Pulling The Flag

Interview with Cheryl Harley

Name: Cheryl Cheuk Ling Harley
Age: 18
Profession: Full time student
Teams: Coventry Pink Panthers and Coventry Panthers.
Years in flag: 2 years
Positions: Safety and Wide Receiver.

How long and How did you get involved in Flag American Football?

I have been involved with Flag American Football for 2 years, and it started with Peter Evans coming into one of my PE lessons at Kenilworth School and Sixth Form.

Image courtesy of Garry Charles@MyLonelyTreeMedia

So we’ve seen you mostly play defence as a Safety for the Coventry Pink Panthers and as a Cornerback for the Adult Coventry Panthers. How did you end up playing those positions?

I ended up as a safety for the Pink Panthers, as I have height on my side and due to me previously playing soccer as a goal keeper and GK in netball. It came very naturally for me to get interceptions. In the Coventry Panthers due to me joining part way through the league, I filled in where I could and went through many different positions such as Running Back. Pat Lane (Head Defensive Coach for Coventry Panthers) at first placed me in a Cornerback role as I have good game sense and judged the QBs well. I now play Safety for the Coventry Panthers.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

What is it you like about your positions on defence?

I enjoy getting interceptions and hopefully a few Pick Six’s, and so I utilise my height and agility. As a safety you tend to oversee things playing out in front of you, it is a great feeling being able to notice what the offense is doing and coordinate the defense accordingly to shut them down.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Do you ever get the chance to mix things up and play on offence?

With the Pink Panthers due to our small knit team, we tend to play both sides of the ball and so I also play Wide Receiver for the Pink Panthers. For the Coventry Panthers I don’t tend to play on offence as we have a very large team and I prefer to play on defence, however when I do played on offense, I play Wide Receiver.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Why do you think you are well suited to playing as a defensive back? What makes you so effective playing there?

I think my height and agility as well as game sense play a big part in why I am a good Defensive Back, as you need to be able to stick to your player in man marking and with my height it would allow me to secure the ball if thrown high. I have good game sense too which allows me to judge a situation quickly and react.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Tell us more about the Pink Panthers set up?

The Pink Panthers team originates from the girls originally at the Kenilworth School programme​, however the Pink Panthers Academy has more programmes in many different secondary schools run by Peter Evans.

Image courtesy of the Coventry Pink Panthers

You seem to have what all good teams have, a real team bond. Where does that togetherness come from?

I feel the togetherness from the Pink Panthers comes from most of us knowing each other for nearly 7 years and due to the passion shared when playing a sport you all enjoy you connect very easily and so with the whole team we all get along very well. Although I am the baby of the Coventry Panthers, I feel very included and like any other player on the team and found many things in common with my teammates.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

You’ve had some good outings in the Opal Series. Tell our readers what that experience has been like for you and your team mates?

Opal series, especially this year, has gotten to a much higher standard with both players and teams. I think more so this year than last I have learnt a lot more from Opal, as some of the teams there we as the Pink Panthers have played before it was interesting to see how teams have adapted and made us change our game plans and tactics to beat some of the teams. We also saw how we need to improve from some close games and loses.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

You played at Big Bowl last year, with the Coventry Cougars Junior Girls. How did that experience compare to playing in the UK?

Playing with the Coventry Cougars Junior Girls was an amazing experience and one which taught me a lot about different styles of playing as a team and also with the Cougar Seniors coaching, I learnt a lot of from their experiences too. Out in Germany playing against teams like Mexico it was a completely different game dynamic and although we lost a few of the games we held our own as a make shift team.

Image courtesy of Lisa Madden

You also traveled to Holland last year with the Warwick Wolverines and came third at Pink Bowl, how did that compare to Big Bowl?

It was a really great experience. Pink Bowl is not a large as Big Bowl, but it was still fantastic to take part and we came third, which was a great result. We only lost to Team Mexico by eight points, so there were lots of positives.

The Wolverines are a great team and are really lovely people too. Can’t thank them enough for letting us take part.

Image courtesy of the Warwick Wolverines

What did you take away from playing in Big & Pink Bowl, that has helped improve your game?

I learnt a lot of about adjusting positioning as a safety as teams like Mexico do trick plays involving multiple QBs and QBs who can throw the length of the pitch, something I hadn’t experienced in the Opal series.

Image courtesy of Rudi Halfmann

You’re the only member of the Pink Panthers who plays for the Adult Coventry Panthers. Why is that? How does it compare to the women’s game?

I joined the Coventry Panthers to learn more as I felt after Germany and the first GB Trials I had reached a wall, as physically I was fit and technically I was taught everything possible by my coaches at Pink Panthers. I felt I wasn’t happy with how I was as a safety and often misjudged things and had bad positioning, and as the last line of defense I knew I needed to improve. I am unsure why my teammates at the Pink Panthers haven’t joined the Coventry Panthers, however I would say the men’s game is more rough than games I have played in the women’s league and with exams coming up it would be difficult to join another team now.

Image courtesy of the Coventry Panthers

I played against you twice last year at Adult flag and you made a couple of picks against me. Thanks for that! But seriously though, how has playing in the adult league helped develop your game?

Why thank you 😉 it was fun playing against you and I did learn a lot from those games​. From playing in the men’s league it has gave me a lot of insight into the bigger game, as playing for the Pink Panthers we played the Cougar Youth team quite often and although the games were fun, I felt that it was somewhat closed off. Playing against men’s teams with QBs that have pin point accurate throws and very experienced players, helped me to adjust quickly and find my pace.

Image courtesy of the Coventry Panthers

You you recently attended the Women’s GB trials and made the provisional 24 squad. You must be very proud and excited to see if you can progress further with the squad?

I am very proud to make the squad of 24 and I’ll give it my all to see if I can progress further with the GB squad. I have the support of my family, friends and teammates and I will hopefully show the GB coaches everything I can give to the team.

Image courtesy of Garry Charles@MyLonelyTreeMedia

Your team mates Rachael Carnduff and Abi Snelson also made the squad. What do you think made you all stand out to the coaching staff?

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Every member in the Pink Panthers team has worked very hard with the guidance of our Coach Thomas Wale, he has done a tremendous job over the year of bringing on the team spirit and we have all improved drastically throughout the year. The majority of the Pink Panthers team attended the open GB Trial on the 1st April, with absolute passion. I think this passion to the game made us stand out.

Image courtesy of P&M Photography

Lastly, do you see yourself playing in say, 5 years time? And what do you hope to achieve in that time?

Flag American Football is definitely a long term sport and definitely one I see myself playing in 5 years, although I am not sure where. I thoroughly enjoy Flag American Football and whether it be competitive or just for fun I’ll be around. In about 5 years I hope to learn as much as I can from the GB squad and multiple games with different teams, hopefully I can reach my full potential in the sport within that time.

Thanks Cheryl and all the best in the future.

Thank you PTF


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