Ever been in that situation where you’ve seen a tournament but find you haven’t got enough teammates to enter?
If you have, then you may also have come across the Black Widows. No not a group of mourning women but a scratch flag team that is made up of players who want to play but can’t put a team together.
Created by Andrew Gambrill, the GB Women’s Flag Coach, the team came about organically as a number of players approached him ahead of a BAFA women’s flag tournament with exactly that problem. He quickly solved it and the Widows were born.
Andrew admits he doesn’t exactly know how many women have represented the Black Widows and would take some going over some team photos but they are open to anyone who is a BAFA registered player. And that, and that alone, is the only criterion for playing.
“We see it as part of the development programme and having the Black Widows as a side serves a number of purposes,” says Andrew. “For instance some players have come along to a tournament looking for contacts in other teams to find a permanent side, others are just coming in for the odd tournament as their side can’t make it. We even had one player from Spain who was on a working holiday! We welcome them all and they all play their part.”
That particular player was Rocio Spring who only played for the Black Widows once but would recommend it to anyone. “It is very enriching playing with new people and I loved to see our progression during the tournament.”
Some people have played more than once and for Charyle Mercer who is based in Portsmouth she has found the opportunity so great for her own personal development. “I’ve met some of the nicest women through the Black Widows and got to play with some highly talented players. But what’s really good for your development is having to adapt and learn plays quickly. For me it speaks of providing such great opportunity, giving yourself the chance to test yourself and seeing a combination of rookies and experienced players come together.
And that is one of the key components of the team for Andrew too. Apart from the Opal series there hasn’t been a flag competition in the last three years which hasn’t featured the Black Widows and has really given Andrew an opportunity to see a wider range of players using different skill sets.
“As GB coach it’s great to be able to observe how a player can integrate with a new group of players so seeing their skills both physically and mentally is invaluable and sees them in a different situation than if they were with the team they train with every week.”
You’d think a scratch team couldn’t win a tournament and for the most part that isn’t the main concern (not that it doesn’t stop anyone who plays being competitive!), although they have won one tournament. It’s actually what the Black Widows represents which is of greater importance.
“The Black Widows are the epitome of what women’s flag football is all about and that is great spirit. There aren’t many sports that would have a side that welcomes any player from anywhere in the country but here people want to play and get the game growing and building. We see six or seven strangers come together and within half a day they’ve bonded as a team and are friends and playing with a smile on their face,” says Andrew.
Against a well organised Opal team the Black Widows don’t expect to come out on top but they do expect to have fun. Bella Wilson who comes from Scotland may only have played for the side once but would completely recommend the experience to anyone.
“Would say to anyone to go for it. It’s a great way to play with other girls you wouldn’t normally get to play alongside. You get the opportunity to learn from each other and its great fun.”
For more details about the Black Widows, visit their Facebook page here.