How did you become involved in American Football?
My first season of American Football was in 1994. My best friend at Primary School was obsessed with The Washington Redskins in the late 80s. This passion rubbed off on me while playing Joe Montana Football on the Atari! We both took the first opportunity we had to play the sport with the formation of the Plymouth Commodores, a junior aged team under the banner of the Plymouth Admirals who that season were unbeaten in the British National Division 2. 1994 was a building year for the club as we played at summer fayres etc drumming up interest.
In 1995 the Commodores started in earnest with a little "roadshow" around community centres and hit a goldmine of interest at the John Kitto's YMCA in Plymouth were approx 20 young budding players fell in love with the sport almost instantly!
We trained under the eyes of Admirals Linebacker, Defensive End and Commodores Head Coach Kenny Tucker, assistant coaches Alec Potter and Steve George to name a few. Great guys who taught us how play our hearts out. So we did what they told us and went unbeaten to win a National Championship in our first season! 1996 saw much of the same, narrowly losing only one game, the Championship Final to Cambridge Harriers in Birmingham. That year several of us Commodores also managed to successfully be selected for the Great Britain International Junior Squad. We lost a European Championship Qualifier again Sweden and later in the year were literally run over buy an North American High School team travelling Europe on a tour. That was it. I was hooked!
How long have Swindon Storm been in existence and how were they formed?
The Storm started when my manager told me his son and a bunch of his mates were always banging on this "American Football" lark and were throwing a ball around every lunch time and coming home covered in bruises and torn school clothes! I was playing Defensive Linebacker for the Division 1 side Bristol Aztecs and also coaching Linebackers at the University West of England (UWE) Bullets. So I put up some posters, booked Wootton Bassett Sports Hall, got a fellow coach from Bristol who had a CRB check to help me and turned up on a Monday night in Nov 2007 to see what would happen. We had 30 kids, keen as mustard and it went from there.
What do you hope to achieve with Swindon Storm?
A sustainable club for people who live in Swindon and Wiltshire. In my time I've seen many teams boom and bust by bringing in players from hundreds of miles away or even Europe or the USA to win a few games. I believe the club should be developed from local talent over several years, and that the players should give back what they've learnt by staying around the sport and coaching younger players.
How would you describe American Football to someone who has never watched it?
Not just a contact sport but a collision sport! A full contact chess game where each team gets the chance to take moves against each other with big hitting running backs and long passes down field
Favourite team and why?
In my 20 years of loving American Football I've never found myself supporting a club. I've always been intrigued by the skills of the players and found myself watching the sport to learn about it, and I still find out something new every day! I now prefer to watch US University (NCAA) league football, the NFL is very money and salary driven and this filters down even onto the field and frustrates me. The young NCAA players leave everything out on the field and play with a spirit you don't see in any sport where their paycheck is most important. The internet has made watching American Football much easier now and the amount available is immense.
Favourite players and why?
The look of a snarling defensive player through his face cage has always captivated me. I enjoyed rugby at school but I've always loved the idea of players who don't walk onto the field to run and score the points but take to the field for the sole purpose of tackling and causing maximum disruption to their opposition. There's a gladiatorial element to American Football I've not found in any other sport. For that reason I've loved watching the Baltimore Raven's Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed on defence, Green Bay Packer's Reggie White and LeRoy Butler wreaking havoc on the opposition's Offense.
How do you recruit players for the team?
We've tried posters, flyers, promotional days, a video on loop on the Big Screen in Swindon, shout outs on the radio, pieces in local papers and display training sessions. As always, word of mouth is best. Its better to experience a new sport with a friend or two. I make sure the guys at the club always welcome new players as I cant stand the attitude I've sometimes experienced at a new sports club on my first training session with them.
What are your hopes for 2015?
The new 3 tier senior league means our division is the most competitive we've played in. We're also playing each opponent twice this year, both home and away as the division is smaller. Last year we grew in strength as the season went on. Partly due to the 2014 new recruits finding their feet and partly due to great work from the coaching staff's analysis of our opposition. This year a second shot at every team will mean we will be in the best position possible to finish with a play-off potential record. Our staff will give our players all the tools they need need to win. It'll be down to the guys to turn up training, learn what we teach them and deliver the goods on game day.
2015 is also the inaugural year of our Junior Varsity (under 21s) team. A massive step forward for the club, they compete in the Bristol Academy Community league. Hugely popular and partly funded by Excalibur communications, its allowing our 18-20 yr old players a chance to have a season of football at a more appropriate level before graduating into the seniors.
2015 is going to be incredibly exciting and I cannot wait to get it started on the 12th April when we face Cornwall at home at Supermarine RFC.