Great Britain begins new-look national team rebuild

Over two years since their last game Great Britain is back on the field putting together the pieces of the proud Lion’s football program. New head coach Jason Scott gathered his top prospects this past weekend as he and his staff look to rebuild a team preparing to make a long-awaited return to the international stage. For Scott, building the program’s culture is his top priority:

“What’s really nice and made very clear is I don’t care what club team you come from. What part of the world you come from, what nationality you are, whether you’re Scottish or English or Welsh, whether you’re white, black, or Asian. If you’re here, you’re here to work.” 

The University of Nottingham played host the Great Britain National team camp, as 100 players were invited to participate this past weekend. Initially, coach Scott and the Lions coaching staff received over 500 applicants for the national team as the UK’s talent-rich football scene was hungry to be a part of the national team’s rebuild. After preliminary trials in late October, Scott and his coaching staff were able to narrow down the long list of skilled players to a top one hundred. Scott commented on the large number of applicants vying to be a part of the GB program:

“Yeah, I think it’s really good that you know, a rising tide lifts all boats. So, when you put it out there, and you brand it, and you really promote it, everyone wants to get involved. The more people are getting involved, the wider the talent pool, you’ve got, the better athletes you can select. You can start to be selective about the people or characters that you either let in or don’t let into your program. So, to have that amount that was in a month, I think we could’ve had six to seven hundred 700 people if we’ve kept the application process open.”

The GB Lions haven’t made a gameday appearance since they beat Russia 35-0 in late 2019. The Lions declined to finish the 2020 IFAF European championships this summer citing COVID-19 related concerns. However, this fall they are eager to return to play as they look to build back before entering IFAF play. As one would imagine, the list of players features many new faces joining veterans looking to wear the blue and white next year.

Scott on the intriguing mix of players:

“Well, we’ve got around 60 returners and 60 new players.  Every single one of them bought into what we’re doing. I think that speaks really highly of the coaching staff we have brought in. They were really professional on the day,”

GB Lions discuss strategy in meetings

With a cast of new characters competition was turned up during the weekend’s intense training camp. First-time GB player Courtney Etienne commented on the fire of the players competing to represent their country.

The mood was electric. Both defense and offense wanted it so it was a constant back and forth. He said, “I think there was a bit of an extra edge as there is a completely new staff since the last time GB has done anything. As a team so there was a real competitive edge as both previous players and new players were trying to impress.”

Team GB at training camp

On offense, quarterback Josh Mills described the weekend’s camp as fiery as all the players were working together for the first time. With team roster spots and playing time up for grabs in a new-look Lions team, the competition was fierce on the field.

“The day started with the install and then moved onto compete drills like 7 on 7 pass skelly and run skelly which was super competitive. Everyone was hyped and getting after it. After pass and run skelly, we moved onto full team scrimmage which was again super competitive as everyone wanted the bragging rights,”

Coach Scott grinned at the idea of tough competition in camp, emphasizing that the Lions are building a cooperative environment conducive to long-term success.

“Now we don’t call it competition, competition suggests that you’re working against each other. We call it community for places. We believe that if everyone’s helping one another, get better and grow and develop. We’re gonna be better team. I think the competition is great. But it has to be controlled. It has to be in an environment where it feels good to grow.  What I do emphasize is a lot of people encouraging one another and supporting one another. That’s a big part of my program, is you want to be the man of integrity and accountability.”

With a large talent pool in Great Britain, the Lions could be a team to watch for in the next IFAF European Championships. New head coach Jason Scott hopes to continue the growth of the program as well as improve the team before resuming international play. Scott hinted at a possible friendly match-up along with an inter-squad scrimmage in March. Until then, the Great Britain squad will be looking forward to a December training camp as they look to build chemistry after being apart for nearly two years.

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football