When the finals are played to bring the flag football season to a crescendo on Saturday, Rohan Marshall will be more than a player/coach of one of the teams. After 14 years’ involvement in the sport here, his input, along with that of rival coach of the Hellcats George “Teddy” Hydes, has helped shape the sport in Cayman into what it is now.
The matches are between the Maples Lynx and Anytime Fitness Wolverines at 3:15 p.m., and the Kensington Hellcats play the Burger King Panthers at 4:15 p.m. at the Ed Bush stadium in West Bay.
Watching the sport develop, especially the skill levels of the players, has been Marshall’s greatest satisfaction.
He also got the opportunity this year to develop the Maples Dolphins and the Maples women’s team, both extremely talented teams that look to see success soon.
Having played on the offensive and defensive lines, worked as a line coach for the Panthers, been assistant coach for the national team and officiated coed, kids and adult games, Marshall has seen it all. He has also sat on the board as a head referee.
Considering flag has been played in Cayman for nearly two decades, is it surprising that there are only five men’s team in the league.
“Right now the sport needs to get more players involved in the men’s divisions,” Marshall said. “The women’s participation continues to grow, so there’s a need to keep the ladies injury free and interested in the game.
“I attribute the successful transition for the women players to eight-women contact to the current flag president, Maggie Ebanks.”
An avid watcher of many sports, Marshall supports the Baltimore Ravens, “because they are a good run-stopping team with some very good offensive weapons.”
He also supports Manchester City and plays softball when he can. Growing up, Marshall played for the national football team at Under-17 and U-19 levels, tennis, basketball, squash, softball and coached kids baseball, flag football and pee wee football.
The 40-year-old safety manager believes the flag scene has a number of coaches who have raised Cayman flag standards throughout.
“Those who I admire for their camaraderie and discipline they bring to their respective teams include Shaun Pitterson, Clayton Lopez, Josh Pawlik, Brendon Malice and Oliver Parker,” he said. “As for the players, they are all winners in my eyes if they actively participate in coaching kids and coed teams as well.”
The Panthers will not be favored to beat the Hellcats in Saturday’s final, but whatever the result, Marshall will be happy considering how his team was put together.
“Our season went well this year. The Panthers merged with the Lone Star Mustangs and we are having a blast playing together.”
Marshall hopes the flourishing flag scene will get more international chances in the future.
“I’d love to see international tournaments played here, especially when our sporting participants can gain exposure and better their skill levels by participating in those high level games.
“The more exposure we have for our players, the better they will be as a group.”
As for sports tourism, he feels the key is the quality of the facilities.
“Currently, there is a very limited level of sporting facilities available in the Cayman Islands. Many are used for multisport activities, therefore availability to practice is limited.
“But not to take away from the growth of facilities in the past 10 years, Cayman has increased that exponentially. However, the sporting facilities needed to fuel revenue generation are just not there.”
The Cayman national flag team is set to compete in two tournaments in the next few months. One is against the Bahamas in a weekend tournament, and the other is in the United States Flag and Touch Football League with more than 100 participants.
“For the Bahamas tour, expect to see team Cayman win, and for the USFTL, I expect we will place in the top three for the tournament,” Marshall said. “This will beat our placement of last year in the top 10.”
His funniest sporting moment was with the U-10 flag football league when one player pulled the flag of his own participating player, who was running the wrong way, to their own goal.
“The biggest joke was when they came to the sideline, the entire group of boys started laughing and stated that was the only way they could get the player to not score against his own team.”
As for Saturday’s game against the mighty Hellcats, there is no doubt for Marshall how it will pan out. “I expect the Panthers to win.”