Second of all I coach football, more specifically I coach woman's football, and I decided that it would be nice to give everyone some insight into coaching an amateur competitive tackle football team that doesn't involve woman running around in their underwear.
Now don't get me wrong, I have no argument with the Legends Football League, when I've watched the game I've come away impressed with the effort and desire that these girls show in playing a rough tough physical game that involves head on tackling, I think if you asked any male football player if they would do it, the answer would be "No Way, uh uh ain't gonna happen".
But the team that I coach is in the WWCFL, it's a real 12 on 12 tackle football league where the girls wear real equipment, have real playbooks and follow CFL rules. They also suffer real bumps and bruises and serious injuries, just like real football they get yelled at by coaches when they mess up, they enjoy the wins and suffer through the losses. I'd also like to state that I'm proud to work with each and every one of them.
To give you some context I spent three years working as a coordinator for a Senior High School football team, I started out as a defensive line coach and I was content with that, it was a position that I played, and I loved the idea of passing that knowledge on to eager players. But like everything else in life you get surprises and the next year I was a defensive coordinator, i got the thrill of designing a unique defense, working with the position coaches and watching for two years as our defense improved by leaps and bounds.
Sadly like everything else things change and I was forced to leave coaching and I thought I was done with it. I missed it, there's a difference between coaching and participating and watching on T.V.'s or in the stands. But life is funny in terms of journeys and I was approached to come and coach with the Calgary Rage the Calgary woman's football entry into the WWCFL.
To be honest, at first I was skeptical, I remember sitting there as I pulled down my John Deere hat, and spitting a long stream of Tobacco into the flat bed of my 70's era redneck truck while swearing silently and saying "Woman, playing tackle football, what in the blue tarnation do woman know about football". But at that point I had a real itch to coach again, and the Calgary Stampeders had rejected my resume (written in crayon) out of hand. So I met with the coaches and was surprised that these were good coaches, they knew the game and they had a passion for the team and the players, and that was a good first sign.
The coaches made sure that I understood what I was getting into, the girls were tough, loved to play, there were some very good players, some veterans and some players that had never even seen a helmet before. But I was still in.
Nobody was more nervous than me when I showed up for the first camp, I mean I know football, and I know how to teach and coach, but coaching girls was different, on an emotional and physical level, they communicate differently, and well a coach usually has to grab players to teach them, but these were girls, how was I going to handle that?
But I stepped on the field and saw these girls and since it was an evaluation camp they weren't in equipment, and I will admit right here, my instinct took over and like usual and every guy will tell you this when they deal with woman, I completely froze.
But and to accelerate things because I only have so much space, they worked just as hard to make me feel comfortable, and throughout the season a weird change came over me, I stopped seeing this as girls in football equipment trying to play a game and began to see them as football players.
I had a two linebackers who were elite level athletes, I had defensive backs and safeties who rivaled any highschool boy that I coached. I had an absolutely fierce defensive line. I felt like Tom Hanks in that baseball movie. You know the one movie that Kevin Bacon isn't in. But to sound like Jimmy Dugan "I had ball players".
Sure you have to communicate differently with them mainly because of their experience level , you had to break things down, and go into deep detail because while a male player will just take your instructions and go and try to execute it over and over again (like a guy trying to knock down a wall with his head, it takes time, its not effective but it works), woman players need to understand the hows and whys of every aspect of their role and the game.
But, and it is the big but, coaching this team re-ignited my love for football, I found my passion for watching games again, when I was driving to a practice or to a game I got that feeling that I got when I used to play, that sense of excitement and wonder and desire to do one great thing that day, and to be honest I had this overwhelming urge to tackle stuff.
These girls are passionate about playing, they love the game, they have to, because frankly nobody would take a beating like that for no pay if they didn't love it. Sure there can be attendance problems for practice, frankly that happens in any senior league, and it drives coaches crazy and makes them angry. But the ones that show up want to learn and go to war and play hard and make a difference.
When I walked away at the end of last season, I was that person who was like, "ok I did this do I really want to come back next year?" . But as the off season stretched on I looked back at the raw enthusiasm, I remembered the great plays, and the not so great plays, the wins and the losses, and I realized, that yes I really wanted to come back, I wanted to see the Rage become that special team that creates memories that go on forever. I wanted to be able to be around that fierce running back that by the end of the season looked like she'd been beaten by a meat tenderizer and kept coming back for more. I loved the enthusiasm of that veteran player that got her first interception, or the sheer joy in the eyes of a player that caught a long touchdown, or the very well terrible celebration by a defense lineman making a sack.
Enthusiasm and love for the game is infectious and as a coach I can honestly admit that at this point I have a case of Calgary Rage fever. If love of the game and enthusiasm equates success then the Rage are winners already.
I would encourage each and every one of you to take in at least one game this year. First and foremost this team and these girls need the support both financially and morale wise. Second of all its just a good time with a different type of very blue collar football. If you're a girl that's played sports before and maybe you have that itch to play sports again, or you just want to hit something or be part of a really interesting community, I would encourage you to check this out, football might just be the sport for you.
As for me, I'll be prowling the sidelines again, cheering the good plays, cursing under my breath with the bad, and pretending I'm Mike Ditka without the mustache.
Keep an eye out on this space, I just might get the urge to write more stuff.