Pulling The Flag

Hannah Pye: From Titan to Lion

Pye pictured in her Great Britain kit!

Pye pictured in her Great Britain kit!

With the Opal Series 1 week away now from commencing, I had the pleasure of catching one of the up and coming female stars of British American Football in my Northants Titans teammate Hannah Pye.

Hannah has played for the Titans since their inception, and played a big role in the team, the highlight for me being her 4 touchdowns in one game day in Aylesbury this season!

Hannah Pye hauled this one in for a touchdown against Aylesbury Vale Spartans, one of her 4 on the day!

Hannah Pye hauled this one in for a touchdown against Aylesbury Vale Spartans, one of her 4 on the day!

As well as playing at wide receiver for Titans, Hannah made the first ever Great Britain women’s contact squad, and featured in a stunning 26-14 win over Sweden in their debut game, who were ranked 3rd in Europe at the time. If this wasn’t enough, she also made it through to the final 3 shortlist for the Northamptonshire Sportswoman of the year!

Hannah with the Birmingham Lions that made the GB squad in Sweden. Photo courtesy of Luke Plastow/Plastow Photography

Hannah with the Birmingham Lions that made the GB squad in Sweden. Photo courtesy of Luke Plastow/Plastow Photography

Anyway I’ve bored you all for long enough, I present to you, Hannah Pye!

 

 

Nathan – The women’s game is quite a niche – what sparked your interest in the sport, and furthermore, playing it?

Hannah – I got into American Football as I wanted to start playing a sport that was new to me. I have always loved America and thought I would see if there were any ladies American Football clubs around Northampton. Consequently, I Googled it and came across the Northants Titans who had just set up a mixed team. The coaches at the Titans have always been encouraging and have great skills to effectively coach the game to new players.

N – You got into playing about a year ago (as far as I know), did you ever foresee that you would be playing at international level a year ago?

H – Never. I never expected I would represent Great Britain. It has all been such a fantastic and surreal dream. When I first started playing flag, I never even imagined these possibilities for myself. It wasn’t until I met a friend, Danika, who suggested I attend a contact development day. These of which had fantastic GB coaches organise and lead these events and that is where the GB opportunities began.

N – How much does flag translate to the contact game in your experience? Did you feel disadvantaged in the Diamond Series as one of the players without a kitted background?

H – From my own experience in the position of receiver, I have found that lots of skills can be transferred from flag into contact. The Diamond Series was truly a fantastic opportunity for new players like myself to learn the 11 v 11 contact side of the game, building on existing skills and developing new ones. I had never played a contact sport before, so in that sense I guess I was nervous at first as I came from a flag background. However, I never felt disadvantaged. That was because Jim Messenger, the other GB coaches and the more experienced players were so passionate and enthusiastic for new players to learn the game and enjoy it. The Diamond Series was the greatest of opportunities!

Diamond Series Action - GLN Photography

Diamond Series Action – GLN Photography

N – I can proudly boast that you are one of my teammates, just how much has your involvement for the Titans setup helped develop you as a player?

H – The Titans is where it all began. Before I joined the Northants Titans I did not know anything about American Flag Football at all. The Titans coaches, Luke, Dan and Wayne are fantastic and give great individual feedback to really help each player develop. It is a club that is very supportive. I feel grateful to have played alongside the men, which demonstrates their encouragement for women to respectively take part in the sport too.

N – On that note, it’s been a great rookie season at the Titans. What have been one or a few of your favourite moments of the season?

H – It has been a great first season for the Titans. I really enjoyed playing on one of our Conference Game Days because it was great to see the team come together and see an element of progression in our performance in comparison to our first game. I also really enjoyed our training session with Cecil Martin, thanks to Dan’s organisation. It was lots of fun which provided great inspiration. It was great for the promotion of the team too.

Early days, half time in  the Titans' first ever game against the Ware Wolves

Early days, half time in the Titans’ first ever game against the Ware Wolves

N – The Opal Series is imminent, do you think you can lead the Titans to victory?

H – I think it is great we now have a Titans Ladies team to enter the event. In a year, it is great to see the Titans grow into now having a mens, ladies and youth team. In regards to the Opal Series, the Titans Ladies will most certainly give it their best. However, the real achievement is being a part of an event which promotes the growth of Women’s involvement of American Football.

N – The Diamond Series saw some great turnouts. What can the flag scene do to get more women into the sport?

H – I agree, the Diamond Series was a fantastic opportunity which really developed involvement and skill within the contact sport. What I believe made the Diamond Series such a success was that it welcomed players of all abilities, encouraged women’s involvement and provided excellent coaching. It was all very professionally led, even down to the kit shirts we would wear and how the games were refereed, which made it very exciting. Playing these three games also provided players with great game experience. Consequently, my answer to your question would be for flag to run a similar set up. I know Andrew and Luke Gambrill, along with Dan Archibald, most definitely have the skills and enthusiasm for this to take place for flag and I believe it would be just as successful.

Repping the Titans gear in the contact game!

Repping the Titans gear in the contact game!

N – No doubt you will be in high demand in the contact game after your GB endeavours. Will you join a contact side and if so will you remain in flag?

H – It is great to see contact clubs support new players into the game and welcome new players to their teams. I am excited to join the Birmingham Lions which is captained by GB Quarterback Jo Kilby who has been a big inspiration into my involvement within contact because she has always supported and encouraged new players into the game. I will also continue with flag football as I would like to maintain and support that side of the sport because without my involvement with the Titans I may have not ever gotten into the contact side of the game.

N – Favourite and least favourite positions? And why?

H – My favourite position is Wide Receiver. A position that does intrigue me to one day learn the skills for is Running Back. Least favourite position, well I think if I was playing in the defensive line I would be scared! I am not experienced on defence!

N – What advice would you give to players (women especially) looking to reach the same heights you have?

H – I would encourage anyone with an interest in the sport to give it a go. Joining local teams and attending events like the Diamond Series and any similar events Flag may offer really will give a great insight into the game. One thing I have always found is that everyone involved in American Football really do want to support it and promote it. Everyone is so enthusiastic about the sport and it really comes across simply just by how welcoming teams are and how they want everyone to learn and have fun, no matter their experience or skill level.

Pye, pictured with Titans coaches Dan Archibald and Luke Gambrill at the Northamptonshire Sportswoman of the year awards evening

Pye, pictured with Titans coaches Dan Archibald and Luke Gambrill at the Northamptonshire sportswoman of the year awards evening

N – Welcome to my ridiculous hypothetical scenario. There’s a GB women’s flag team and you’re good enough to be selected. However, the GB contact team have also selected you and both teams play on the same day in a really important generic final. Which team do you play for?

H – Haha, this is a tough question. In honesty, I would say I would play for the GB contact team because the journey of the development days, to the GB training camps, to our first 11 v 11 international in Sweden was the best and most memorable experience. The skill, energy, time and organisation Jim Messenger and other GB coaches put into making that happen was incredible and I know every GB player is grateful for. Also, our GB team Captain, Bev Marwood was also a huge inspiration for the GB team that makes us all want to continue and aim high for future GB prospects.

However, that being said I think it would be great for Flag to have the same opportunity and I believe it would be just as successful because I know Andrew Gambrill shares the same passion and enthusiasm. With that, success and achievement will come.

N – Thanks for your time Han!

And there you have it! Best of luck in the Opal Series, and with the Birmingham Lions, you deserve all the success that comes your way!

I wasn’t always able to ascertain where certain photos came from. If you took one of the photos in this article and would either like me to take it down, or give you credit for the photograph, just let me know and I’m happy to do that!

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