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My season as the last Head Coach of the Coventry Jets – Sam Kendall

Sam Kendall  - The Battered Bastards

So this year has been one of the most difficult seasons I have been through in terms of emotional highs and lows, stress and fun. This year, I took over as Head Coach of Coventry Jets in February 2018. I had been appointed as Defensive Co-Ordinator, but for unforeseen circumstances, was handed the task of Head Coach. I went into this role with excitement, the potential of highly motivated team, who were willing to learn and develop following their 2017 season where they narrowly avoided relegation to Division 2 with a win in the final game, was huge.

With a small dedicated coaching team, we worked hard to get ready for our first game against Leicester Falcons. We knew this was going to be a very difficult game due to the fact Leicester were the divisional champions last season. We lost this opening game and it set a precedent for the season. Over the next 4 games, we struggled both home and away to gain yardage on offense and reach the end zone, but our defence really stepped up with a lot of our losses coming in the 4th Quarter when they had become exhausted.

Sam Kendall  - HC of Coventry Jets during their final season
Sam Kendall – HC of Coventry Jets during their final season

This was a difficult time for the team. A number of players started leaving and who could blame them. We were not in a good place, nor was it improving. The more players that stepped away meant more players playing both sides, and as Head Coach, I tried to steady the ship as best as i could.
The hardest decision I had to make came before our home game to Leicester Falcons. We were very low on numbers, several in key positions such as the Offensive Line. Not wanting to risk further injury to a depleted team, I had to make the decision, after talking with the players and coaches, to forfeit the game. This was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make as a Coach and in my playing career. I felt like I had let the players down and it really made me question whether it would be worth me continuing. Fortunately, with the support of the players and coaches, I carried out and set out for our next game which was Sandwell Steelers away.

Sam Kendall  - HC of Coventry Jets during their final season
Sam Kendall – HC of Coventry Jets during their final season

This game came with another heart wrenching decision to make, we took 18 players from a potential 35 players that we had on our books, and by the 1st Quarter, we were now down to 16 with many of the players being banged up from a very physical game. At Half Time, we had a discussion with the players and our opposition, to call the game at half time. This again was not a easy decision, the weight of the wider BAFA community looking down on the decision played heavily on me and I again, questioned my own leadership. With support from my partner, the players and the coaching staff, I brushed it off and carried on, focusing on the final 3 games of the season and, eventually, the end of the Coventry Jets.

Emotions on the team were very high and a number of times arguments between coaches and players became heated, down to the fact we want to the same outcome and were frustrated by how the season was going.
The final game of the season, and of the Jets, it was all or nothing. The team were ready and we as coaches, prepared for what would be an enjoyable and difficult game. Our team battled hard, several players playing out of position, but for the first time in the back end of the season we were enjoying ourselves.

As Head Coach, I had mixed emotions; this would be my final game in charge and would be the final game of the season. I would be the last Head Coach of Coventry Jets and that really meant something as I hoped I had impacted my player’s lives in a positive manner and not ruined the name of Coventry Jets by going winless. Although we did not win, I feel we achieved alot and that I developed players.

Sam Kendall  - HC of Coventry Jets during their final season
Sam Kendall – HC of Coventry Jets during their final season

Looking back on it now, I enjoyed it and have learnt more in a winless season than I would ever have done in a winning season. At times I wanted to quit and walk away, but my love for the game and wanting to make an impact kept myself going and I could have done it without the full support of my fiancée, the coaches and the players.

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