My Passion With Mike Cluskey

Mike Cluskey, of document shredding firm Russell Richardson, based in Sheffield, talks about his passion for American Football.

MY real passion in life is American Football.

A strange combination I hear you say: a Yorkshire man and American Football – after all it’s a sport that you would normally associate with the other side of the Atlantic. But that’s where you would be wrong, there is a thriving community right across the UK of people playing, watching and involved in the sport.

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I started playing American Football in 1987 for the Huddersfield Rams (now the Yorkshire Rams). Prior to this I’d played rugby league and union. I can still remember that first match and from that point forward I was, and still am for that matter, besotted with the cerebral side of the game.

It was like playing chess on a rugby pitch, you always have to be thinking four or five moves ahead. Although, admittedly these days I am more involved with the macro side of the game and in particular planning offensive schemes.

Sadly, I retired from playing American Football in 1997 due to numerous injuries. However, my passion for the game has not abated. In 2001 I became coach for the Yorkshire Rams until 2005 when I took over as general manager for four years. During that time I helped the team to move to South Leeds stadium, got cheerleaders and a band involved, which in turn encouraged larger crowds to the matches. That’s the main frustration with American Football in this country most people expect it to be like the NFL, but it’s an extremely difficult sport to play and therefore the standard in this country is not anywhere close. The guys that play in the NFL are superhuman.

Moving to America and working in the sport would be my ultimate dream. In fact, if ever I was fortunate to win a substantial amount of money it’s probably at the top of my “to do” list. The sport is massive out there. While at the Yorkshire Rams I organised for a group of young people aged between 16 and 18 to join a high school team in North Dallas during pre-season training. I can only describe it as an amazing experience – crowds of 2,500 would turn up to watch training sessions, we’ve got a long way to go with the sport in the UK to come anywhere close to the US.

In 2009, I was headhunted by Leeds Metropolitan University’s coaching squad and after helping them initially set up the team I got involved with everything from finding a head coach, to organising training schedules, attending seminars and recruiting team members. I still dedicate at least one day at the weekend and two evenings during the week to coaching and that’s just physical time at the Headingley campus. A lot of my evenings are also consumed with football work, it’s a labour of love I suppose.