Friday, 27 January 2012

Dbl Coverage Interviews: Russ Hewitt - Current BUAFL Championship HC and head of BAFCA

We sat down with the current Head Coach of the BUAFL champion Portsmouth Destroyers Russ Hewitt to talk about his coaching philosophy, how he feels about the multi tier debate and if his Destroyers compare with the other team he coaches with, the London Warriors.

DBL: How is this season shaping up compared to last year?

The University season, is so much fun... you have to be so organised, to not waste a second of Practice time. I have to say my staff, put so much time in over the summer, to ensure we are efficient come August.

The difference in this year and the past years is based around the history of the Programme!
It’s been well publicised that we went from zero to National Champs in 5 years, so last year motivation was based around what we call ‘Football Nightmares’

The Hurt of losses, or injury, or simply under achieving.... just one growing pain after another ... anyone of those ‘Football Nightmares’ would give you a desire to put in extra work, to correct the wrongs!

Our last regular season losses was a heart breaking 3-0 loss to Solent Uni  (Away in Dec 2009) which turned out to be conference decider. Then our last home loss was also 3-0 the previous season (to Brighton – Jan 2009). That result dropped us to 4-3 after a 4-1 start... and technically closed the Playoff door, in our third season.

This year, we have a different breed of Athlete than previous recruitment classes... still the same raw rookies every other team gets, but individuals that really want to represent the University and continue the work we have put in, to become a Champion.

DBL: Is it a different feeling coming from perhaps being considered as underdogs last year to being the main contender?

To a degree yes! It definitely started out that way but nothing a few Tough training sessions couldn’t sort out!

We added 25 rookies last year (Sept 2010) and when we count these Rookies, I’m talking about 25 guys that stayed the course & contributed, right from our Fresher’s Combine, to standing for the National Anthem in Leeds last April.

We now only have a handful of Players (half a dozen or so) to have ever lost a game. But that creates new challenges. No longer do we have the ‘pain’ of not getting it done.... now our desire is based around the ‘Fear’ of are we working hard enough?!

It’s interesting to read people opinions on what is good football? (And what isn’t?!)
It is also good to see so many people trying to publicize the sport with daily articles, websites and blogs ....
We have to commend these people for trying but unless you see a team week in week out, you really can’t judge how good they are.... not until the REAL football season starts! We’ll only really find out the answer come playoff time!

Has graduation of players hit the team hard at all this year? Has the rookie crop proved fruitful?

First up we can’t look away from the size of our University, as we have 22,500 students with 82% of them Undergraduates.

We also get good support for our AU, keep costs of the sport as low as possible, and we also recruit and retain high numbers, so have a playing squad of 70 players.
We have been blessed to carry this many players since our second season, some years even being lent Game pants from our Opponents!

But even with all those big numbers, this year we have had a Huge recruitment class, surpassing any previous year, which I’m sure will be helped by the Big shiny Trophy!

So 37 new players have been added to the 21 that remain from last year’s class.

With that many new players each year, have had to build a large coaching staff to cope, the early years were tough, but I’ve now surrounded myself with a great Staff, of very experienced coaches.

The first part of your question asks if Graduation has hit us at all, and I’ll be honest and say no! Don’t get me wrong, we have had some great players finish Uni and no longer play for us, and this year is no exception.
All I can say is we plan for this each year, we already know who leaves this summer, and have known for quite a while! Also we are well into recruitment of 2012-13 recruitment class, and hope a few of these players will be attending Games and practice to see how we do things before this season is over.

We just plan to develop young football players, and I would love us to be classed as a Football Factory!

DBL: You coach at the London Warriors, how can you compare the two teams?

Warriors Nation & Destroyers? Compare them? That is not really possible, but we do have the same philosophy on how Football should be played!

The London Warriors have had a huge influence on HOW the Destroyers have improved, and more so, to how our coaches have developed over the last three years, whilst we’ve been part of both. I’m prepared to say, I thought (THOUGHT!!!) I was a pretty good coach, before I went to London, but what I have learned over the past few years from Tony Allen, Gerry Anderson, Aden Durde, Marvin Allen, Victor Muhammad, Jeff Brown, Wes Roach has been invaluable to our development. This is why a group of us drive 8 hours a week, to just get to practice.

If you truly want to coach, practice and play at the very top of this sport, then you need to do so SOUTH of the Thames! 

DBL:  What is your coaching philosophy?

In 25 words or less??? Lol (Sorry, win forever joke) Ed: Pete Carrolls "Win Forever" book.

I can spell it out in a couple of simple formulas

T + U= C
Teaching + Understanding = Coaching

& then

Practice + Performance = Playing time”

I’ve never seen a player make an intentional mistake, so what you teach them, how you prepare them and how your team practices, will dictate how you perform.

Its sounds so simple when you write it down ..... And may even come across at trying to hide some ‘special secret’, but all I can add is we work damn hard!

DBL:  Do you think wearing purple affects the masculinity of players in any way?

Any time I hear a question like this.... I can just see someone like ‘Tarquin Stephenson’ or ‘Ted Baynham’ standing up screaming ‘YOU WEAR PURPLE’ at the top of his voice! Much to their amusement! All I can say is, ‘It grows on you!’

I was lucky enough to sit in on the AU Team meeting, when they were deciding the Uni colours they wanted everyone to wear. And we managed to network with other AU clubs, to ensure that ‘Black’ was clearly listed at the approved second colour, as it was going to be Purple and White!

We are now very proud of Purple and Black!.... and if you don’t believe me, just watch other teams eventually follow..... hahaha!

DBL:  As we are now half way through the season, what are your goals?

22-0 and a second Ring!

DBL:  Have any teams caught your attention so far this year? (read most improved team)

OBU have stood out for me, we played them just before Xmas break.
A strong fundamentally sound team that really gave us a battle. I’m sure they are on the rise!
But I really like the improved level within TVC. We always get a great battle v’s BNU, Imperial have done a great job improving, with such a small coaching staff and finally Brunel came to Portsmouth ready to play, and I hear they may have a good young coach coming on board too!

DBL: Of your remaining four games, which are you most looking forward to, and why?

We have some nice little rivalry games coming, and I get to coach against a lot of good friends and even ex-players of mine, at Solent, Reading and Southampton.

But it is all about getting to the Real Football season in March.

DBL:  What is your opinion of a possible move towards a multi-tier league?

This is a difficult one to answer in a paper interview, as it comes down to how people will read the next few lines. As the league has grown, it’s more evident there are gaps being created.

No matter what happens we need the opportunity to allow teams to progress from Entry level to National Champions, even if that is through the tiers! It would be wrong to take that away from Universities.
But it is more than just about performance there are obviously two approaches to Multi tier league.

One is the Elite Eight (or something similar)
The other is a Challenge League (for developing teams – Lowest level)

But before anyone gets carried away with splitting up the GB landscape, you have to consider financial situations involved so we don’t cost players or SU/AU more than they can afford! We are a pretty expensive sport already!

A structure needs to work for most teams or you may seriously damage the sport at Uni level, as you’ll find some AU/SU’s may remove/reduce funding if their team is second tier.

Will all top tier teams (you assume, Performance based) be able to afford the travel costs? Or will that be transferred to Players Subs and then how will the ‘Up & Down performance Teams’ fit in to the structure, as we may find there is an uneven regional split?

I feel we need BUCS first and then see how that that changes the landscape for the teams and the League.

DBL: Thanks for your time coach!


  1. Great coach & great man.

  2. Awesome coach, awesome man!

  3. "If you truly want to coach, practice and play at the very top of this sport, then you need to do so SOUTH of the Thames!"
    WOW, although it is one persons personal opinion, I'm sure the London Blitz WILL disagree with that assessment!!

  4. A great read! Portsmouth Destroyers will always remain a top team in the BUAFL due to what Coach Hewitt and his staff have created.


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