Thursday, 13 June 2013

Big Bowl VII, Frankfurt


Not since the days of childhood summer camps has an event so intensely infused a few days of my existence that I have, after unpacking, been left sitting at the kitchen table in a slight daze thinking ‘did that actually just happen?’ There is often no way to articulate exactly how such events feel or why they had such an impact. We leave them to become part of our nostalgic recollection and allow our facial expressions and demeanour rather than words to do most of the communicating when recounting them. But this is a tournament report, so let me give you some of the facts of the EWP’s (Elite Women’s Project) trip to Big Bowl VII, and you’ll just have to imagine my grin and already wistful tone as you read.

Group Stages

EWP 0 – 21 Israel National Team
What to say? We were exhausted after a 6:45am flight and a day of nerves as to what the tournament held, we were coming up against one of the most established and feared women’s teams in the world, and we just couldn’t seem to find our stride. Our welcome party to international football was far from an easy one and yet the women of the EWP showed a spirit that would not wane for the rest of the tournament.

EWP 19 – 0 Flag United
Cobwebs officially blown from the system, the EWP started their Saturday with a bang. The defence took everything Flag United had to offer and munched on it with a smile. The offence also shook off the mistakes of the previous night to start reeling in the catches and making the yards we knew they were capable of.

Mainz Elecorns 14 – 7 EWP
The EWP were hoping that their campaign had begun with the previous game but two swift deep scores by Mainz meant they were always fighting uphill. The EWP dominated most of the second half, but when the games are 12-minute-rolling-clock-halves coming from two scores down was always going to be a big ask and they just couldn’t punch in that second score.

Copenhagen Tomahawks 7 – 6 EWP
Taking the competition’s ultimate runners-up (and our tournament roommates) to the brink has to be a personal highlight. This was a tense game that saw both sides of the ball really flourish. More importantly, it showed the maturity of the EWP’s players. After the coaches on the side line started to lose their cool over some refereeing decisions it was the players that calmed themselves and everyone else down and immediately punch in a score. A failed conversion meant that the upset wasn’t quite complete but it certainly proved the EWP weren’t the first-year walkovers they could have been.

Austrian Amazones 28 – 0 EWP
After a tense morning of football and a three hour break that allowed injuries and tweaks to creep in, the EWP perhaps weren’t in the best frame of mind to face the female powerhouse that is the Austrian Amazones. Boasting a QB that made most male players double-take with her ability and a receiver (no.14, whoever you are!) who just seemed unable to drop anything all game, they subjected the EWP to their heaviest loss. As any sportsperson will attest, there are just those games when no matter how well you mark a receiver they catch it, and no matter how hard you run you can’t escape the tackle…this was just one of those games.

EWP 2 – 6 German National Team
Fired up from the previous encounter this was a game of pure hype and defensive determination – the only scores coming from a safety and a returned interception. That’s not to say that either offense gave less than 100% and there were heart-stopping moments at both ends as well as a passionate final drive from the EWP, but they fell just short. However, this game was cited by many of the players as one of their favourite moments of the tournament and it will be a game to be avenged next year.

Place Playoffs

 Mainz Elecorns 14 – 0 EWP
The bottom three teams played for places as the top four went to compete for the title. Mainz looked like they had learned from the last game and they were patient with their offense. They never made any huge plays but did just enough to put the EWP on the back foot and put in a steady two scores. The offense couldn’t find the fire of some of their Saturday games and it was that depleted finishing power that made the difference in this game.

EWP 7 – 0 Flag United
Flag United were more determined to stop the EWP’s drives than in the last game but the result was never really in question. The EWP defence held them to only a single first down and never looked in trouble, whilst the offence chipped away patiently until a blistering run broke the deadlock and sealed the result.

Overall Results

1st – Austrian Amazones
2nd – Copenhagen Tomahawks
3rd – Israel National Team
4th – German National Team
5th – Mainz Elecorns
6th – The Elite Women’s Project
7th – Flag United

The Experience

So, those were the games, but what made this event so special?

First of all, this was the first time we know of that a female flag football team from the United Kingdom has travelled abroad to take part in a tournament. Add to this that the EWP is still less than a year old and you can understand that there was a real worry that we could be unceremoniously dispatched in every game. It was a fear that was to be left far from realised and the complements we received from other players and coaches have increased our confidence and drive exponentially.

Head Coach Andrew Gambrill summed it up by saying, “This truly was a dream come true. I had goose bumps at the first whistle, thinking that we had achieved something special just by being at this tournament.”

He was quick to add a word about the second thing that made this such a fantastic experience – the performance, attitude, and skill of the EWP’s players: “They were magnificent and you could see them growing in their knowledge and understanding of the game each day.”

Captain Louise Lee also had something to say: “I’m so proud of how everyone played, and the way that everyone fought for every minute of every game. We did the project proud and represented the historicity of the occasion as best we could. It was a truly unique weekend with some amazing people.”

Additionally, if anyone had ever doubted the speed, skill, and athleticism of flag football (and in quite a few games the strength) both the men’s and women’s games at this tournament have given any attending player or spectator the right to wistfully smile and laugh at the insinuation.

Finally, this was an event that was organised and run with a professionalism and practice that, as an organiser myself, I can truly use as a model to aspire to. From being collected when we touched down in Germany to the knowledge of the EWP the organisers showed when presenting us with our trophy we always felt looked after and in good hands.

Have no fear the EWP will be returning to Big Bowl and we’ll be coming back with our eyes firmly set on a much larger trophy. See you next year Frankfurt!

Written by Phil Gaydon, Team Manager

Photos by Jed Brookes-Lewis

From left to right: (Top Row) Andrew Gambrill (HC), Phil Gaydon (Team Manager), Becky Rafferty, April Heath, Dave Lee (QB Coach), Pete Coppenhall (OC), Steve Podmore (Offensive Assistant), Katie Taylor (Team Physio), (Bottom Row) Lousie Lee (Captain ), Natalie Parker, Chloé Bâton, Tendai Chieza, Afia Law, Rebecca Small, Kellie Barrett, Millie Barrett, Jed Brookes-Lewis (Team Ref).

And don’t forget André Clarke (Defensive Assistant) who missed the photo!

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