Jen Hilton to become the first woman to play alongside men in the British American Football League
Brave sports star Jen Hilton is about to make history – by becoming the first woman to play alongside men in the British American Football Association’s Community League. The tough cookie from Tile Hill is putting on her pads in tireless training to make her debut with the Coventry Jets this May. The sport’s national governing body has confirmed the 27-year-old will be the first woman to play the full-contact game at premier league level.
Coventry is already a hotbed of young female talent with Warwick and Coventry universities hosting the UK’s first established women’s non-contact “flag” teams.
But 5’10” Jen will be the first – and only – woman to play with and against men in the national league and, as one of the Jets’ running backs, she’ll be guaranteed contact with burly blokes on the field.
She said: “I saw American football on telly a few years ago and it’s just so interesting and totally different from any other sport I had seen. I heard about the British League, looked it up and wanted to go down and practise with the Jets. When I turned up I got a really good reaction. They were very professional and didn’t blink an eyelid when I asked to join. I was really impressed by that.”
Jen has bought specialist kit designed for female players, including chest pads, from America and is training hard ahead of her debut. The European Federation of American Football have denied her the opportunity to play in the EFAF Cup so she will miss the Jets’ first two games – away to Paris Cougars in April and home to Danish champions the Søllerød Gold Diggers on the 7th of May.
Her first game will be in Bristol against the all-male Bristol Aztecs on May the 15th and her first game at the Butts Park Arena will be on the 11th of June against the newly promoted Tamworth Phoenix. Gary Marshall, Chairman of the British American Football Association, said: “We’re delighted to announce what we believe to be the first female senior kitted American Football player in UK history, joining the Coventry Jets for the 2011 season.
“This is a really positive step showing that it is ability that matters in our highly competitive sport. We’ve previously had females playing at university level and they are regular participants in the non-kitted, flag version of our sport. However this development represents an excellent step forward for American Football in the UK. Increasing participation is a key aim for everyone in the sport and we hope that Jen is the first of many women to compete in the Community Leagues.”