and coaches enjoyed the experience.
Next on the list was the need for help & guidance from those who know the women’s game better than we do..
Step forward some more brilliant people. We simply couldn’t have got this off the ground without the advice and support from Jim Messenger and BAFA. Jim has been a constant source of help and guidance from the beginning.
After hearing about the successful taster session, within a week Jim had a foundation event organised for the new players. Jim, Luke Plastow & GB women players Phoebe Schecter, Jo Kilby, Michelle Gwynne, Nena Killick & Ruth Matta all attended & were a big inspiration to the players.
We’re under no illusions as to the amount of time, effort & travel these (equally brilliant) people put into it & we owe them all a great deal.
We’re fully aware that this is just the start for the Oxford Saints Women’s team. Our challenge now is to harness the players enthusiasm, do justice to the support we’ve received from BAFA, and work as hard as we can to bring this game to as many people as possible.
When were you first aware of American Football & what made you approach the Saints?
As someone who tends to be drawn to sports that aren’t traditionally female dominated, American Football has been on my radar for a while so it was never going to be too long before curiosity got the better of me.
I approached the Saints because they looked professional, were Oxford based and seemed keen on developing new players.
I was only aware very recently that women could play American Football in this country, when Josie told me I was so excited and keen to get started!
What were your impressions of the first couple of sessions?
My first impression of the initial sessions were that they were really well organised and run. To turn up to a brand new team who have little to no experience in the sport and have 6 or 7 dedicated coaches putting their all into training is pretty special.
The drills were focused and we were made to feel like a team from the start by giving us shirts and bringing us together with lots of football shouting and high fives!
I have been really impressed with the support we have received from the Saints men’s team also the GB players and coaches. They were as passionate as us about creating Oxfords first woman’s team.
The first couple of sessions were very organised and the facilities were great.
The coaches helped us to discover our strengths very quickly and helped with deciding which positions you would be best suited to.
We have been impressed with the interest shown so far, especially as this is a very recent set up.
The warm ups are fun, having different stations to learn new skills has been inspiring.
The best part is always at the end when we get the chance to test our new skills learnt and put it all together for some game time.
With some more coaching I hope to become a good, strong talented player and a strong asset to the team.
What are your hopes for both your own playing development & the Saints women’s team more generally?
Firstly, I hope the Oxford Saints Women will be a pivotal team in UK women’s football. There are other big teams in the country but I’d love to see the Saints dominate the Sapphire series and start playing 11 a side.
Obviously, if more students join and Cambridge can get their act together then there may also be the opportunity to win a few varsity matches following in the footsteps of the Lancers!
Personally, I’d like to develop my game with the aim of playing for GB. It feels like women’s football is on the cusp of something very exciting so getting stuck in now is an opportunity that I’m going to work hard not to waste.
Right now, learning the playbook would probably be a good start!
I aim to continue encouraging more woman to participate to help create a strong team.
We are looking forward to taking part in some tournaments and representing the Oxford Saints team.
We aim to be a successful team with plenty of wins so we can be proud of what we have created and to make the guys proud we are a part of their team.
What message would you give to any prospective women who may be interested in playing?
Anyone can play as long as you are willing to give it a go, won’t worry about getting things wrong at the start and want to be part of a team.
Unlike a lot of sports, football seems to have a position for everyone, regardless of whether you are tall, small, fast, slow or can’t even catch the ball….!
The existing Saints have been enormously supportive and welcoming so if you’re thinking of joining then do, it’s a lot of fun and you’ll make a bunch of new friends.
I would like to say to any prospective women out there thinking of joining, do not be shy come and give it a go.
Even if you are unsure on the rules or what position you may be good at. We are all at different fitness levels with varied skill sets. The coaches will guide you every step of the way.
All of the girls are friendly. The coaches are very helpful and willing to teach, even if it is your first experience of American football.
It’s fantastic to be a part of such a newly forming team. The training is fun and great fitness.
The opportunities are endless. Take the first step and join us in a Tuesday. We are all very welcoming and sure you will find it a very positive experience.