Female American Football in the South of France with Les Ours de Toulouse!

Now we begin “à faire du foot!”

Full article published in the latest “4th and Goal” a French American Football Magazine.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he women’s game is progressing by leaps and bounds over the past two years in France. Among the clubs who have embarked on the adventure this season  are Les Ours de Toulouse. Charles Renel, coach and head of the women’s section of the club tells us the beginnings of this new team.

Q: How was the team started?

A: We’ve followed the outbreak of different female French teams for the past two years and we had some requests last spring. We said that if we do not launch a team this year we could see a structure setup in the region outside the club,  so we tried. The first practice in September there were only 3 girls. But we had no regrets. Today we have 17 licensed players and three or four more who should have their licenses soon! I, who was part of the team that launched the Mini-mes section of the club in 2006, was impressed on how quickly it has all happened! At first I was the only coach, but now we often have at least two or three , which allows us to do a good job I think.

Q: Where have your players come from?

A: Initially we had a lot of the girlfriends of Les Ours men’s teams players. They represent about half of the group. They came to see their friends and thought it was cool, wanted to try. Many girls came from other sports, handball, judo, rugby, track & field. Rugby is very popular in this region and there are a lot of girls who have played rugby high school. With word of mouth, through the girlfriends of girlfriends of girlfriends, the group continues to grow.

Q: You also have a Les Ours female flag football team; do the two teams compete for athletes?

A: We have a dozen girls on the flag team and some have shown an interest in the fully equipped American Football team, but for now, none are involved in both activities. It is a bit like the boys, some are only interested in one of the teams and others by both, but I this is a good problem to have. The full equipped women team gives the cadet and junior girls a new solution for competition. (Editor’s note: In France, girls can play with boys on the youth teams but not in the adult teams, that’s why this new team gives new opportunities to girls that either stopped or were forced to only play flag football.)

Q: What are your goals for this first season?

A: At the beginning we had none, we wanted just see if it could work. But with the success that we are having we would like to start to playing other clubs. We have not been able to nail-down a first meeting date between the clubs Sud a Aix, but we will be in Montpellier in late March. We plan to organize a home game later in the spring. These days will have a technical clinic early in the day followed by a scrimmage. It allows a good exchange.

Q: You do not have a lot of experience as a coach. Is it different with girls?

A: Not really. Since they do not have experience it is very close to what I could know with Cadets or Mini-mes. Compared to boys, they need to understand why a particular point, a particular technique. But once they understand they apply and conform much better when they are asked. For a coach it’s nice! One side that is a bit unexpected is that at first they are often afraid to hurt other girls. But once they understand that the contact is not necessarily going hurt anyone, it goes well!

Q: How do you see the result of this adventure?

A: We hope for more meetings and within a year or two a championship can be set up in the South. Now we begin “à faire du foot” so obviously the next step is to make real games! With all our teams we often have trouble finding practice locations but we would like to hold  two practices per week. The federation (FFFA) has also set a goal of having a female team of France for the next World Championships so we will follow it closely. This will motivate the girls. One of them, who has some experience from England, has even entered our “performance” section and trains with the boys three times a week!

Article provided thanks to Olivier Rival.

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.