Gridiron Girls

In a recent interview with our senior team Head Coach Seán Benton, Seán mentioned how much he’d like to see the Essex Spartans in a position to uphold a women’s team in the near future.

As a young lady of a certain age who couldn’t punt a pigskin to save my sorry life, I’ve been watching the progress of the BAFA (British American Football Association) Women’s Great Britain team with enormous interest and admiration for the last 18 months – and I’m inviting you now to start doing the same.

Lianne Shaw has just been appointed as the new Team Manager for the BAFA Women’s GB team that unfortunately, a lot of people don’t even know exists.

Originally put together by BAFA in 2013, trial days were organised for women over 18 with an interest in American Football. Many attendees for former women’s rugby players at an intermediate to advanced level, but some of them had never participated regularly in competitive, let alone full contact, sport before.

On October 12th 2013 the BAFA Women’s GB team took to the field for their first competitive game as a team, playing established Sweden. Emerging victorious with a resounding 27-10 score line, the women became overnight heroes for British American football.

Since then, our gridiron girls entered the European Championships last month ranked in last place, and after a 17-6 victory over steadfast Germany and a second defeat of Sweden 30-14 on the 2nd and 4th August respectively, Team GB were awarded the competition’s silver medal after a 12-50 slip to Finland in the final. Now ranked #2 in Europe and building fast, the sky’s the limit for women in the UK looking to take up competitive American Football.

For straight-up rookies for whom success on the global stage might be a bit far off yet, local teams all over the country are setting up women’s teams to compete in the national ‘Sapphire Series’ and ‘Diamond Series’, specific competitions for women’s tackle football.

So what about the rest of us, who athletes, we’re not?

Well, a photo started doing the rounds on social media a couple of weeks back with the caption, “The NFL is not as you left it.” It was the first photo taken of Jen Welter, Arizona Cardinals linebacker coach and the NFL’s first female coach, stood with Sarah Thomas, the NFL’s first full-time female official. And it’s pretty awesome. As far as female presence in coaching and officiating in male leagues currently goes, the NFL are leading the way ahead of disappointing women’s participation figures across the world.

Whilst some people will say it helps, you don’t have to have ever played the sport to learn how to coach it or officiate it – and as some coaches and players will tell you, some of the best coaches were not necessarily great players.

So – now you know all about BAFA’s women. We hope that it won’t be long before we have women lining up in Essex Spartans jerseys not just as supporters, but as players – and if you can help us do it, we’re waiting by the phone.