Following the British Universities American Football Association establishment of a kitted 5v5 women’s league in the summer of 2011 – the first of its kind – Head Coach of Portsmouth Destroyers Russ Hewitt was quick to jump on board and set up one of the few teams in the country.
It became the only full contact sport available to women in the University which, surprisingly or not, has managed to motivate a few people to join.
This May, a five girl team will face Southampton in a practice scrimmage game ahead of their first tournament on 7th June. There they will face both Southampton and Hertfordshire, the only two other teams in the league at this time, although it is believed that there are more in the making.
The nine girls that make up the squad have been training since September alongside some of the men’s team who graciously volunteered their services as coaches.
The training hasn’t been easy. The girls have been pushed to learn specific plays and foot drills, and training alongside a team that had won a national championship can be quite intimidating at times. But the boys knew how to bring out the best from the girls and have succeeded in making them into a team.
As this is the first women’s kitted league, the team have gained funding from BAFA to pay for equipment.
Quarterback Maria Peeters offered an insight into her feelings before the season started: “I love contact sports and when I went to university I wanted a change from rugby. I knew a bit about football so it was a chance for me to learn something new.
“The team is full of different personalities and characters who all bring something different to the team and to practise.
“The training is enjoyable as we are all learning a new sport; if you put the work in you get to have fun and the guys have been great at coaching us from people who know very little about how to actually play American football into a confident side.”
When asked about their opening match against Southampton, Peeters said: “I know we will all give it our best shot, if we lose it will be disappointing but we’re all new. If we go into the match with a positive attitude, who knows what results we are capable of.”
The Southampton game is officially a ‘friendly’, but all Portsmouth residents know there is no such thing when the Pompey/Soton rivalry is involved. Being a full contact sport, anything could happen.