Monday, 28 January 2013

The Lancashire Academy

The Lancashire Academy has been a beacon for a number of years now, boasting senior and junior kitted teams as well as four kitted youth teams and flag teams at both youth and cadet level. And the seniors, the Lancashire Wolverines, have been reaping the rewards of the Academy system for the last couple of years.

It all starts at the grassroots. The Chorley Buccaneers, Standish Raiders, Preston Pythons and Burnley Tornados begin the process, recruiting prospective players for their respective assaults on the youth championship. They’re coached in the 5v5 format but the base rules and techniques required to play the sport are laid down early.

It could be seen that the coaches and drills at this level are the most important. They pass on to the youth, who, hopefully, will go on to form senior teams in years to come, the techniques that will set them in good stead for the future. But more than that, the coaches at youth level have to pass on the motivation for kids to carry on the sport, something that the Lancashire Academy has had no problem with.

“The coaches at the Buccaneers, and other youth teams around the Academy, do a fantastic job of coaching their players for both immediate success and future development,” said Chorley Buccaneers’ Media Officer, Nathan Sharrocks. “The passion these guys have for the game is infectious and you can see that in every single training session.”

So what happens for the youth who get to old to play for the Buccaneers, Pythons, Raiders and Tornados? That’s where the Wolverine Colts step in.

UK Coach of the Year 2011, Geoff Leigh and his coaching staff have brought massive success on the junior stage.

The 17-19 year olds made it to the National Finals last year, only losing on the big stage to the London Blitz.

Leigh is an accomplished coach, taking the graduates of the youth teams and recruiting himself and training them to the 11-a-side game. The game gets faster, harder-hitting and more complex at this level and it’s up to Coach Leigh and the Colts’ coaching staff to make sure the players are ready for this.

This year gone the Colts’ roster was riddled with first year youth graduates, meaning they get another shot at the title this year with the same crop of talent. That’s an exciting prospect to a Head Coach.

We had a fantastic season and rewarded with a national championship appearance,” Coach Leigh said. “We had a very young team last season so I'm looking forward to see what they can do with a years experience under their belt.”

Then we have the new branch of the Academy. The Lancaster Bombers and UCLan Rams BAFA University teams join the Academy folds to exchange coaching and playing expertise. Young Colts graduating from the junior side but also going to University now have no need to have a winter break to continue playing in the Academy.

Then the senior Wolverines. The peak of the Academy. They’ve achieved a lot in the last couple of years and will be playing in the Premiership this year coming. And yet they’re still a young team. This meteoric rise is thanks in no small part to the Academy set up.
Players in their early 20s and yet with a decade of American football experience under their belts is a hard thing to find in the UK but there are several in the Wolverines set up.

One of our BAFA University League “Ones To Watch” feature candidates, Sam Bloomfield, is one such player. Now President at the UCLan Rams and captain at the Wolverines, he actually started off playing for the Chorley Buccaneers.

The Lancashire Academy set up is the result of hard work by a group of people who are passionate about the sport in this country and about improving both themselves and American football. And that hard work is just beginning to pay off.

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