The NWFL Interviews: Chloe Smith of the Leicester Falcons

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Picture Credit: @k.c.photography6

3 days left until week two of the NWFL season, where the Leicester Falcons will make their return to the field first against Norwich and then against Sandwell.

So today interview one of Leicester’s own, Chloe Smith an all-rounder for the Falcons with a history in the NWFL and Uniball, to discuss the team, the league and the future of the NWFL.

Who are you?

I’m Chloe Smith. I play for the Leicester Falcons women’s team. I’ve been playing four or five years now. I think this is my fifth season. Started playing uni ball at DMU when I started my degree, got injured, hurt my hip and had to step back from that.

And I do pharmacy, So, my course is really intense and training three, four times a week was just killing me. And then Guy Kersey came to one of our training sessions in my second year.

And my housemate who also played on the team he kind of recruited us and said, “why don’t you come down on Saturdays? We’ve got a women’s team.”

And it just kinda kind of started from there. One session training a week really helped because I wasn’t spending more time at the training field than I was in my lectures, which was good. 

And then what NFL team do you support and why?

I’m a Seahawks fan and the reason is we went on a family holiday to Mexico.

My dad was just wearing like a blue shirt, my dad is quite a big man. And one of the locals, mistook him for a Seahawks player. And it was the year they won the super bowl. So, he was like, “oh, you’re playing in the super bowl”. My dad was like, had no idea what was going on. Didn’t even know what American football was.

And he was just like, “yeah, sure”. We ended up getting like a free meal out of this guy. It was great.

The Falcons went five and three last season, looking back, how do you feel the season went?

It was a massive improvement on the season before. I think we only won two games that season.

This season we obviously played Peterborough and Norwich which was good that we kept playing them.

We kind of sussed out what different teams were going to do and how they’re defended. We had really tight battle with Peterborough at the end, you know, it all came down to the last game.

You know, playing them first in the tournament, the tournament style is hard because, especially with a small squad, like we’ve got you end up playing both sides of the ball.

If you’ve got back-to-back games, that’s pretty difficult, you just get so tired. playing Peterborough in the first game of the tournament we saw that we weren’t that far apart from each other beat them two-nil at our home tournament and then they beat us six -nil at their home tournament.

It’ll be good to see what they come up with this year and how we kind of compare this year and what goes on.

Norwich coming into the league as a new team did really well. They beat Peterborough in the first game. You know, they’ve got a small squad like we do.

And what are your thoughts on Sandwell Steelers joining your division this year?

Yeah, I mean, the opportunity to play new teams is always great, especially with women’s football still growing.

I know last season, they did some combined scrimmages with people, so it be really good to see kind of what they come up with on their own. And just new blood changes that up for us and all the other teams in the division.

We’re not kind of playing the same teams every weekend. So yeah, different in terms of prepping for games. We don’t know what they’re going to bring at all, Peterborough and Norwich. We can kind of think to last season and see what they did well, with Sandwell that’s completely new. So it was really exciting.

 Who would you say your biggest rivals are?

I think for us, it has to be Peterborough with how closely matched we were at the end of last season. It all coming down to that final game, it really hurt us to lose, especially, the way they won was a pick six.

It was just mistakes that kind of let us down and them playing well on defense. So, it would be really good to see how we both compare this season. But again, you can’t write off Norwich. Obviously, they beat Peterborough. It’s all just who turns up on the day, I think.

And what were your views on the tournament style of play in the NWFL?

I mean, I’ve played both styles, I’ve played tournament and just one game and for me, I prefer the one game kind of situation. Obviously, the women’s games are shorter, but so are our squad sizes. So a lot of the time you end up playing both sides of the ball.

You end up playing kind of 40 minutes nonstop really, shorter half times and such. it was really difficult, especially if you then play game one and game two, because you get maybe 20 minutes, half an hour in between to kind of relax from the first game chill, grab a bite to eat and then you’re warming up for the second game.

So that can be quite tough, even if you play games one and three, keeping mentally switched on during that second game when we’re normally kind of chilling, grabbing food to also still be in that mindset of, well, we’ve got another game to play can be quite challenging. You get sore, I’m sorer after women’s games than I am uni ball games.

What are the pros and cons of being associated with a men’s team?

For us, obviously, greater access to kind of equipment, all the equipment is shared with the men’s team and the youth and academy team at the Falcons.

So compared to a lot of teams were quite well off in that regard. You know, players don’t really have to buy their own kit.

Which is what you do anywhere. Anyway. I know when I played uni ball, we didn’t have the option to lend kit.

So, I had to buy my own kit before. I started playing, which, I don’t know about the other teams, I haven’t played for other women’s teams, but yeah, I think we’re quite fortunate in that regard that we get most of our equipment supplied.

A lot of coaching is overlapping, I know at the start of this kind of this preseason, we trained with the men’s team at the Leicester City indoor facility, we had access to all the men’s coaches, we’re training with the men And then we kind of split off and the last kind of half an hour and do our own playbook kind of stuff.

But that first hour and a half where you’re doing skills and indys was really useful to be up against the guys and then getting that quality coaching  that they’ve got, not that our coaches aren’t great, but yeah, like we have three coaches, they can only go so far.

Since you started playing what evolutions have you seen in the NWFL?

I think kind of the coverage I know yourselves started this season. When I started a couple of seasons ago, I didn’t even know Leicester had a women’s team before Guy kind of came to us and recruited us.

Whereas now I think a lot more people are aware, especially in the britball community that there is a women’s league, and it isn’t just Birmingham Lions and GB.

Social media coverage is a lot more, you know, girls of Gridiron are doing a lot of coverage. And I think that only helps what’s going on.

What do you think could aid coverage and recruitment?

I just think again, like more social media presence, these kinds of interviews that you’re doing is helping, kind of coming down, live streaming games, that you do on a Sunday if you just have a panel talking about like scores or whatever, It’s hard with tournaments if there’s not a lot of games going on, but just getting people aware getting, people to come down to training.

Because a lot of squads are quite small. You know, there’s only a select few that have more than 20 players in a squad. So social media is massive. So, pushing it is only going to help.

What do you think should be showcased about the NWFL?

I think how nice all the teams are. I know it sounds really bizarre, there are no real massive rivalries, you know, every team’s happy to help each other out in certain ways and you know, we’ve been invited on team nights out with the Royals and Devils last season, I think we might’ve done something similar with Cardiff and Cheshire the season before.

So, you know, you don’t really get that in the senior league. So, I think we all love the sport so much and we just want to see it grow that whatever team rivalries we’ve got go out the window once, you know, the final whistles blown and whoever’s won has won.

You know, we’re all happy to go to the bar after and have a laugh. And I think that’s really nice to show people because getting into a sport, especially later in life, I say later in life, in your twenties and early thirties can be quite intimidating if you’ve not done it for a while.

I know girls from our team who have like come down and instantly been made to feel comfortable and then kept coming back.

it’s not because they’re the most athletic person it’s just because we’ve made them feel comfortable in that situation. You know, we can’t ask for any more than that.

What are the best things about playing for the Leicester Falcons?

The team, the girls.

I can message any one of the girls on the team and within half an hour, I’ll either get a phone call or get an offer to do something, you know, if I’m ever stuck.

We regularly go out to the pub after training on a Saturday it’s another family.

How do you think this season will go for the Leicester Falcons?

Well, we’ve done quite a lot of work in the offseason, building and trying new things.

We’ve had quite a few rookies come in, which is always exciting. Especially off the back of some of the injuries we had last season. Some of those injured players are due to return kind of halfway through the season. So, you know, we’re only getting stronger as the season goes on, which is nice.

Yeah, so I’m, I’m excited we’re going to bring it

Follow @falconswomen on Instagram to keep up with their season and girlsofgridironuk for fantastic NWFL coverage.

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