A team in the U19 competition can change an awful lot in the offseason, with players leaving for university, or graduating to senior teams. Blitz reporter Fergal McArdle chatted to U19s Head Coach Jason Henry about the recent squad changes, and his plans for the upcoming season:
“On average we lose around a third of our U19 squad every year. During the offseason we normally have to find around 4x as many new players to fill their shoes, because the reality is that Football is about dedication, and many new players just don’t have the passion to stick with it.
“This season we are fortunate to have a great core of returning players, some great players joining as rookies and a couple of great players joining us from other teams.”
Last season the Blitz U19s were crowned National Championships (Coach Henry's fifth championship trophy), losing only one game during the whole season - a mistake the team swiftly rectified in the semi-finals.
Many of those who are now no longer eligible to play in the U19 league have continued to play the sport at the senior level, and perhaps most notable of those is Aaron Mahoney-Jones, who is now representing Garden City Community College - one of the top teams in the NJCAA.
Coach Henry has worked with many successful players over the course of his career, with recent players including Kobi Champion and Domonyc Steer, who represented the Europe Warriors U19s with Aaron in Mexico. Coach H comments on what it means to him to see individual players develop:
“It should make anyone connected with Football in the UK proud when someone plays at the next level. Having the honour of coaching players that have played at every level, it always validates why I turn up every Sunday. We measure success not by winning, but trying our best to have a club and teams which learn, grow and turn up each Sunday to have fun.”
Coach Henry continued to emphasise the importance of young players enjoying the game with regards to his outlook on this season;
“Our objective for the season is always built around what players want, and also about their commitment. The coaches always look for the players to enjoy the sport, to meet new people, and to grow as a person and as a player. Each year our aim is to increase the number of players enjoying football, and that’s no different for the upcoming season.”
Coach H continues to make it clear to the team during training that it is up to them to set the tone, and to use the opportunities to take them as far as they want to go. If that means another National Championship, it's down to the players to train hard and to have great dedication to get themselves there.
Coach Henry has also taken on the role of Head Coach of the Great Britain U19 program, while still maintaining his incredible dedication to the Blitz. When asked about how he manages to juggle his two footballing roles, as well as his family, he responded:
“Running the youth and junior elements of the Blitz has taken up much of my free time for several years, and taking up the role of GB Head Coach was always going to be a challenge. The amazing support of my family, including my late mother who encouraged me to help others achieve their dreams, was all the motivation I needed. So, planning is key.”
Good luck for the upcoming season!
TEAM, PRIDE, BLITZ, BROTHERS.