Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Lion Cub: Life of a rookie at the Birmingham Lions

By Ben Raskino

After watching the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI I knew I wanted to play American football, and after being accepted at the University of Birmingham I had the opportunity to join one of the most decorated teams in the country in the form of the Birmingham Lions. 

Before the ‘taster session’ held in Fresher’s Week you could sense the nervousness in the would-be players, almost all of them having never played the sport before, and all of them uncertain as to what the nature of the Lions would be. The taster session afforded all of us with an informal trial of all of the basic positional drills, but with a glimpse of the intensity of a genuine Lions training session with the veteran linebackers screaming at us to tackle the bag with more ferocity, and potential Lions unsurprisingly struggling to prevent Tristan Varney’s high velocity passes slipping through their fingers. I incidentally opted to play as a Defensive Back.

Those who decided to persevere were then inaugurated into the full Lions program. This includes weekly classroom sessions focused on not only installing new plays but also studying game film of opposing teams, adding a true sense of depth and professionalism that I wasn’t expecting, but was certainly excited by. 
With all but a few training sessions under our belts, the rookies then were exposed to our first taste of game day with in the form of xpLosION, the first game in every Lions season that this time around was played against the University of Nottingham Outlaws. The outcome was a resounding victory that was watched by hundreds of spectators and accompanied by a massive fireworks display, an astounding performance from the Birmingham Pussycats cheerleaders and the scores being called by Sky Sports NFL analyst Neil Reynolds; a far cry from most of our rookies’ experiences of casually throwing a football around on a sunny afternoon in the park.

Throughout the course of the regular season I’ve seen many of the different sides of the BUAFL, as well as having some highs and lows myself personally as a player. I was able to force a fumble that we also recovered against the Warwick Wolves that I was ecstatic to have achieved especially with my limited time on the field. 

I was also at fault however when our defence conceded a touchdown against the Wolverhampton Wildcats, in a game that showed how teams that are not blessed with high quality 3G pitches and great amounts on financial backing can still come up with big plays against the more established teams such as the Lions.

The Lions recent narrow victory over the Loughborough Aces has provided a window into the caliber of opposition that we will be facing in our race to become national champions, and also the hard work and determination that will be required by our rookie class to keep the Birmingham Lions as one of the top teams in the country with the quality of teams in the BUAFL constantly improving.

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