Whilst its been the offseason for our sport around the country, the work has continued at the NZAFF level as we try to maintain momentum and drive things forward to support the upcoming season and beyond.
Whilst rugby and league tends to take the focus during these winter months, there has still been some exciting things happening for American Football in NZ. We were awarded a $90,000 grant for ENDZONE, had a visit from the Polynesian Football Hall Of Fame ex NFL players, and launched our campaign to send a National Men’s Team to the 2020 Flag Football World Championships in Denmark to name a few.
Below I have given some more detail on these initiatives as well as what else we have been working on over the past couple of months.
DOWNUNDERBOWL & FUND RAISING PLATFORM PILOT
It was great to see an U19 team head over to participate in the annual Down Under Bowl event in Australia last week to build on what they accomplished last year with the first ever full team attending from New Zealand.
As an almost solely self-funded initiative, the fact 30+ players and a Coaching staff can get over for the weeks activities is a huge testament to the commitment of the coaches, managers, players and their families. Its a great opportunity for these young athletes to test themselves against international players, as well as continue to refine their craft through training during the winter months and accessing the camps and coaching in Australia.
As NZAFF, we were pleased to be able to support the Down Under Bowl team with a $2,050 grant towards flight costs as well as launching a trial of our online shop "fundraiser" concept. The proceeds from the merchandise sold raised an additional $450 which was passed onto the travelling Down Under Bowl team.
Our aim is to be able to extend this online shop fundraising platform out to other NZAFF affiliated Clubs and Regions to use for their own fundraising, and we can support the website with operational support around accessing the gear, processing orders etc
Please get in touch with Russell (email@example.com) if you are interested in using this platform but bear in mind whilst any costs to access will be keep to an absolute minimum (likely only print set-up costs) there will be an expectation that participating Clubs / Regions are supporting wider NZAFF initiatives like our Coach and Officials development programs.
As you all know already the NZAFF Board believe that Flag Football (especially at a Junior level) is critical to growing interest and numbers in our game, so we have continued to drive our ENDZONE program forward even though it has been somewhat challenging during winter.
We had a huge win recently where we were awarded a $93,000 grant from Aktive Auckland to deliver ENDZONE Flag Football into Primary and Intermediate schools in Auckland, and this is probably the largest grant the sport has ever received outside of our Racing Board annual grant.
- $93,000 funding approved
- Targeting delivery across 60 schools in Auckland, with an aim to focus on suburbs near where we have NZAFF Clubs to try and establish connections.
- Targeting 7 sessions per child engaged, per school.
- Secured $19,000 grant funding to support our pilots
- Delivered ENDZONE pilots in 11 schools across Hibiscus Coast, East Auckland, Franklin and Kapiti Coast (we didn't have a lot of control over where pilots happened)
- Exposed over 1,500 young kids to American Football.
I would also like to specifically call our Russell our GM for all his hard work on the fundraising front here, as grant funding is becoming harder and harder to secure so to get $100,000+ to drive the longterm health of our sport is a great result.
POLYNESIAN FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME VISIT
As part of their recent visit to New Zealand we connected with the Polynesian Hall Of Fame team based in Hawaii, and whilst we only had 2 weeks notice of their visit to NZ we tried our best to make the most of their time here.
Being in the middle of rugby / league season it was hard to secure a venue at such late notice, but we arranged for the PFHOF Coaches to attend a Down Under Bowl U19 team training so this was an awesome experience for the young athletes to get coached and inspired by ex NFL players.
We also arranged a Coaching Q&A session which had a good attendance, and Russell and I met separately with the full PFHOF team to discus there objectives and aspirations and how these might align with NZAFF's.
The PFHOF have some lofty goals to see the likes of US Div 1 College Coaches down in New Zealand assessing talent, and helping develop our players and coaches so we are currently reviewing how we might work closer with them in the future.
NATIONAL FLAG TEAM & FLAG TOURNAMENTS
The New Zealand Makos Mens Flag Football National team campaign is now officially underway with a great coaching/ management team appointed and regional trials starting in mid-August.
There is still a lot of work to be done to mount a successful campaign, including the required "pay to play" funding being committed by the players, but after how well our Mens Flag team performed in the 2016 World Championships in the Bahamas we are looking forward to seeing how we measure up again in Denmark in 2020.
For NZAFF, this campaign's benefits extend well beyond the final 12 or so people who will travel to the World Championships, and we see it as a fantastic way to engage athletes who play Flag Football around the country. We expect over 75 athletes to attend our camps around the Country which is an awesome opportunity for players to up-skill, connect with each other, and share knowledge to grow the sport and hopefully build a strong community around Flag Football.
Off the back of our successful National Invitational Tournament in Wellington there has subsequently been a 5 team single day tournament held in Hamilton and there are additional Tournaments in the planning in both Auckland and Hawkes Bay so we are really excited to see the expansion of these sorts of events.
And if you are interested in hosting a tournament, or sending a team to one, please ensure you let Russell know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Whilst we do have some Coaches progressing through our Coach Accreditation Program, the uptake has been lower than we anticipated and to be completely honest has disappointed me.
The NZAFF board strongly believe it should be compulsory for EVERY American Football Coach in New Zealand to at least complete the online components of our Level 1 qualification. The course modules should only take 6-8 hours and can be broken down into small chunks and done over time, but the key elements covered around safe contact, concussion, dehydration, and other player safety elements are critical, not optional.
At the end of the day, with our structure only the Regions can really enforce this but we strongly encourage everyone involved in Coaching to please commit to doing whats right and upskilling on the basics of safe American Football through our CDP. Just think how you would feel if you had a young player succumb to a serious injury (or worse) and you hadnt done all you could to prepare for the situation.
On a related note, we have just announced our first Coaches and Officials Conference to be held in Auckland on August 3rd and 4th so we hope this gets strong support. We are looking to bring over Paul Manera (Coaching) and Miles Newman (Officiating) from Australia who are highly regarded as leaders in their fields in Australasia, and if you have completed the online elements of the previously mentioned Level 1 CDP the cost is $0 to attend.
The Board appreciate attending from other regions adds significant cost, but we truly believe it will be worth it and in the future may look to shift the Conference location around. For year 1 it largely comes down to a practical decision based on where the majority of American Football Coaches currently are based.
When we put out our surveys we are consistently told Coach Development is critical, and we are trying to do our part but you guys need to do yours and get there. So save the date and try and make it happen.
That’s all for me this month, but as always feel free to drop me a line if you have anything on your mind you would like to share.