Training Camp…

So, after months of waiting, and pacing around at home, the time had finally come. Training Camp – part 1.We all knew it was going to be focused on fundamentals and geared more to rookies than anyone else, but the prospect of getting a football in the hands again was too enticing to keep many experienced players away. The weather left a little to be desired – freezing cold, blowing a gale, but not raining, so that was enough to make sure that the turn out was pretty reasonable.So, with new players milling around, unsure of what was going on, and a man from Look East trying to work out why we call it “Football”, Coach Roberts took centre stage. All miked up for the cameras, you got the feeling he was constantly checking himself, and making sure he didn’t start swearing.

“Welcome everyone, i’m Coach Roberts…”

So far so good.

Matt then introduces his team, all of whom are familiar to many already…

Coach Tarquin Stephenson – Offensive Co-ordinator, QBs/WRs

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Coach T, as he’s affectionately known, had a stellar career before coming to the Gladiators. A stallwart of Herts Hurricanes BCAFL Bowl winning side, and a fixture on the Great Britain Bulldogs O-line, T has refined his football knowledge through the years, and his experience in charge of the Blades’ O-line means he’s a well qualified coach. However, it’s the fleet-footed moves he throws in the V-bar that make him best suited to the QBs and receivers!

Coach Neil O’Hare – Offensive Line

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Neil is vastly experienced, having been a part of the Gladiators before the dissolution, and has since been the Head Coach over at the Essex Blades. Neil also helped out on the microphone come gameday for the Gladiators in recent years, and we all hope his coaching proves more successful than his colour commentary.

Coach Duncan Flack – Running Backs

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Dearly devoted Duncan is familiar to all Gladiators and fans, as the cheerful running back, always willing to contribute and encourage others… No, hang on, I’m getting him confused with someone else. Coach Flack will have a healthy stable of Running Backs this season, and assures me that they won’t be following the example he set last season, and instead will actually finish the season with positive yardage in all games.

Coach Karl Bourke – Defensive Line

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Coach Bourke returns to the Gladiators fold, and is now able to focus his attention onto the Defensive line, a unit that was riddled with injuries and inconsistent personnel last year. Karl should have a number of new and returning Linemen who he can mould into his own image. So, expect lots of facial hair and a waft of pipe tobacco coming from the Gladiator Defence this season!

Coach Simon Wilkinson – Linebackers

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Simon is one of the very best to have pulled on the Gladiator shirt. His pedigree is undoubted, as he proved in 2005 where, from the middle linebacker position, he recorded over 90 tackles in only 9 games. However, a relative newcomer to coaching, Coach Wilkinson enters his second year as linebackers coach, looking to build on a solid base establised in 2007.

Coach Sonnel Baptiste – Defensive Backs

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Sonnel is another new member of the Gladiators coaching set up, and again brings a real quality to the staff. As a member of the only British team to win a European Championship, the London Olympians, Coach Baptiste has experience at the very highest level, and will be working with some extremely talented DBs. Well, he will be if Scott can stay healthy…

So, with the coaching set up in place, on to the camp.

Day 1 was very much about learing the fundamentals of football, and some basic techniques, so with 6 stations around the field, players both new and old were able to try their hand at every aspect of the sport. So, we began with Coach Wilkinson and the linebacker drills. A bit of an overview of form tackling, before we moved into shedding drills and shiver drills. Very much a brief overview of tackiling and shaking off blocks, but certainly enough to keep people interested, and allowed you to hit a tacklebag, which everyone loves doing. Mark Gilbranch especially seemed to relish in it, and believed that tackling an inert opponent seemed to transform him into a fully feldged linebacker. Well, good luck with that Mark…

Next was the Flack and Clarke show, where Duncan, ably assisted by the all-purpose Tommy Clarke, presented a masterclass in how to take a handoff and how to receive a toss, whilst running into a specific hole. Intelligent, informative, and educational, despite the persistent asides from Coach Flack as to the prowess of the plastic Offensive Line vs. our own Offensive line from last year.

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Needless to say Duncan won’t be getting any blocks from us this year. Mind you, he’d say that that’s no change from last year!.

A swift waterbreak preceded the Offensive line clinic, led by Coach T, where the basic stance, and a few first step drills against tackle bags provided an introduction to life in the trenches. It was here where Mark found out that a tackle bag with some weight behind it is much more difficult to shift!

Onto Coach Bourke’s D-line introduction. This again started with the stance, and continued onto the first movements after the snap. Very basic stuff, but as ever with Karl, very informative.

Then Coach O’Hare’s receiving drills, where he was ably assisted by Slider. This was all about catching, running routes, learning to cut, and to beat coverage. It’s just worth noting that yours truly proved an exceptional receiver, and fully expects to slot into a number of eligible positions this season…

And finally, Coach Baptiste’s introduction to Defensive Backs. Needless to say, my svelte, toned physique was absolutely perfect for this, and i took an exceptionally active role…heckling. A few drills around backtracking and advancing, as well as coverage drills, brought to a close day 1.

As ever, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we were all keen to see how many of the new players would appear on Sunday morning for Day 2. We were all pleasantly surprised with the turnout, and with conditions less blowy it was more favourable for football. So, after a brief warm up, we broke into positional groups, for more detailed work on the the fundamentals of each position. The defence worked hard with Coaches Wilkinson, Bourke, Baptiste and Roberts, and the Offense with Coach T and Coach Flack. Us hogs on the O-line were treated to more first step drills, concentrating on Angle block and reach blocks, as well as the bucket steps for a cross block. Good stuff, and a solid start for most of the new guys, as well as an excellent refresher for the more experienced players.

After this the Offence and Defence worked separately, with the Defence working on coverage and some defensive systems, and the offence rotating all 4 QBs, as we drilled 4 run plays and 2 pass plays. Once this was well drilled we had a mock scrimmage, running plays against the defence. This showed that we have some players with genuine talent, and means that we have high hopes for 2008.

With one further training camp on 5/6th January, we should be in a solid position to start working hard through January and February and getting geared up for April!

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