Leeds Beckett American Footballers score a place in the women's GB squad
Bo Steward, CJ Harrison and Connah Scholes will ‘touchdown’ in Maracena, Spain on 31 July with the 60-strong squad of 45 players and 15 coaching staff.
Estate agent, Bo, and Bramley Baths Operations Manager, CJ, are both from Leeds and play as community players for the University team which is open to both students and non-students. Connah, an ex-student and member of the University’s men’s team, joins the GB team as an assistant coach, working with the offensive and defensive lines.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, Connah said: “Being part of the women’s GB coaching staff for such a huge competition is a major privilege. Right now I’m just excited to get to Spain and show everyone what we can do!”
The Lions trip is the culmination of two years’ hard work and development. Great Britain head coach, Jim Messenger, added: “I think we are as ready as we can be now. You can always practice more but there comes a time when you have to experience the game for the team to fully assimilate all the learning and make the next big step forward. No amount of practice will teach the experience of this competition.”
Coach Dale Bottomley, Sports Development Officer at Leeds Beckett and recent recipient of the Women's Coach of the Year award at the 2015 BAFCA, said: “The Carnegie American Football programme is very proud to have three members representing Great Britain; their selections are testament to their hard work and dedication. With the women’s team approaching its second year, it is a huge boost for the sport at the University and across the region. I have no doubt that they will be great ambassadors for Leeds Beckett.”
The Lions will open the tournament on 2 August playing against the European powerhouse nation of Germany, who competed in both the 2010 and 2013 Women’s World Championships. Bo added: “I am so excited to be playing against Germany first. GB are most definitely the underdogs but we thrive on playing better teams: it makes us up our game.”
Bo has been playing for Leeds Beckett and GB for two years. Asked how she was feeling going into the tournament, she said: “I am trying not to think about it too much as it will overwhelm me. When I was picked for the GB squad it was so unexpected as there is so much young talent, it’s a real privilege.”
CJ, in comparison, has only been playing American Football since December and for GB since May, having taken part in three Diamond Series where she was scouted for the national team. An ex-GB hockey player, CJ is no stranger to international tournaments. She commented: “To be honest I am more worried about flying than I am about playing against Germany and the other teams! Having already played for a national team on a European stage, I don’t feel nervous; I am mentally prepared.
“The most challenging aspect of playing American Football has not been the physical aspect it has been having to learn the technicalities of the game, including the rules and playbook and how to apply them on the field. I am hoping by us participating in the tournament, women’s American Football will start to gain more recognition and the respect it deserves.”
The Lions second game is against Sweden on 4 August and their final game, to be played on 8 August, will be based on the final position deciders. Match-ups will depend on the results of the other games, with Great Britain, Germany and Sweden being matched against Finland, Spain and Austria from the other group.
Great Britain women played their first ever international in October 2013 in a five-a-side exhibition game against a squad from Sweden, following this in September 2014 with their first ever full eleven-a-side friendly in Stockholm, a game that GBW won 26-14 against the Swedish Ladies team.