Julius Hobbs speaks ahead of U17 season

HC Hobbs is confident his youngest players have a winning season ahead of them. Photo by Ivan Marsh Photography

The Spartans youth and junior football programmes are positive despite fresh challenges up ahead, says Essex Spartans U17 Head Coach Julius Hobbs. 

New to the Spartans organisation this season following a solid coaching career in Kent, Hobbs has observed a drop in numbers because of new rules and re-structures in youth and junior-level football. 

The 2016 divisional champions have a significantly reduced squad for the 2018 season, but are working hard to make sure this does not hold them back.

“The retention from last season is small, mainly due to the number of players now age-ineligible after a restructure,” says Hobbs.

“Much of last year’s defence has now had to move to Junior football.

“Nevertheless, the Essex Spartans Youth programme comes into 2018 in a very encouraging position. Pre-season training has been good, and the team are progressing well.

“The returning veterans are showing their quality, and the rookies are picking things up quickly, and with enthusiasm. There is a lot of raw talent this year, and this will begin to show later in the year once the players get to grips with contact football. 

“It is also encouraging to see quite a few new players wishing to try the sport, and I am happy that if we retain all of the players that have been to training, then we will successfully complete the season ahead.”

Hobbs praises the attitude and commitment of his youngest charges, with some players on the U17 team as young as 13:

“The age changes imposed last year have meant that this year’s team is quite young, but this is in itself very exciting.

“I believe that the team will be competitive this season, and if we can keep the majority of players into next year and beyond, the next three seasons could be very good indeed.”

Last season the Spartans side were fit to play every scheduled game, but some other teams at youth level suffering from similar challenges of dwindling numbers  and injuries meant chalking up an unusually high number of 1-0 forfeit victories. 

To counter this, Hobbs and his team have worked hard to arrange a full pre-season campaign across the country for the Spartans’ youngest players.

“One of my key aims was to provide as much football for the players this year as possible,” he says.

“We have a very full pre-season playing schedule, with a friendly tournament on March 3rd at Lincolnshire Bombers; also playing Eaton Jaguars and Doncaster Colts; a friendly tournament at the Kent Exiles on 18th March, playing the Exiles Outlaws, Exiles Rebels, and a team to be announced, finishing our pre-season with a one-off game against Hertfordshire Cheetahs at Thames Rugby Club on March 25th.

“I am confident that this will prepare the team well for the season ahead.”

The Spartans Youth team remain in the same division as last season and are likely to face familiar opponents such as Kent Exiles Outlaws, Kent Phoenix and the East Kent Mavericks, along with the exciting Essex derby with Colchester Gladiators.

Historically the U17 travelled to Cornwall in August 2015 for the playoffs, then won their division in the summer of 2016 and missed out on a place at the 2017 playoffs on points difference.

Hobbs is confident that continuing winning ways is entirely possible, despite a smaller and less experienced squad for 2018.

“We must be competitive, and I believe that we will be,” he says. “The early signs are positive, but we have to continue working to ensure that we are both hard to beat, and can move the ball. 

“The goal of the team should be to make a bid for the post-season. Going to Britbowl is a fantastic experience for all concerned, the League run this event very well, and despite the inexperience of the team, why not us? It cannot be the achievement that defines success and failure, but it is a target that we should aspire to.

“It is very important that everyone involved, from players, to coaches, and including parents, enjoys the Spartan experience this year, and has fun. This really is what running a team is all about, and if we succeed in this regard, it will have been a good year.”

Academy training is held at Gateway Academy in Tilbury on Friday evenings (U17) and Sunday mornings (U19). 

Boys and girls aged 13-18 interested in joining the Essex Spartans U17 or U19 teams should email academy@essexspartans.co.uk

Spartans head for Europe

The Amager Demons are part of the Danish American Football Federation.

The Essex Spartans senior team are travelling to Denmark in March to face the Amager Demons.

Arranged as a friendly pre-season fixture between Spartans Head Coach Sean Benton and Danish boss Dennis Svensson, the game will be played on Saturday 24th March at the Demons’ home ground Tårnby Stadion, just outside Copenhagen. 

Benton said: “We are really excited about travelling to Copenhagen to take on the Amager Demons.

“It’s a great opportunity to test ourselves against European opposition and it promises to be a challenging and fun weekend. I would like to thank Demons HC Dennis Svensson for the invite, we are very much looking the game and it will be an ideal lead in to the 2018 season.”

It will be the first time the Essex Spartans have played abroad since the 1998 exhibition game in France against the Spartiates Amiens, from which the two parent organisations Basildon Chiefs and Redbridge Fire took the name ‘Spartans’ to form the Essex team that exists today.

The Demons were founded in 2002 and currently play in the Nationalligaen as part of the Danish American Football Federation (DAFF). 

The Essex Spartans will also play a closed pre-season scrimmage against a local UK team two weeks prior to flying out to Amager, before their competitive season as part of the South Division Two league begins in April. 

Anyone interested in joining the Essex Spartans should email headcoach@essexspartans.co.uk for details. 

Senior Opponents Announced

The British American Football Association have confirmed the lineup of the SFC East Division 2 conference. 

Familiar foes London Blitz B and Ipswich Cardinals will feature in the fixtures, along with last year’s newest team Benfleet-based East Essex Sabres. 

Newcomers to the division include the freshly-reformed Norwich Devils and Maidstone Pumas.

The Spartans will face London Blitz B again in 2018.

Former opponents Wembley Stallions glided into Division 1 with a 10-0 record last season, and are joined by East Kent Mavericks whom were also promoted. 

Senior Head Coach Sean Benton said: “We are very much looking forward to the 2018 season, and renewing rivalries against divisional opponents from last year as well welcoming back two teams whom we have played many times in the past, in Maidstone and Norwich.”

“It is especially pleasing to see the Devils rejoin the league after an absence, as we have had many exciting games with them in past years.”

Last season included a 17-0 shutout against the Ipswich Cardinals at home; a nail-biter to close the season away with a Spartans victory 21-22 as well a last-gasp win over Blitz B 13-12 after falling down 19-3 on the road at Finsbury Park.

After only one clash against the Sabres last season the Spartans are looking forward to reviving the Essex Derby, and meeting the Pumas for the first time since 2013. 

The Essex Spartans returned to pre-season training on 21st January following a very successful recruitment drive that saw eight new rookies join the team, four former vets return to pads and five new Spartans Academy graduates come up to the senior team, along with a very healthy retention rate of existing players.

“We have had a very positive off-season and recruited very well,” says Benton, “and are back working hard to make the 2018 season a very successful one.”

Fixtures will be released shortly. 

Julius Hobbs joins the Spartans

The Essex Spartans Academy have welcomed former Kent Exiles Under-17 Head Coach Julius Hobbs onto the staff for the 2018 season. 
 
Hobbs will take over as Head Coach and Offensive Co-Ordinator for the Essex Under-17s team, whilst former overall Academy HC Steve Watson will take over the Defense and focus on overseeing the Under-19s.
 
Of his new appointment Hobbs said: “I am very happy to be returning to the 2017/18 season, coaching the Essex Spartans youth team. 
 
“I have been very fortunate to have coached at Kent for so long, and leave a stable and competitive programme behind. It is time for a fresh challenge and I am very lucky to be joining an organisation with strong foundations like the Essex Spartans Academy.
 
 
“The Academy is a very good fit with my own football philosophy, of inclusion and competition, and I am very excited to continue and develop the great groundwork that Coach Watson has established.”
 
The Spartans U17 team narrowly missed out on a trip to the playoffs at the end of the 2017 season, after finishing fourth in the country as divisional champions in 2016 and a memorable campaign to Cornwall for the playoffs in 2015 under Watson.
 
The Spartans U19 team returned to competitive football in 2017 with an associate year and hope to return to fully-fledged competitive football in 2018.
 
“The Academy strive to provide a safe, inclusive and enjoyable experience of our sport for young men and women across Essex, and we work hard to ensure we provide them with the best,” said Watson.
 
“I have long been an admirer of Coach Hobbs, who brings many years of experience and success to us, and I have every confidence that the U17 team will continue to develop and grow under his leadership.” 
 
The Essex Spartans organisation will return three teams to competitive football in 2018; anyone interested in joining should email info@essexspartans.co.uk or search for us on social media.

Spartans welcome new S&C coach

Ollie Brookes works as a personal trainer and has been part of the Spartans defence for two seasons.

The Essex Spartans senior team have welcomed cornerback and Personal Trainer Ollie Brookes on to the coaching staff to head up Strength and Conditioning. 

22-year-old Ollie of South Woodham Ferrers works as a gym supervisor at Studio360 Fitness in Billericay and heads up his own business OJB Fitness, helping teammates and members of the public achieve their health and fitness goals.

“I love the idea of being a Strength and Conditioning coach; my work as a PT and the UKSCA courses I’ve attended have really informed my understanding on how to plan and progress with athletes in all aspects.

“I have always wanted to be part of a team conducting strength and conditioning, and this role is a great step in a forward direction.”

Brookes joined the Spartans as a rookie in the winter of 2015 and is a starting free safety and cornerback on the Spartans defence.

The role of the Strength and Conditioning coach with the Spartans senior team is to lead warm-ups at practice and on game days, orchestrate dedicated S&C sessions as part of pre-season training and general practice throughout the competitive season, and help players develop on a personal level with their programmes and in the weights room. 

‘Rewarding’: PT Brookes says helping his teammates to achieve their goals is why he has taken on the role.

Brookes says his job as a personal trainer is ‘one of the most rewarding’ he has had, and seeing his customers progress to better health and strength is of paramount importance in his own aims.

“I hope to help all the team to be able to understand what they need to do to progress as an athlete, and be there to answer any questions they may have.”

The Spartans senior team commence formal pre-season training on Sunday 21st January following their Football 101 course for new rookies. Anyone with an interest in coaching American Football should contact info@essexspartans.co.uk with their details. 

2017 Season Award Winners

The Double: Rob Jelly takes home two awards for his contribution to the senior Offense.

The three Essex Spartans teams celebrated a successful 2017 season with their annual Awards Evening on Saturday 21st October. 

It was a great evening for Under-19 player Ed Clark who picked up two awards, Special Teams MVP and Players’ Player of the Year voted for by his peers. Also taking home two awards for the Academy was Under-17 Aidan Langan whom won Players’ Player of the Year for the U17s and Overall Team MVP, whilst his brother Firenz won Defensive MVP for the U17 team.

Also winning a double in the senior ranks was WR/QB Rob Jelly, taking home Offensive Most Improved Player and Offensive MVP. Joining Aidan Langan in the Overall Team MVP categories for U19 was Lewis Hall and Nick Walter for the seniors. 

All three teams will start recruitment again in November; anyone interested in joining should email info@essexspartans.co.uk and follow our social media for Come and Try dates.

Full list of 2017 winners

TONY PALMER MAN OF THE YEAR: Billy Cronin

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (U17): Tommy Justice

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (U19): Daniel Naqvi 

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (Seniors): Steve Cox

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (Seniors): Kayode Babatunde-Ige 

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER (U17): Charlie Mills

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER (U19): Tom Grey

DEFENSIVE MOST IMPROVED PLAYER (Seniors): Chris Button

OFFENSIVE MOST IMPROVED PLAYER (Seniors): Rob Jelly

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR (Seniors): Alfie Sharman

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR (Seniors): Aaron Millar

COACHES’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR (U17): Adam Ridgewell 

COACHES’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR (U19): Aaron Jackson 

COACHES’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR (Seniors): Bill Guppy

PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR (U17): Aidan Langan 

PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR (U19): Ed Clark

MVPs

DEFENSIVE MVP (U17): Firenz Langan 

OFFENSIVE MVP (U17): Dylan Sparks 

OVERALL TEAM MVP (U17): Aidan Langan

DEFENSIVE MVP (U19): James Hardie-Davis

OFFENSIVE MVP (U19): John Rawlings

SPECIAL TEAMS MVP (U19): Ed Clark

OVERALL TEAM MVP (U19): Lewis Hall 

DEFENSIVE MVP (Seniors): Festus Olu

OFFENSIVE MVP (Seniors): Rob Jelly

SPECIAL TEAMS MVP (Seniors): Norris Owusu

OVERALL TEAM MVP (Seniors): Nick Walter

Julius Hobbs Joins The Spartans

 
 
The Essex Spartans Academy have welcomed former Kent Exiles Under-17 Head Coach Julius Hobbs onto the staff for the 2018 season. 
 
Hobbs will take over as Head Coach and Offensive Co-Ordinator for the Essex Under-17s team, whilst former overall Academy HC Steve Watson will take over the Defense and focus on overseeing the Under-19s.
 
Of his new appointment Hobbs said: “I am very happy to be returning to the 2017/18 season, coaching the Essex Spartans youth team. 
 
“I have been very fortunate to have coached at Kent for so long, and leave a stable and competitive programme behind. It is time for a fresh challenge and I am very lucky to be joining an organisation with strong foundations like the Essex Spartans Academy.
 
 
“The Academy is a very good fit with my own football philosophy, of inclusion and competition, and I am very excited to continue and develop the great groundwork that Coach Watson has established.”
 
The Spartans U17 team narrowly missed out on a trip to the playoffs at the end of the 2017 season, after finishing fourth in the country as divisional champions in 2016 and a memorable campaign to Cornwall for the playoffs in 2015 under Watson.
 
The Spartans U19 team returned to competitive football in 2017 with an associate year and hope to return to fully-fledged competitive football in 2018.
 
“The Academy strive to provide a safe, inclusive and enjoyable experience of our sport for young men and women across Essex, and we work hard to ensure we provide them with the best,” said Watson.
 
“I have long been an admirer of Coach Hobbs, who brings many years of experience and success to us, and I have every confidence that the U17 team will continue to develop and grow under his leadership.” 
 
The Essex Spartans organisation will return three teams to competitive football in 2018; anyone interested in joining should email info@essexspartans.co.uk or search for us on social media.

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Following a frustrating 2016 campaign that saw just two victories from ten games in a multitude of circumstances and tight score lines, the Thurrock-based outfit have dusted themselves off and are looking forward to big things. Continue reading ““It’s time to return to playoff football,” says Coach Seán”