Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Random Fan Photo

Friday, August 26, 2011

Practice - Coach Hancock

Is that you coach?  What are you doing out here?  You could get hurt!
A reality of women's pro football is the players have jobs.  They sometimes just can't make it to practice because of business travel or other demands on their time. 

It takes twenty-two players to make a practice scrimmage, eleven each for defense and offense.  Awhile back there weren't enough players at a practice session for scrimmage so coach Jon Hancock suited up and filled the slot on defense.  He's the one in gold.  With the blue to identify him as playing defense.

Hancock is slight of build, more suited to playing in the defensive secondary than on the line.  But you do what you have to do.  He lined up on the line.  Against one of the Outlaws giant lineladies. 

Hmmm.  She's pretty big.  And strong.  This is going to be a difficult.

He found the Outlaws offensive line a challenge.  And if he managed to elude the first blocker, others stepped in to protect the ball carrier.  For awhile it appeared Jon wouldn't make a single tackle. 

The ball carrier is over Jon's left shoulder.  He could make
the tackle if it weren't for the blocker on his right shoulder.
And that other blocker on his left  ready to stop him if he slips free.

Hey!  You can't grab me.  That's not allowed.
Defensive line play  is difficult.

Finally he managed to break through the wall of blockers - a notable feat considering the disparity in size.  And he had the ball carrier all to himself.  Yikes! 

Aha!  No pesky blockers to save you now!  I think I'm gonna stop this run.


Okay, you can go now.  Just wanted you to know I know how
to play this game. 

And he let her go!?? 

In fishing that's called catch and release.  But in football?  There's no mercy in football. 

The runner will insist she was just too powerful for the small coach to control.  I think it was really a problem of common courtesy.  It isn't polite for a guy to tackle a girl.  I'm sure Emily Post has something to say about that subject.

A little later in the scrimmage it looked like Jon would have another catch-and-release opportunity.  But this time there was a blocker.  Is that Monica?  Dressed in quarterback-red? 

A good coach gives his players opportunities to show what they
can do.  Like block would-be tacklers.

The block frees the runner.  See, it works just the way we've been telling you.

It had to feel  good for the coach seeing up close just how effective Outlaw blockers can be. 

They didn't let up just because it was the coach on the field. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Practice - Coach Narlen Baker

"One of these players is not like the others, one of these players doesn't belong...
  Can you tell which one doesn't belong?"

Coach Narlen Baker
Of course you can.  The one dressed in black.  The one wearing shoulder pads without a jersey.  The one with a goatee. 

Outlaws aren't paid.  So they have jobs. Sometimes their jobs interfere with practice schedules.  Awhile back there weren't enough players at practice to do a proper scrimmage so coach Narlen Baker volunteered.  You can see in the photo it has been awhile since he dressed for football - he's wearing is shoulder pads on the outside! 

Coach is a big guy, not big like a lineman but big like a linebacker or fullback.  He is solidly built.  The kind of guy I wouldn't want to fight. 

Men tend to be bigger than women.  Narlen is bigger than most of the women on the team. 

Blocking the old fashioned way with hands
close to body, using forearms. Large
forearms.  Notice he's wearing a jersey now. 
And the shoulder pads are inside.
His size gave him a decided advantage as a blocker.  During this practice I didn't see a single tackle by a player Narlen was assigned to block. 

One important role for running backs, one often neglected, is blocking.  Runners naturally avoid contact.  For them blocking is unnatural, deliberately seeking to hit an oncoming defender.  Today coach lined up in the offense backfield.  It was an opportunity for him to demonstrate how backs should block.

The fact that he is bigger than most running backs had nothing to it.  Even if he were half the size, he still would have blocked. But his size gave him a competitive edge against would-be tacklers.  That's okay.  Sometimes in a game players will run up against a blocker too big to move and they'll have to figure out a way around.  This was a chance for the defense to get some practice dealing with immovable objects.

You'll notice in these photos someone reminded coach he should wear a jersey and got him dressed in a nice red one.

If coach was impressive as a blocker, he was even more impressive as a running back.  Not the fastest back on the field.  Shadana would run circles around him.  But definitely the toughest to bring down. 

You're not going to bring him down with just your arms.

Does he look worried, confronting a gang of tacklers?

The straight arm pushes tacklers away.  Even out-numbered coach
refused to be brought down.

In the time I watched, I didn't see him on the ground, not even once.  He used the ever effective straight arm to push tacklers aside.  And if it looked like they were going to finally bring him down, he'd play coach and blow the whistle.

If coach was an impressive ball carrier, he was a dynamite pass receiver.  In this play the quarterback is hit as she releases the ball. 

I'm open.  Throw it.

Coach is expecting her to lead him to his right and his body is positioned accordingly.  But the pass takes a different route -  

One handed catch.  I think the women play with a slightly smaller
ball than the NFL men use so it fit his hand -
but this is still a remarkable catch.
A one-handed grab!  And then he secures the ball as a tackler rushes to bring him down.  Notice his red jersey is somewhat the worse for wear.  I don't know if that happened in this practice.  Maybe it was a jersey borrowed from one of the players and was just too small, got ripped when he put it on.  

Need to work on tackling.  Get low.  Drive that shoulder into his middle, grab the legs.  Keep driving, don't slow down and allow him to wrestlehimself away.

I said earlier I didn't see coach on the ground once during the practice.  This play was no exception.  One good tackler against one over-sized over-strong coach - no contest.  The tackler didn't get him down. 

Which brings me to offer a suggestion. 

Tackling powerful runners is obviously a problem for women who are still relatively new to the game, who have been trained up to be nice, who have never considered slamming into someone else to knock him/her down.  In practice is where they need to cultivate this kill skill.  So someday in practice coach should spend an hour or so letting the defense practice tackling.  Him.  Show them the technique - shoulder low into the belt buckle, arms wrapped around runner legs, driving through to the ground.

Earlier in this blog I did a couple postings about tackling. 

Clearly this is a skill that demands some work. 

Coach should suit up a little more often.

Monday, August 22, 2011


A guy with a violin case went up to a New York cop and asked how to get to Carnegie hall.  The cop answered, "Practice, practice, practice."

The Outlaws practice a lot.  Starting in January and running up to the first game in what, April?, they practice three times a week.  And have skull sessions in between.  I love doing photography at practice because I can get close to the action.  I can stand right out on the field - just have to remember to move if the action comes my way. 

Some practice photos may make you smile.
I browsed my practice photos to see if I had any you might enjoy.  And I found a few.  Some made me smile.  Some I found just fun. 

Ski's shredded jersey.

Ski making a powerful tackle during practice.  Ripping her jersey?
I liked this one (above) because of the damage to Ski's shirt.  She wears number 34 in practice which is the number her son Chris wore playing for Leander high school.  She is obviously hard on shirts.  The reason is obvious when you see her play.  Even in practice she plays hard.  Wears out her shirts.  Wears out running backs.

That brings up an issue - should players go all out in practice?  Or take it easy because we're among friends.  I'm in the go-all-out school.  Football is an all-out sport and holding back invites injuries.

When you're lining up against your own teammates, you get an idea of who is good and who is really good.  When KJ Scheib was playing for the Outlaws, she had a reputation as a no-holds-barred quality player, in the game, in practice.  I can imagine teammates hoping they wouldn't be matched against her in drills.

KJ Scheib in one-on-one drills driving her teammate
into the ground.  An act repeated frequently that day.

You're coached to get lower than your opponent so you'll have leverage and you'll be in a power position.  Getting low on KJ shouldn't be hard because she's 5' 10" tall.  But there's more to getting low.  Need to have butt down, shoulders up.  Need to drive through.  Easy for me to say.  In the one-on-one drill, KJ kept putting her opponent on the ground. 

Makes you feel sorry for opposing teams.

Chaos.  Power struggles.  Is there any order to what's going on here? 

A value of practice is figuring out what's going on.  I played the line and honestly I often had no idea who had the ball.  I just did battle with the player in front of me until someone blew the whistle.  If I happened to see the ball, I'd try to tackle the guy who had it.  I like pictures like the one above because it captures the struggle that goes on on every play.  And it gives a sense of some of the havoc.  There must be a ball out there somewhere.

I never liked practice.  I preferred game day with fancy uniforms, bands playing, adoring fans.  Practice was drudgery.  Especially the calisthenics.  But I wasn't as smart as Lorin Smith.  Maybe if I had her style, practice would have been more fun. 

Lorin with eyes closed during stretching drill.  Napping?

Get tired?  Take a nap.  Cool.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Elusive Runners

Monica needs to elude big number 79.  I like her chances.
Just in general running backs are smaller than the defensive linewomen and linebackers.  Just in general running backs are quicker than defensive linewomen and linebackers. 

This is nature's way of preserving the species. 

There is a certain balance in nature - small and quick versus big and strong.  And slow.  Sometimes the big linewoman gets hold of the runner. Sometimes the runner eludes the tackler.  That's what makes the game so interesting.

This posting is about runners.  I browsed my Outlaws photos and pulled out shots of elusive runners eluding tacklers.

Shadana eluding the outstretched arm of a big
would-be tackler.  I relate with the tackler.
"Where'd she go?"

As a former lineman I have experienced the embarrassment of aiming a tackle at a runner and ending with arms full of air.

Monica hoping her teammate makes the block.  There's
trouble behind, trouble ahead.  But she is slanting left,
going to squeeze through the gap.
Shadana ready to do some serious eluding.
Dallas runner runnning for her life.

Trouble to the right, trouble straight ahead.
Sharp cut to the left.  She'll go on to pick up a lot of yards.

When the difference in size is substantial, the runner has the incentive of self-preservation.  Imagine a 135 pound Monica being smothered under a 300 pound Bertha Big tackle.  Not a pretty sight.

Monica is in there somewhere.  I had to include at
least one photo where big wins.

I heard a new (to me) expression this past week as NFL teams negotiate with hold-out players.  The commentators talked about running backs having a limited shelf-life.  Meaning that running backs take so much punishment that their careers aren't as long as, say quarterbacks. 

In another post we can talk about pampered QBs. 

For now the story is runners running for their lives.