BAFA Timeout – A Coach’s Perspective – Part 1

We are just under three weeks away from the start of the new British American Football season, and as teams begin to finalise their rosters and start proper pre-season scrimmages, we continue our series of interviews featuring teams and players from around the country.

This time though we are fortunate to have had the time to speak to David Butler, offensive co-ordinator of the Wolverhampton Wildcats University side, and, as you will find out, has been actively involved in the game in various roles.

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My story is very similar to most of the UK American Football community. I got into the game as a young boy after seeing it in 1987 on Channel 4. Back then, I didn’t realise you could play as a kid, so my youth was spent growing up watching the mighty Birmingham Bulls and the great players they, and their opponents, had in those days.

I spent a small amount of time at Walsall youth, but broke my shoulder one weekend whilst practising with friends and that was it playing-wise at that time. After that I went on to play and coach soccer.

I got back involved in the sport in 2009 after I stopped playing soccer and was pointed in the direction of the Shropshire Revolution by one of its players on the BAFA forum.

I got in touch with head coach Dave Reid and spent the next five years there in some guise and, like many others, had duel roles whilst sitting on the committee. As well as coaching, I also kept track of most of the social media and communications aspects of the side. Established teams are run well, and the dedicated team behind the Revolution were marvellous, so I was, and still am, very proud of what was accomplished both, on and off the field in my time there.

My first time in University football, and I discovered it was a different beast to senior ball. I was asked numerous times to help out by head coach Ad Burton and eventually I caved. We’re trying to get create some stability for a team who really were in a lot of trouble; things were not great but we’re trying to get them better. Coach B has a three-year plan and hopefully the team will become a lot more stable in that time.

The BUAFL season is over for the Cats and after coaching for the last few years, I have decided to take a year out from senior ball this summer to be around the family – it’ll be fun to watch a few games as a neutral this time around. I intend to be back in senior ball though for 2015.

It’s always hard to recruit, and also retain players, but teams do a fantastic job of recruitment now, more so than when I first started, with try-outs and rookie days on the increase.

Teams definitely attempt to bolster numbers, and the teams that hold rookie days or try-out days surrounding NFL activity; that, to me, is very smart, cashing in on the added interest.

In the past we have had 40-70 guys try out at senior level, and most times four or five stick and remain with the team for years. We always said if one player was retained then rookie days were worthwhile and that is a great attitude to have. Of course, the best way to get numbers is to feed your teams via youth and junior football so it’s almost like a drip system.

It’s great to see the majority of UK teams doing this now rather than the minority. I think everyone has realised you have to be self-sufficient, as well as needing player subs to survive.

The biggest hurdle comes in distance and playing time. I would say cost also plays a part too, but many teams have grants now and use it wisely on kit so the sport is inexpensive to try, and people know if the sport is right for them, before getting involved and playing and needing to spend hundreds of pounds on kit.

Rookies usually have to cut their teeth, so keeping them interested is key, especially if the team is well established and has solid roster numbers, rookies have to show on the practice field they are ready. One or two may burst straight into a starting spot, or they may not, but there are definitely chances for that to happen.

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  • Look out for part two of our conversation with Coach Butler, where we ask him amongst other things what he would change within the current BAFA set up and would an NFL franchise here have an impact on our game.

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