Just over a month to go until our season begins.
June might be a time for kicking back and grilling on Sundays for most people, but not for our coaches. They’re busy honing their plans for division domination, but thankfully not too busy to take some time out for our Meet the Coaches series. Next up is Offensive Coordinator, Steve Playford.
How did you get in to football?
This is not only how, but I can tell you exactly when. The evening of January 15th 1978, 11.15pm. I was a young lad still living at home doing what most young lads were doing in bed at that time… No, not that! I was listening to Radio Luxembourg 208 under the bedsheets! But whilst trying to tune in on my little radio I stumbled across AFRTS. What’s that? I’ll tell you. It’s the American Forces Radio and Television Service. And at the aforementioned time, Superbowl XII between the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos had just kicked off. My main experience of sporting broadcasts in those days was David Coleman and Jimmy Hill on Match of the Day, hardly exciting. But when this appeared! Wow! I was hooked, and I stayed up listening until the end of the game, not knowing the rules, or who the teams were. What transpired was that the team I found myself leaning towards during those 3 or 4 hours, the Dallas Cowboys, ended up winning and were crowned World Champions! This was the sport for me!
How did you start coaching?
As with most coaches I had a playing career before coaching. Quite a long one! The last few years of playing, because I had those games under my belt, I was helping to guide the rookies and younger players, and became a player/coach. Or that’s what I thought. Knowing what I know now, I wasn’t a coach, I was just someone who knew a lot about football and loved to pass it on. When playing days ended for me, I took to coaching position groups, all on offense, and for the only team I ever played for, the Norwich Devils. Sadly, after helping to form them back in 1984, the team folded in 2010. That’s when I took a year out to recover, reflect and rue the fact that another team didn’t exist within earshot of Norwich.
What’s the defining moment of your coaching career so far?
It was a day in 2012, after my time out, when I was approached by Nick Rockell, well known in Britball circles, and my ex-HC, and title winning HC at that. He asked if I wanted to help coach the students at his current HC job at the University of East Anglia. By this time I was ready to get back into it, and jumped at the chance. I listened, watched, learned, bugged him for information all the time, and eventually, I got it! He left the team after 3 years but he’d made me see what it took to be a proper coach. And as it was coaching young athletes and students I looked at it with an extra sense of responsibility. From then on I’ve been treading my own coaching path, trying to see how far I can get, how successful I can be, and how successful I can help others to be.
How do you approach coaching?
By following the examples of Coach Rockell mentioned above. Coaching is an opportunity to affect someone else’s life for the better, or if you aren’t careful, for the worst. I strive every day to ensure its the former.
What are the most important things to you in coaching?
I guess that’s my coaching philosophy:
- I want to provide a meaningful and enjoyable experience to my athletes and coaches, to provide them with the opportunities for physical, social, emotional and mental enhancement that will lead each of them to become a good and productive person on and off the field. To instil a discipline and work ethic in them that will help them enhance their talents and life values through sport.
- To give them the coaching and information they need to help them progressively improve from session to session. That would mean improvement as a player and as a person, in the hope that they one day will want to pass it forward.
- I will ALWAYS coach players to play within the rules and regulations, and will expect them to treat all opponents and officials with the respect and moral behaviour that they would wish for themselves.
- I will succeed or fail on decisions that I make myself, based on two things – my own personality, and the knowledge gained so far by learning from, and studying others.
Tell us about your best game as a player.
I don’t know how you would define ‘best’. I was blessed to have many game winning scores and performances under my belt, both as a QB and as a RB, but one game that stands out in my memory is an away game at the Carterton Wildcats. It turned out we were a better team altogether, and after 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter, with us winning handsomely, our stats man informed me and my team mates and coaches that I’d just broken 300 yards rushing. Well it was a really hot sunny day, and the lure of a cold Budweiser and a juicy burger was too tempting, and we agreed I could call it a day and let someone else ‘have a go’. I watched the rest of the game, which we won, from the sidelines wearing shades, and a big hat, and with my bare feet loving the feel of the warm grass beneath them. On the trip home, a sheepish stats man came towards the back of the coach to inform us he’d made a mistake and that it was only 297 yards.
I hated that stats man.
What college or pro team do you support, and why?
America’s Team: The Dallas Cowboys, see above.
Which NFL coaches do you respect and why?
Respect them all really, lots of them have qualities I like, which are probably very similar to mine. I love coaches that push the boundaries or are innovative in their play calling, like Andy Reid, Jon Gruden or Sean Payton, but also the more studious and laid back guys like Don Shula, George Seifert and Bill Walsh from years gone by.
Favourite NFL player, past or present?
Deion Sanders, the best ever at his position, ‘nuff said!
Are you superstitious about football? How?
Not in the least. However, I have worked with several coaches who are, and they did all manner of weird and wonderful things “until we lose”. If it makes them happy, and doesn’t break any team rules, and doesn’t offend anyone, carry on.
As a player, I did things every game that I wouldn’t class as superstitious, more sensible. Ensuring my body, uniform and equipment was in prime condition, and I looked the part!
What are your goals for the 2021 season?
I told the HC when I gladly took the job when offered it, that I want to build an offense that not only would get us promotion to the Premier, but that would help us first and foremost, compete, and eventually, be successful there. Whether that would mean winning a title remains to be seen, that’s a tough ask. But certainly, to establish the team in the top tier, to allow us to build on that for the future.
What are your goals in your coaching career?
To continue on my chosen path to be as successful as life will allow.
For the players, to instil in them a winning and ambitious culture, to enable them to be as good as they can be.
And for my fellow coaches, I would hope to be as big and as positive an influence on them, as my mentor was on me.