Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Exclusive Interview with Birmingham Lions HC Wayne Hill

In our latest interview we speak with Birmingham Lions head Coach, GB Lions defensive coordinator and IFAF World team Linebacker Coach (I think I got all the titles in) Wayne Hill. We cover everything from the new coaching staff at the Lions to his notorious decision to go for two at the end of the BUAFL Championship game (a decision that ultimately cost them the game). Read on!

DC: First off congratulations on a fantastic year coaching wise. You were named head coach of the Birmingham Lions, OC of the Birmingham Bulls, LB coach for the IFAF world development team and now DC of GB lions. Which one personally means the most to you?

WH – Obviously all are very special and I am very lucky to have been selected to the National Programme and IFAF World Development Team. I have to say being back in charge at the Lions is a little extra special to me. This enables me to work with some amazing coaches and players on a daily basis, that really push me to develop myself and my coaching. However, all of the positions have something special to me; the Bulls role was great as that was where I grew up and developed a love for this sport. So it was great to contribute to a really successful season and be part of a great development programme being put in place by Steve Hannington and Brendan Cunnane.

The National Programme role is going to be a challenge and I love a challenge! I am excited to be part of the new set up and even in the early stages I am enjoying working with Coach Callan and putting together a great defensive staff.

Now the IFAF World Development Team role is awesome and I am looking forward to working with some of the best coaches and players in the world. This has been a great learning curve for me and now the selection process is complete I am looking forward to meeting the players face to face and getting on with the on field coaching.

DC: We have to ask about the decision to go for two points at the end of the BUAFL championship game. How did the coaching staff come to this decision and if given the choice again would you have gone for the PAT and forced OT?

WH- I discussed the decision with Paul Cooper and Ryan Baker at the beginning of the drive, and we were confident that we could execute. Also most importantly we had a massive amount of confidence in our players. Plus I felt we could get the ball back if we didn’t make it.

I trusted my staff, my players and the play call and yes I would go for it again.

Yes we lost the bowl game but there were a number of reasons for that and it was just one game. Our journey throughout the season and playoffs was something special and in fact how we came together as a team through that period was something very special and actually goes beyond one game.

DC: How has the team responded to the loss?

WH -Amazingly! As I said how we developed through the playoffs and in the game meant that we responded well. We were back planning the off season the day after the bowl and in fact have undertaken the most intense off-season programme we have ever done. We know we have to improve, but that’s our goal every year.

The Strength & Conditioning programme has helped and we started this 2 weeks after the bowl loss.

DC: Obviously the Lions are one of the main powerhouses in BUAFL, how does your team keep on winning?

WH -We have a great coaching staff that has a commitment to getting better and providing the best service possible to the players on our programme.

Also we have a history of success and an ambition each year to be the best and most professional programme in the UK. Couple this with a relationship with our University and Athletic Union which has developed over the 13 years I have been involved, we have a partnership that is committed to player development and Always Competing.

DC: During the off season you added Jay Alexander, Paul Summers and Brendan Cunnane to the Lions coaching staff. How have they helped improve the Lions so far? Are you happy with the amount of coaches you have at the team?

WH- You missed off a couple. We have also added former Lions John Zinkus as WR Coach, Emir Battalogou as Safeties Coach, Andrew Dewar as Offensive Assistant and RJ Stockdale as Assistant Offensive Line Coach.

We are always looking to improve and this off-season we have been able to achieve that through increasing our staff and getting some great guys who know what the programme is about and my coaching philosophy. All have brought something extra to the programme and I have to say this is a very exciting staff to work with.

However, seeing you mentioned Jay, Paul and Brendan I will give you the low down.
I have been talking to Paul about joining the staff for about 5 years. I coached him at GB Bulldogs and convinced Jake Box to move Paul from LB to DE, so he knows first hand what I am about and what I want from my DL. He has also been part of the National Programme and the Blitz as a great player so he has a vast amount of playing experience. However he is now transitioning to coaching and doing a fantastic job, in fact Paul is one of the most exciting young coaches I know.

Jay is a former Lion and even though he has been away from the programme for a while developing his coaching and building a great programme in the Tamworth Phoenix. We have said on many occasions he is now Home! He has a great amount of experience and knows the Lions way, which is continual development, so as Jay develops our players it is my job to develop him further as a coach. I think working with Paul Cooper our OC and Ryan Baker will help this process, as well as attending the AFCA convention.
Now Brendan, well we wouldn’t be the Birmingham Lions without a Cunnane on the coaching staff. My long time partner in crime Chris Cunnane is now in Canada so we needed help on defence and my first port of call was Brendan. He understands our system and what we want from our backers, he is going to be a great asset to our staff.

DC: You were offensive co-ordinator at the Birmingham Bulls over the summer, was it good to return to the BAFANL stage?

WH – It was good, hard work but good. I wanted a development opportunity and coaching Offence at the Bulls allowed me to do that while helping the programme out in developing a coaching education ethos and structure. It was always going to be a one year deal but I believe everything is in place for the Bulls to continue with the success we had this past year.

DC: How did coaching at senior level compare to coaching at the University level?

WH – At Uni we get guys whenever we need them and they are heavily involved in all areas of the programme, Strength and Conditioning, Film Review, Scouting, Classroom and On Field Practice. At senior level this is tougher due to guys time constraints.

DC: Would you return to coach at the senior league level in 2012 or is the main focus now on the GB Lions for the foreseeable future?

WH- As I said before, my time at the Bulls was a one year deal. The Lions HC job is a Full Time position and I cannot commit to senior how I would like. If I do something I am all in, so it would not be fair for me to commit FT to the Bulls and the players. However, I have said I will be there to be a sounding board and will definetley be going to some of the games and keep tabs with the players and coaches.

DC: Can you explain what coaching in the IFAF world development squad means for our readers who may not have heard of this before?

WH- I have been involved in a number of conference calls and we have a web portal where by nominated players post their information and film. They also need to participate in a S&C programme and report back their results. From this the coaches have had to watch all the film of their positions and develop a selection.
From this I met up with the IFAF staff at the AFCA convention last week for 2 ½ days of meetings to discuss the final roster, practice schedules and schemes. We now meet the players on 25th Jan for 9 practices before the IFAF World Team plays Team USA on the 1st Feb.

DC: How did you get the job?

WH – I was nominated for a position. From this I had to send in my coaching CV and letter of application to get to the interview prosess.

DC: Looking at the coaching line up for the IFAF team, there’s a lot of guys with various experiences from all around the world. What are you hoping to learn from coaching with the world development team?

WH - Its going to be interesting to see the structure and standard of football in the different countries. I have to say its going to be a great learning experience so I am going to be like a sponge and learn as much as possible to bring back to Birmingham and the coaching community in the UK.

DC: All of your coaching commitments must take up a lot of your time. How do you manage to find the time to fill all these roles to such a high standard?

WH - Its tough, I have a very understanding wife!

DC: Finally looking back at your American Football career, what would you say has been your greatest achievement so far?

WH - Being HC of the Lions is my biggest achievement. I just love the job and how I get to coach with some of my best friends who share my coaching philosophy. Also to see guys develop through out their time at the Lions is very special and is something that I am very proud of.

DC: Thanks for the taking the time out of your busy schedule to complete this interview. We wish you all the best for 2012 and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. You're already a legend brother, well done on the IFAF job and good luck in the game, we'll be following.


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