Our April Club of the Month is a well known team in the Women’s game. With both numerous national players and national championships under their belts they are also looking for another Sapphire Series victory this month. But first and foremost they are a team with a great team ethos and Jo Kilby of the Birmingham Lions tells us more.
- When was your club formed, where and by who?
The club was formed in late 2013 following the top-down approach BAFA had taken to grow the game by readying a GB 5-aside team for competition (prior to developing a club league system), involved in the preceding development days, myself and a few other women from the Midlands were selected, played the game against Sweden, won, got the bug, and then thought what next? My brother Jamie, who has a long playing and coaching history in youth and men’s football himself, also got involved in the GB game and as such when we wanted to set up a club, our old team-mate from our youth days playing for the Birmingham Bulls, was only a certain Wayne Hill, Director of Football at the University of Birmingham. Discussions were held and the Lions’ Women were born.
- What teams do you currently have?
A single women’s squad at present.
- Where and when do you train?
We train at the University of Birmingham, Thursday evenings (from 8pm) and Saturday mornings (from 9am).
- What are your plans for the next twelve months?
Well we’ve just come back from a 9-a side international club challenge in Finland against the Helsinki Wolverines, which was amazing, but now we’re concentrating on the UK 7-aside domestic season (the Sapphire Series started in February and Lions are in the final four) with a view that we can hopefully retain our title for a fourth consecutive season. Beyond that a number of our players will be involved with the Great Britain team at the World Championships, in Canada in June this year and then we’ll be onward planning for the 2017/18 season – we have some significant recruitment plans in place which we think will really open some doors to the sport in the area so we’re excited about that, and we’ll be looking at more international club football opportunities for sure.
- Why should people get into American Football?
It really is a sport for all. It absolutely requires big to small women and everything in between, we need big, strong girls with brute force (the bigger the better are much cherished!), fast and agile players, those that are compact and aggressive, rangy athletes with great hands, and those that can pass, but it’s also about behaviours and the temperament of the potential player that is so important too: can they work under pressure, maintain discipline, are they able to work together to perform, can they operate within a very structured set of directives – football is all about everyone executing in order for the team to succeed, its physical but very strategic and for those players that enjoy a bit of cerebral thinking with their exertion football could just be the sport for them.
- What would you consider the clubs greatest achievement?
Winning the British title three times in a row and not having lost a game in three years is pretty special, but as is continuing to send players, coaches and staff, year-on-year, to contribute to the national programme, but I think the fact that, as a club, we continue to push the boundaries for what is possible for the sport that’s probably something to write home about. There are no other women’s teams playing 9 aside football in the UK, so in order to upskill our players and give them access to greater opportunities we travelled to Finland to play a team from the best women’s footballing nation in Europe (Finland are current IFAF European Champions). We recognise our status, as of today, as the best women’s team in the country, but if we sit still teams will eventually catch us up, so our greatest achievement is in never being satisfied and always striving to improve.
- Do you have any players and coaches of note – past or present?
I’m not sure there’s enough time/space for this question.
All our players of note are still active on the roster which is the same for the coaching staff – which is undeniably one of the reasons we are successful – we’re a team that has stayed together and only ever been improved by additions. Where we have recently had a player move away from playing they’ve become a Coach, former Defensive Captain and GB Safety Nena Killick, a perfect example of this, ensuring all her experience is retained in-house.
In terms of those to watch, take your pick – from the iconic Lions’ Linebacker, Phoebe Schecter, to arguably the best running back in Europe, the pint-size Ruth Matta, add to that linemen like Aimee Cottingham and Michelle Gwynne together with the number one receiver in the country, Hannah Pye or the super all-rounder that is DB, Nancy Stone and you’re starting to ask for trouble. We’ve also a host of new Lions on board this season that are looking to make a significant mark with Jennifer Cooper, Caley Parnell, Lucy Kirk and Maz Hughes already making waves at training – with three of these four complete tackle football rookies it bodes well for the programme that we’re translating players from no/limited experience of the sport to active contributions within a few short months.
- Why should people join the Lions?
Because we’re a team-first team! We place enormous value on the Lions’ ethos, identity and brand and work hard as a collective to protect it. Everything comes from that, and everything comes back to that. It’s that simple. So if people want to join a club that values a players’ contribution – from a beginner’s first steps to our elite players’ progression – who wants to be part of something that everyone can be involved in, then you won’t go far wrong with the Lions.
- What would be your favourite football moment ever – either domestic or international?
The close games always stick in the memory, so it would be beating Hertfordshire Tornadoes in a golden point shoot-out in our first season, it was at our home tournament and we had taken the lead with our effort in to the end zone successful, if we stopped Herts on their single return attempt we would win, we did, and the team went nuts, rushing the field and mobbing the coaches! Beating Germany in the European Championships was also pretty special, especially as it was made clear to us (in hindsight) that this would never happen!
- Please sum up your club in 25 words or less!
A club that values team, team-work and our squad’s contribution; working towards ambitious goals to get the best from our collective and progress the sport.
Can you provide contact details for people wishing to join the club
PM our Facebook page is the best way to reach us – www.facebook.com/BhamLionsWM – and we’ll get back to you promptly.