Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jen Hilton on all-male American football team

Coventry Jets
There is an on-going debate between fans of American football and rugby as to which sport is better. We'll leave that to someone else to decide but one thing everyone agrees on is that both sets of athletes are tough, tough and well, tough.

So when I read that English woman Jen Hilton is preparing to tog out with an all-male team, against all-male teams I was gob-smacked. 

Not disapproving - far from it - but genuinely stunned that she is that strong. And we hope, fast.

The Mirror newspaper carried a story yesterday saying: "Jen will be the first - and only - woman to play with and against men in the national league and, as one of the Jets' running backs, she'll be guaranteed contact with burly blokes on the field." 

Wearing special gear including chest pads, she will line out for her first competitive match in April with the Coventry Jets. The town already hosts two flag football teams so maybe an all-women American football team is next?
Coventry Jets

Coventry Jets on Twitter



a runners' life said...

That's amazing. It's good to see that men and women can play together at such a level. Hopefully, this will set an example for other sports and show people that mixed teams are doable. It will be interesting to see how she goes over the longer term.

niamh said...

I know right, I will definitely be keeping an eye on her - will update you when she plays her first match!

Emmet Ryan said...

Don't expect to see a similar story in Ireland. The Sports Council has laid out clear rules forbidding women and men from playing each other in full contact American Football in Ireland for health and safety reasons. Single gender only. It's not the only sport which falls under that category, actually there's quite a lot.

One of my former coaches in American Football also coached in England and had a female player on one of his teams, she was typically used as a running back on third downs, which appears to be the same kind of role Jen is going to play.

niamh said...

Thats interesting Emmet. I'm not surprised to be honest. Although I suppose that the Irish + British men playing are a little smaller than the professional American/Samoan players, it would be some hit. Query - "running back on third downs" means she won't be tackled?

Emmet Ryan said...

Two part answer as it's easier that way:

1. My understanding is the ISC have big health and safety concerns over any mixed gender contact sport. American Football is obviously an extreme but even Football and Gaelic Games are covered to some degree by it.

2. A third down back is a running back who typically comes in for passing situations. In American Football a team must progress 10 yards in every set of 4 plays known as downs. Gaining these 10 yards results in a 1st down and a new set of 4 downs.

If they are on 3rd down and they still need to make up 4 or more yards, the team will most likely need to run some kind of passing play so a specialist back who is good at catching the ball will typically be introduced in place of the regular running back.

In Jen's case this is important. Many running plays involve going up the middle of a pile of around 10 men who weigh 19 stone or more. This wouldn't be terribly practical for a team looking to use her.

A third down back typically goes away from the pile and is usually in more 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 situations. It's still dangerous but not as suicidal as being involved for standard procedures.

niamh said...

Suicidal - nice turn of phase! I hope her coach has thought all this through, thanks for the explanation!