Lockdown sports series: American Football


By Charlie Wilbraham, First Year Politics and International Relations

Over the coming weeks, Epigram Sport will look at how several University sports clubs have adapted to life in lockdown. In the third article of the series, the newly-promoted American Football team explain how they have been preparing for next season.

There is no such thing as a favourable time for a global pandemic to hit, but for the unbeaten Bristol Barracuda American Football team it was a disaster.

Finding out that your season is over two days prior to facing UCL in the division’s play-off semi-finals feels like a personal insult.

As the world stuttered in its reaction to this new threat, annoyance gave way to the acceptance that things would not be the same for a very long time.

There is no such thing as a favourable time for a global pandemic to hit

Slowly but surely, squad members began to trickle away from Bristol to be with their families. For everyone it became clear what was important in this time, and for a little while sport was forgotten.

As with all great teams, however, this did not last for long. When it was announced that they had been awarded the BUCS 2A South West title as the league’s top-seeded side, the Cuda players and staff did what any successful sports team would do – they got to work.

Despite lockdown, the season turned out to be a success for Bristol Barracuda | Andy Watts Media

The film from every game of the season was meticulously analysed and broken down just a week after they should have been competing in the conference final.

In true Cuda fashion, they continued towards the common goal of constant improvement with the help of their volunteer coaching staff and enthusiastic players alike.

The transition onto the internet for all things team related ensured that preparation for their first season as a promoted side in Division 1 was well underway.

In true Cuda fashion, they continued towards the common goal of constant improvement

Following a Zoom awards night, a new committee was voted in to face the challenge of a coronavirus season. This was a challenge never before seen by any sports team, let alone by Bristol Barracuda.

Ably led by chairman Jonah Edmonds and secretary Leo Cordery-Smith the new committee began planning and preparation.

Countless Zoom calls with Head Coach Simon Preston and his team helped coordinate efforts that would raise the teams’ standards to match their new league and their own ambition.

The team, like many others, have been forced to communicate via Zoom | Andy Watts Media

With tactical and logistical preparation underway, the fitness enthusiasts in the team led by example to remind the squad of the personal responsibility required for high-level sport.

Defensive Coordinator Rich Lindsay utilised his expertise as a Personal Trainer to stream home sessions via Facebook and set physical challenges for the players.

Similarly, through the Cuda’s social media channels, defensive lineman Elliot Scott showed that there was no excuse for slacking.

Using a combination of a cheap skateboard deck, poles sourced from a scaffold company and some resistance bands; a state-of-the-art rig emerged that the University gym would be envious of.

Ingenuity like this was replicated across the club as canal bridges, tyres, milk bottles and boulders found new lives as gym equipment for Cuda members.

Looking towards the new season, months of lockdown has not taken away the team’s momentum.

Rather, it has fired them up even more with the knowledge that an abridged season will make every second on the pitch that much more important.

In a sport where every tick of the clock and blade of grass is already pivotal, the team could not be more excited to return.

As players adapt to home workouts, coach Preston and his offence have been hard at work developing a playbook to ravage Division 1 defences.

Elswhere, the Cuda’s own defence, not settling with three shutouts in seven games, got to work with linebacker coach James Gilchrist.

Canal bridges, tyres, milk bottles and boulders found new lives as gym equipment for Cuda members

Together they have been poring over each player’s individual plays over the season to provide detailed one-on-one feedback sessions along with Coach Lindsay.

In the meantime, five Barracuda members received invites to GB trials. Nathan Obayari (RB), Leo Cordery-Smith (QB), Alex Hull (DB), Shamir Altaf (OL) and Ben Stringer (CB) were all rewarded for their efforts and performances.

The off season is only just beginning, with a lot of work still to come before we can get back out on the pitch.

However, recognised by the SU awards as the most improved club at the University, the Barracuda are only getting better. They are in Division 1 to stay.

Featured: Andy Watts Media

What innovative ways have you been training?