Interview with Juniors HC George Lees
Hello Caesars fans, in a bit of great news for the club, The Nottingham Caesars Juniors recently completed their season with a perfect record in the Northern conference and secured play-off football. They sit second in the conference behind East Kilbride Pirates, who also had an undefeated season, and the junior Caesars will travel up to Scotland to play them in the first round of the play-offs. We caught up with the architect behind this tremendous success, head coach George Lees, and asked him a few questions.
What did you do different from last season to this season in order to improve?
GL: This season we have made two big changes. One is our defensive style of play. The defensive play-book has been designed this year to cater more towards the athletic ability that we have gained from new players coming in and returning players off-season improvements. This has really proven to be effective so far. The other change we have made is the amount of research and preparation we have done about our opposition this season. Knowing your opponents is half the battle.
Now that you know you’re playing East Kilbride Pirates in the first play-off game, what’s your experience of them? Have you played them before and what do you expect?
GL: No, we have never played them. If they are anything like the other Scottish team the Highland Wildcats, they will be incredibly hard hitting and well drilled. They too have had an undefeated season, their defence is a solid group with some really powerful defensive ends, so it should prove to be an interesting match-up.
How do you approach the game planning aspect of the game, do you call offensive and defensive plays or do you have assistance?
GL: This season we have game planned far more with our defence than our offence. If we can keep our opponents scores low and give our offence great field position, then we will always have a strong chance to win the game. This season I have called the bulk of the defensive plays, with some assistance from Alec Ball. Alec was a junior last year, who has been helping out this season, he has a great defensive mind and has been a real asset to the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, play calling has been shared between myself and quarterback Thomas Henley. He is in his 4th and final year with the juniors and is gaining a really strong understanding of how to run an offence and how to read a defence. He definitely knows our offensive play-book better than I do.
As a coach, how would you describe your coaching style? Also, why do coaching and why the Junior C?
GL: My coaching style in one word: Manic! One extreme to the other at times, the players seem to respond well to it. Many people have told me that my coaching style is very unorthodox but it seems to be working.
I got into coaching due to a back injury. I had planned on only coaching for a season whilst I re-strengthened my back however I got carried away and here I am nearing the end of my 4th coaching season, 3rd as head coach. I was a former Caesars junior myself, so coaching at the Caesars was a no brainer.
How many players did you lose from last season? How did you game plan around them graduating?
GL: We usually lose around 10 – 15 players at the end of a season through graduating. This can prove to be a nightmare at times not knowing how many rookies will come to us for the start of the next season. I would love to have a youth set up below us, so we have a rough idea of who maybe joining from that program. At the moment we don’t.
It’s very difficult to work on next seasons preparations, play-books for example, when you don’t know who you will have joining you. So everything we do or prepare needs to be easy to adjust quickly and efficiently.
What’s your game day ritual like?
GL: Turn up, get changed and warm up. Apply sun block , pray (we don’t force this upon players, it is up to them if they would like to participate.) Apply further sun block. Ball out (hopefully win), go home.
There you have it Caesars fans, Coach Lees showing how commitment and flexibility allowed his players to improve and complete a perfect season. The Juniors have consistently had good turnout at practice, and with the off season work they’ve reaped the rewards with some fantastic results this year and will face the cream of the crop in the upcoming national play-offs which include 3 undefeated teams (EKP, Caesars and Birmingham Lions), and a highest PAPG of only 9.17 (Lions)! So we’re going to see 4 tough defences facing off against 4 offences that average almost 30 points per game, and we hope that Coach Lees manic style combined with his teams flexibility will rise to the challenge and bring home another trophy!