|Herts Defensive Coordinator and GB Linebacker coach Simon Hatcher (left)|
DC: Congratulations on reaching the final again! How does it feel to have the opportunity to defend your title?
Thank you. It is a great opportunity and a nice reward for all the effort put towards our goal as a team.
DC: Strength of schedule is often mentioned as an issue in the BAFA University league. Are you concerned that your team hasn't faced any "top" opposition (no teams inside the top 5 teams in the nation) in comparison to Birmingham?
It is hard to speculate on teams that we have not played. We play a pretty good team in practice every week, and I believe SEC teams are getting better every year.
DC: How big an advantage is returning a large majority of your starters from last season?
I don’t think it was a massive difference on graduation to previous years. We start 3 or 4 rookies on both sides of the ball. But returning players are of course a massive advantage, especially if they have put in the S&C work over the summer.
DC: Looking past the final, how do you handle a large roster turnover from year to year?
The same as every team really. Recruit well, train your rookies as intensively as your 3 year starter, and understand the process. I believe it is one of the strengths of Student football that you can never rest on your laurels. This brings a sense of urgency especially at the start of the year, knowing if you have a bad recruiting year; it affects you for 3 years.
My philosophy is “preparation meets opportunity”. 1st year players need to understand that they might be starting in a National final in April, so they need to start working towards that goal in week one.
DC: The Hurricanes had some tragic news during this season when they were told that Ibrahim al-Mazwagi had passed away, how has that affected the team?
I think the same as any life lesson that we encounter, we reflected and turned the situation into a positive learning experience. We are fortunate to have a wide range of ages in our coaching staff, which helps to look at these challenges from different stages in life. Some of our players have never experienced a friend passing away, and unfortunately some of us have experienced it far too often.
DC: It always seems like Hertfordshire and Birmingham are there or thereabouts every season. What do you think it is that sets programs like these above others and allows them consistent success?
It is many things. British Cycling’s “aggregation of marginal gains” is the best way I can describe how I feel we get the edge. We look at every minute detail of the program and try and improve it. It would be easy to say for example that if we spent ££ on a blocking sled we would improve, but that is not achievable at the moment, so we try and improve everything we do by a marginal amount. For my personal motivation I have to give a lot of credit to the strong teams, I am certain I would not work as hard if I didn’t have to, but knowing that teams at other Universities are working so hard, motivates me to keep up.
DC: Finally, in the spirit of our final questions, how has the adjustment from Green to Purple gone in your coaching wardrobe? Do you still long for the darker shade of green, or do you like the new purple look?
I completely respect the History of the Team, and understand the emotions that this has brought about. The change was required by the Athletic Union so all teams have a consistent brand. Universities operate like businesses now, and as such need a strong brand. It did not really affect my wardrobe because the coaching uniform is still black.
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