Pythons’ bite not poisonous yet

The Pythons are a rookie flag football team stalking their competition.

The squad plays in the 2011 Grand Cayman Flag Football Association women’s league. In spite of three consecutive losses to start their campaign, sentiments remain that the side will be a terror in the coming weeks.

Among the confident team-members is captain and starting centre Carla Martin. The George Town native states the side has been competitive and is out to prove a point.

“The team has done excellent and everyone worked together to achieve one goal,” Martin said. “We’re individuals with one goal. We haven’t won yet but we have played well. Our defence has kept games close and our offence has been working hard.

“We want to let them know just because we’re rookies doesn’t mean we don’t have talent. Win, lose or draw we’re going to keep a positive attitude and continue working hard.”

Martin, 27, is surrounded by an interesting collection of talents. Leading the way is quarterback Tamika Byrd, who has one season in the sport under her belt. From there some of the notable players are athletes in other sports such as footballers Jessica Maxwell and Jessica Ebanks, netballer Carrie Barnett and track star Sheyla Torres.

Guiding the group are head coach Shawn Pitterson, defensive coach Rupert Whittaker and assistant coach Joe Byrd. Pitterson is no stranger to flag football or Cayman sports with involvement in disciplines like rugby, softball and basketball. Interestingly the Maples and Calder employee has an added burden as he plays and helps organize the Maples Packers (which currently plays in the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association men’s league).

Pitterson states managing the Pythons in the women’s competition is an interesting assignment.

“Flag football is one of my favourite sports and sports is my passion,” Pitterson said. “I’ve been in flag football nine years and this is my second women’s team. We started training about four weeks ago and it all came about after one of the league organizers approached me to coach an expansion team.

“Ninety per cent of the ladies are new to the sport but they are quick learners. Our defence is aggressive and we just have to tweak our offence. As we continue to practice we will get better.

“I ref and play in the men’s league and it’s different. The men play 9-on-9 and the women are 7-on-7. The women can only shadow block on the line and they cannot extend their arms to block. In the men’s league there is full contact on the line and down-field blocking. There are also different defensive schemes as well.”

The Pythons have some tough games left on their schedule. This month the squad faces the unbeaten Wolverines (this Saturday 6 August), Andro Killa Panthers and the Jager Monsters. They also face the defending champion Hammerhead Lady Sharks at the start of September.

For Martin, who is a government human resources assistant, 2011 will be remembered as the year she took her passion for flag football from the stands to the field.

“Flag football attracted me after watching some of the men’s games. The sport has an aggression and fun aspect that attracts me. Being involved now, the excitement is a big difference. You can make changes and you have the ability to dictate the game. You can help a team instead of watching and hoping from the stands.”

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