Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paying the Bills - Car Washes, Jell-o Wrestling, Raffles, Advertising

Can you imagine Tony Romo doing car washing to raise funds for the Cowboys?  Or Matt Schaub jell-o wrestling to help pay the bills for the Houston Texans?

Women's pro football isn't profitable, yet.  The biggest challenge the Outlaws face every year is raising enough money to finance the season.  The gate at home games about covers the cost of renting the field and hiring the officials.  The away games have to paid for through fundraising.

It takes $50,000 per year to keep the Outlaws playing.  It is a tribute to Lily Messina and many others that the Austin Outlaws have met their fundraising goals for ten years and now into the eleventh.  Fundraising isn't easy, rarely fun. 
Back in 2004 I brought my camera to a car wash fundraiser, "Will Wash for Football".  Do you get the idea they're having fun with this promotion?

In another post I'll talk about my total admiration for Lily Messina
as the Outlaws General Manager.  Here she is doing the hardest
duty in a car wash, standing in the heat far from the hoses with
cold water, urging drivers to get their car washed by Outlaws.

Cars getting clean - the players actually seem to behaving fun. 
But you need to wash a lot of cars to fund a football team.

A fundraiser I didn't cover is jell-o wrestling.  The photo below was provided by player and friend, Cindy G.  Everything was in good taste (strawberry, I think) but I considered it demeaning for the athletes.  I will say the participants did this  in a spirit of good sports an did appear to have fun.  But how much money did it produce? 

The car wash and wrestling were a long time ago.

Today a reason for the Outlaw's success remains players' taking ownership of team challenges.  Including paying the bills.

Every player starts the season with a responsibility to generate funds.  Typically they'll seek support from businesses, possibly restaurants where they dine frequently or employers or co-workers.   Often a local restaurant will donate a percentage of sales on a particular day; and the day will be announced on Facebook or the Outlaws website or over the PA system at a home game.  For other business sponsorships players may just go door-to-door from one commercial  building to the next.

The team sells advertising on the Outlaws website or the game bulletins.  They  market t-shirts and other novelty items on the Outlaws Website.  This year they produced a calendar and offered it to fans through Facebook and the website. 

Today and until June 18, they're conducting a raffle - ask any player or communicate with through Facebook or the Outlaws Website for tickets.

The Outlaws can use all the support they can get.  If you'd like to contribute, visit the website or send an email to me (dstostad@austin.rr.com) and I'll pass your offer along to the team.  And do visit the website and shop the Outlaws store.

It would be great if the players could concentrate on football and not need to be distracted by the need to raise money.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sports Photographers

This is MaryLou.  She's THE Outlaws
photographer.  She attends every game
and shoots hundreds of wonderful photos
including pre and post game. 

At any sports event you'll see photographers on the sidelines, in the stands.  People with cameras hoping to get the perfect shot, capture the action and preserve it forever.

I started shooting the Outlaws games in 2004.  In 2008 I bought a new camera and the quality of my photos improved dramatically.  Back in 2004, I was often the only person with a camera.  As the Outlaws got more notice, more photographers started showing up at the games.  Some with serious equipment.  From time to time In this blog I'll talk about the challenges involved in getting good action photos. 

But for today, I'm focusing on the photographers.  I only know a few of them by name.  If you recognize any of them, please tell them they're now famous, captured in the Women Who Play Football blog. 

This is Brian. He has some serious equipment - look at that lens!  I'd love to see his complete collection of photos.  He did some project for, I think, UT with still photos and then video. 

If I were a techie, I'd be able to guess what those
lenses are. I only know for sure they're a lot longer
than my 50-200mm zoom. When the lens is this long, you
need a tripod or monopod to hold the camera steady.

I think I see four photographers in this shot. 
That's a serious video camera.  I think this shooter
is a friend of Soho.

Shooting video from a platform during practice. 

That platform doesn't look very stable.
We photographers take great risks
to get our shot.

When the action is slow on the field, I like to get shots of the fans.
I'll post more fan photos later.  Some fans did a little turnabout and
shot photos of me.  Notice both ladies have camera.  I wonder how
many pictures are shot at a typical game. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fun Photos - Flying Football Players

"Oh! I have slpped the surly bonds of earth..." opens a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.  The entire poem was used in an Air Force film featuring fighter jets in flight. 

Tryouts for the Outlaws include slipping the bonds of earth.  Jumping.  Can you jump?  How high?  How far?

But does all this jumping have any place in football? I was a lineman.  I couldn't jump.  Never had to.  There's jumping in basketball. But football?

Well, following are some of my favorite photos.  In another post, I'll talk about the joy of action photography.  For now, just enjoy my flying football players.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Player Profile - Veronica "Vero" Narvaez, #76

Veronica earned a BS degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin. 

She grew up in Rocksprings, Texas, a town of 1,300 residents.  Her high school graduation class was just  twenty-seven students.  By comparison, the University of Wisconsin has around 40,000 students.  The 9,000 seniors in her graduating class was nearly seven times as many people as the entire population of Rocksprings. 

In school, she was always good at numbers and math. Her math teacher,  Sam Jetton, had a remarkable influence on her life.  He encouraged her to develop her math skills.  When the school curriculum lacked an advance math course, he fought to create one, even though there were only three students.  He then encouraged her to pursue engineering and apply for a college scholarship.  She did, and won a full academic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin.

Mr. Jetton encouraged her again: "Once you move to Madison, you'll love it"  She did love it.  In spite of the culture shock, in spite of the difference in climate. Wisconsin is a true four-season state.  Veronica loved  picking apples in autumn and strawberries in summer. She remembers the snow, the cold winters.  She recalls looking out the windows at a beautiful sunny winter day, putting on a sweater and going out to enjoy the weather, and discovering the temperature was near zero and bitter cold.  Still, she insists she loved the weather. 

After graduation, she moved to Austin to be near her sister, Lupita.  In Austin she met Outlaws star, Tiffany James. She and Tiffany found they had some things in common, including having been involved in abusive relationships.  Tiffany suggested Veronica try out for the Outlaws. 

Veronica had never been active in sports.  She did attend games, was a flag girl in her high school band, and met some of the athletes at the University of Wisconsin.  Growing up on the ranch "there was lots of playing outside, animals, getting dirty, but no sports."

She had never played football, had no idea whether she'd like it, but she did try out, performed well in the tryouts, and made the team.  She found she is physically strong though she had never worked out in a gym or tried to build strength.  She says she and her siblings were always told they were "heavy handed" - they'd hit one another with a light touch and "Ow!That hurt!"  Aside from ganging up with her sisters against her brother, she doesn't know where her strength came from.  But her strength is there and serves her well when battling on the line of scrimmage.

Blocking takes a lot of strength.

She is quick, able to get down the field and make lead blocks to open the way for Outlaws runners.  If you've played football, you know how difficult open-field blocking can be.  It takes a combination of speed, skill, and knowledge of the game.  Veronica exhibits all of these.  The photos below aren't my best quality but show Vero keeping a defender from tackling Shadana Hurd.  When I showed this to Veronica, she was disappointed that she just made the block; she normally would take the defender completely out of the play.

I met Veronica at a Barnes and Noble store to interview her for this profile.  That was an apt selection for our meeting.  In an earlier post we talked about how complicated the game can be and how difficult it must be for new players to learn.  Vero's intellect is equal to the challenge.  Her hobbies go with her math background.  She loves logic puzzles of any sort, Sudoku, and crosswords.  She loves books.

She is very close to family.  She says she talks with her mother every day and credits family support for her success in making the transition from Rocksprings to Madison.  Her family is totally behind her playing football, although her mother won't watch "someone hitting my daughter." Veronica is the youngest of four children - with two sisters, Rita and Lupita, and brother Jose Juan. 

Vero smiles a lot, laughs a lot, has a wonderful sense of humor.   

At 5' 4" (well, 4 and 1/2 inches) tall and just 220 pounds Veronica is small for the line.  She says coaches tell the line to keep low; "I'm shorter so I have a head start on that."  She says she has never felt overwhelmed by giant opponents. 

She wears glasses.  She says contacts annoy her eyes.  She can't wear glasses during a game.  And can't see very well. Her limited sight might be considered a handicap. I asked whether contacts would improve her play, she smiles and, in a voice that suggests this is a very silly question, answers "How would I know; I've never worn glasses on the field." 

A big part of her attachment with the team is the camaraderie among the Outlaws.  "I quickly realized what a great group of women they are, always positive."  It's hard to not have a smile on you face when you're around them.

She says football is therapy.  "There are times when you have pent up emotion...being able to hit people and get out your stress/frustration/excess feelings gets it off your chest."  She concludes with a smile:  "Every woman should know the feeling of being able to push someone else bigger than you and know they can't hold you back."

Monday, May 16, 2011

The T-Formation - Football is Complicated

I'm older than you.  I remember when the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns were powerhouse teams. 

I remember Mike Lucci, the Lion's great middle linebacker.  Lucci was so great no one could remember who preceded him, which gave rise to a trivia question:  Who was the Detroit Middle Linebacker before Lucci?  Answer:  There wasn't one.  Before Lucci we had a nose guard, Les Bingaman, a huge 300 pounder who lined opposite the offense center.

Football was simpler back then.  Seven offensive linemen - center, two guards, two tackles, two ends.  Four backs, Quarterback who lined up over center; fullback, a big powerful guy who lined up behind the Quarterback; two halfbacks who flanked the fullback.  Forming a T.  The defense lined up opposite the offense with essentially the same seven on the line, four in the backfield. 

Then things started getting complicated.  There was increased emphasis on passing.  Teams set halfbacks wide to become receivers.  They started sending one end wide  keeping the other as a "tight" end.  San Francisco introduced a shotgun formation spreading out the offensive formation.  In the shotgun, the Quarterback didn't line up over center but several steps back.  The niners trounced my beloved Lions the first time they used the shotgun in a game.   Defensive lines shrank from seven to four players as three dropped back as linebackers and defensive backs.  And these days they sometimes have three-man defensive lines.

Sports were for guys.  Girls did cheer leading or some strange game called field hockey.  I've never seen a field hockey game.  Girls were allowed to play one real sport, basketball.  Half-court basketball because everyone knew females weren't up to the rigors of running the full court.

Football for girls?  No way! 

Boys were drilled in sport fundamentals from an early age.  Girls not at all.  I played organized football from the eighth grade and pick-up sandlot games before that.   In spite of all that play and watching the Lions every Sunday of the NFL season I still find the game complicated.  I appreciate announcers like Chris Collingsworth, John Gruden, John Madden (I miss him!) with fancy replay video to explain what's going on.  Explaining how the Quarterback and receiver "read" the defense and adjust the passing route accordingly; how the defensive line does stunts to avoid blocks and how the offensive line pulls guards and tackles to do trap blocks and frustrate the stunting defense.

This blog is for the Outlaws and about women playing football.  One thing I've admired most watching practices is how eager the ladies are to learn.  I once demonstrated the three point stance to a couple linemen (linewomen?); they wanted to sign me up as assistant coach.  Until I told them I had just demonstrated everything I know.

When I watch the game, I'm awed at just how well they have figured out what to do.

The ball is snapped and the Outlaws defense know exactly what to do as they fire across the line.
Complicated?  Not for them.  They sure don't look confused.
 Try to explain the rules of football to someone who hasn't been drilled on it from childhood.  Explain the difference in how you handle a kick-off versus a punt.  Explain that a kick-off is a live ball, a punt not live until touched by a receiving team.  So always get control of the kick-off and don't go near a punt unless you are certain you can control it.

In the play pictured here, the Dallas players didn't realize that the kick-off was a live ball.  They're blocking and treating the play as they would a punt.  But Outlaws Suires and Dikibo knew. They recovered the ball inside the Dallas twenty and set up a great opening for the home team.

I was at an Outlaws practice and watching as a couple kickers were going to practice PATs (Point-after-touchdown kicks).  They had a tape measure and started measuring from the goal posts to the two-yard line, which is where the ball is placed for the PAT.  And they noticed they were already twelve yards (36 feet) from the target because the goal post is ten yards beyond the end of the field.  But in competition, the ball is snapped back from the two yard line and spotted around the 17-yard line.  So a simple kick for point after touchdown is about 27 yards.  The kickers were measuring with a 100 foot tape and used most of it just to find the spot from which to practice kicks. 

Just learning how the game is played.  When I think of how much these young women have to learn when they show up at that first tryout; when I see how much they have learned when I watch a game; I just have to tip my hat in admiration.

Football is complicated.  Football is hard.  Certainly too hard for women. 

Not for these women.  


Monday, May 9, 2011

Your Comments are Welcome

I'm new to blogging.  Just noticed my set-up didn't permit visitors to comment.  I fixed that.  You now can comment to any posting.  I did set up moderation - so I have to view the comment before it is visible to all.  Also set up a word-recognition device so we shouldn't get a lot of spam.  Hope it works.  Thanks for visiting.

Pro Woman Boxer Ann Wolfe Played Football

Ann Wolfe is a now retired professional boxer with a remarkable story.  And part of that story involves professional women's football. 

Ann grew up poor and "everyone picked on us and taunted us every single day."  She learned "you got to be able to protect yourself."  She became an aggressive fighter often taking on older and bigger kids, boys and girls alike. 

She moved to Austin at age 23, lost her mom and dad, and was homeless with two young daughters.  Living on the street, she found she had to be able to fight to keep from getting walked over.  The street fighting skills she gained in her youth served her well on the streets of Austin.  People quickly learned they better not mess with her.

One day she was in a hospital waiting room and saw a television program about women boxing professionally.  She could be paid for fighting!

She searched Austin for a coach and found Pops Billingsley who took her on.  Pops was doing lots of great work helping kids get their acts together through boxing.  He had never worked with a woman fighter before but was happy to help Ann.  Under his guidance she became the professional women's boxing's number two ranked fighter in the world.  She was ranked behind only Laila Ali, Muhammad Ali's daughter.  And Ann would have displaced Ali as number one if Ali had only agreed to fight her.  But that fight never happened. 

One of Ann's fights is viewable on Youtube. In this dramatic clip, she shocked heavily favored Vonda Ward with a knockout in the first round. 

In her career, Ann won something like seven different titles but was finally denied a title bout with Ali.  She has been featured in many publications, including an Esquire Magazine article and recently in an HBO special.  Her complete story is published at her website - Anne Wolfe's Gym

Ann played football briefly for the Austin Rage.  When the Rage folded, several of the players moved to the Outlaws.  Although Ann didn't join the Outlaws, she has been a help to the team through her gym.  Many of the Outlaws have worked out with her, building strength and quickness to improve their football.

Lily Messina poses with Ann
Wolfe before a serious workout

Alexis Allen works out on Ann's
Big bag, building strength for football


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Funny Football Photos

I point the camera to where the action will be.  When the ball is snapped, I push the button and listen to the click-click-click as the camera just keeps taking pictures.  I think  it shoots 2.5 frames per second.  Sometimes I'll just know I got a great shot, like this one -

It's Ski again.  I was watching from the sideline with Bear Barrington.  Bear is a good defensive back who isn't afraid to lay a hit on an opposing runner, but she's fifty pounds lighter than Ski's solid 200 pounds. 

The impact when Ski nails the runner can be heard all the way over to where we're standing.  I was watching through my camera lens - and I knew I had a great shot.  It wasn't until I viewed the photo in Photoshop on my computer that I saw just how perfect it was. 

It is rare a tackler gets a good clean shot at the runner.  When you have a big linebacker driving through a small runner - number twenty-one is getting a ride (note her left foot at the right in the photo, about three feet off the ground) and she's in for a hard landing.

I knew this was a good shot when I clicked the shutter.  More often I don't "see" the shot until I'm editing in Photoshop.  And often that is when I get a chuckle.  As in this photo: 

 I don't recall the Dallas runner's name.  She's big for running back, and strong.  In this shot she's surrounded by Outlaws but refusing to give up the play.

At first look, it was just a decent action shot.  But then I saw the runner's left arm extended, grabbing the jersey of teammate Joy Newkirk, seeking just a little help.  It didn't work.  The Outlaws prevailed.  But it made me smile.  And gave me one of my all time favorite funny shots.

Sometimes fun photos come in practice.  One of the reasons I admire the Austin Outlaws is their dedication.  They work hard, often in serious Texas heat.  Late in practice, when the players were getting a little tired, coach had them doing a drill in the sand.  They'd line up and in turn, one player would get on her knees and do push ups, which were difficult in the soft sand.  To make it a little more rigorous, the next player in line would hold down the feet of the one doing the exercise. 

In this shot Minori Jovel is doing the exercise, Lily Messina is holding Minori's feet to the ground.  The next player in line - whose name escapes me - maybe a bit tired and running on fumes, holds Lily's feet.  I like the way Lily is responding.  "What are you doing?"

Kicking the football looks awful easy from the sidelines but just try it sometime.   It takes practice.  Viewing this photo on my computer, I was thinking this Austin kicker has pretty good form with great follow through.  I wondered how far the ball must have sailed - and then I saw the ball still under the holder's hand.  A whiff?  I suspect they were practicing a fake kick or doing some kind of warm-up drill but this made my list of funny photos.
One more.  Every team has a pre-game warm-up regimen.  The Outlaws start a couple of hours before game time.  In the Texas heat, I often wonder how they have energy left to play the game.  I grow tired just watching.  'Course I'm older and out of shape.  Anyway, one of the pre-game drills is something I've never seen before and something that should produce a good photo.  It is a line drill.  Players form up facing each other, get down on all fours, and hit shoulder to shoulder.  Well, a picture tells the story better than narrative.  This makes my funny photo list because, if you don't know what is going on you'll say something like "What?"