Wednesday, 19 February 2014

So You Want to be an LFL Player?

I’ve been through a 2 year lead up and one season playing predominantly as a tight end for NSW Surge - the inaugural 2014 LFL Australia Legends Cup Champions. Has a nice ring to it huh? Yea well it didnt come easy, before you read any further just know this is not a positive 'yes everybody can do it, come along and try out' blog. I am by no means a veteran of the sport but I've learnt alot along my journey, I’m here to keep it real. I cannot vouch for how other franchises run their operations but at NSW Surge there are several expectations which might give you some insight before you trial.

Legends Football League has been highly successful in its first Australian season, exceeding projected attendance at NIB Stadium, Centrebet Stadium, AAMI Park and Skilled Park. Loads of exciting things in the pipeline for 2015 season, the possible addition of 2 new teams (total of 6 nationally) the season commencing as early as October and possibly, due to consumer demand, games airing live with a free to air network.  Boomshakalaka. 

The open trials date will be set very soon for March. It is likely (however not certain) you will be tested on L test, T test, 40yard dash and standing long jump. If you don’t know what they are you better learn quick smart ,you have around 6 weeks to prepare. You will run various football drills involving tackling, hitting, blocking, catching and passing so warm up those hands, every position on the field needs to be able to catch. Your performance will be judged from every angle just like any other sport you will be photographed and scrutinised on film. There is no more important key to being coachable than actually listening to the directions being given to you. You don’t have to be a high-motor girl. But you must be ready to react when given an assignment. Throw yourself into that assignment until it is 100% complete. For the love of god, if you plan on laughing or being too concerned with how you look during the trial just leave, go home now before one of the Surge veterans take your head off in a drill. Do not waste our time.

You should stop training for looks immediately and start train for functionality. This is a speed sport, explosive starts, decelerate, change direction and accelerate again quickly whilst controlling your body and minimizing reduction in speed – add catching the football, evading your opponent and advancing the ball. If you are not already agile, coordinated and able to move laterally (hip mobility anyone?) you have 6 weeks. Go.   


Eliminate distance running (fist pump!) it reduces explosiveness which compromises your speed and is not conducive to the sport, we generally move in short bursts of 10 yards or less before changing direction, accelerating or decelerating. Slow aerobic activity is not your friend. If it's conditioning you're concerned about there are other methods to get in shape without reducing your explosiveness. If you are successful in this sport you will also be pressed for time and learn to maximise training very effectively - every minute counts.

More muscle! We all know why we should strength train, surely you've read my experiment NSW are the powerhouse of LFL Australia, we bear muscle and more importantly we know how to use it. Not bicep curl then bosu ball then treadmill strength, raw mongrel grit teeth functional power to apply on the field. We eat big, get huge and strong before season then taper knowing that during season we maintain or slightly lose strength. Stack it on ladies, especially if you’re vying for one of the big dogs spots on the line.  We are scouting for some new german shephard material.
At various points during pre season coaching staff will test your 1 RM bench and squat and max pronated pull ups. Speed and strength programs are maintained individually, although many athletes opt to schedule theirs as a unit.

If you’re going to prioritise another sport over LFL (Crossfit, rugby union, netball, whatever) you may not make the playing squad. Dedication and commitment to this sport means you will forfeit late Saturday nights, birthdays, weddings, social functions and so on. If you’re a party girl do not pass go, do not collect $200 exit this blog immediately and slap yourself for not watching this . If there is no internal passion for the sport, there won’t be the level of commitment necessary to succeed.
If you’re coming from an individual sport start thinking differently. This sport is like no other. The Surge is tight, real tight. Those who were in it for themselves or were anything but a positive influence on the unit exited some time ago. There is no sport that is more reliant on the girl next to you. The Surge is not a team with infighting so if you’re bitchy, later gator. Much like a job application you can have all the athletic qualifications in the galaxy but if you don’t fit the team dynamic you may luck out.

If you are selected in the training squad last season our practice began with 3 hrs of fundamentals every week Surge Sunday it's like church you look forward to it all week. NSW Surge have a mission statement you will learn, upon entering the team you are expected to uphold that at all times. We run with military precision within the framework we are given and the player beside you sure as hell expects you’re contributing to the team to the best of your ability. A committed athlete doesn’t have to be repeatedly told what to do, she is the one telling and showing others what to do. Greatness is not thrust upon you. Athletics are not video games where you can power up by hitting the right button. A committed athlete knows that reaching her goal can be a journey, and she must be steadfast in that journey.

Anytime that you’re not training you will be learning the passing tree and religiously watching game film of LFL US or our previous season. Add to that a playbook you will go to sleep reading each night which will be altered at various times. Soon football practice will be twice a week, we've trained in many different locations across the Sydney area.

You may play a flag match against an experienced mens team, running up against giants  3 times your size. David meets Goliath – you’ve seen the footage, nothing intimidates the Surge and more importantly we never say die. You will attend mini camp and be flogged within an inch of your life, after which there will be further cuts to the team. You'll make friends, they'll disappear, the numbers dwindle only the resilient remain.

Coming into season practice will eventually ramp up to 3 sessions per week. Up to 8 weeks before season you will start hitting in training pads and helmets, which many of us wear during speed and agility sessions so they became second skin. 
If you are contracted during game week a playing roster of 14 athletes will be announced, if you do not make the playing roster you will not suit up or travel to away games. This will hurt, you've worked hard to get to this point but you gotta keep working. Don’t blame others for the decision, go get to work and hustle on your weak points. Don’t come to practice with your shoulders down sulking, we are here for the goal of the team and often that means putting aside your personal goals for whats best for the unit. How you act and react affects you and those around you. Committed athletes surround themselves with like-minded individuals. The commitment you have can help inspire another athlete and vice versa. Do not allow any excuses to enter your mind. The minute you do, weakness will soon follow. It’s easy to give up. It’s hard to never quit.

Promotional duties juice up before season, most are very rewarding, some at rather inopportune times or when you least feel like doing it. You may have to take leave from work to attend some duties. You will be marked on attendance for practice and promo activities if you do not reach the minimum requirement you will be released from the team. Remember, players can be released at any time.

That uniform goes on for game day and media promotions, that's it. Outside of games it is a typical football environment, training in mud, rain, slop, covered in bruises aching and sore constantly. One of the hardest parts is managing your football/ strength/ agility sessions with niggling injuries. If you are a princess in any sense of the word goodbye, this game is not for you. You will get the piss knocked out of you repeatedly, you must love contact and thrive on the physicality of being tackled or tackling with the intention of burying heads in the grass. You will be expected to bring the pain every session against your team, not with the intention of hurting them but to better them as footballers. You must have a kill switch that flicks on/off on comand. The ol saying goes 'It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.' There is so much more I could say but the Surge special sauce is what makes us Champions, only those who take part till the very, very end can truly experience the taste.

You will develop an appreciation for one of the most majestic games ever created with access to some of the best coaching staff in Australia who will hone skills you never knew you had. Be part of a rarity in womens sports, an international league that is actually growing.

Your fitness will be taken to another level if you follow the programming, we will take you to places you’ve never been before. Persistence pays off, dedication to movement patterns for your position will become religious.

You will become part of the Surge family, as wide as we are tall overflowing with professionals from fine tuning our engines to well known brands who clothe us or protect our teeth. The Surge support crew spreads far across this sunburnt country and the globe. I've recently shipped my supporters tees to Brussells Germany, Phoenix Arizona, Tokyo Japan and Manchester UK. We are nothing without the wider Surge family.
Playing against or alongside veterans of the game you have watched on TV from LFL US is a humbling, incredibly enriching life journey – you will learn so much from these figures, from their experience, dedication and guidance. Experience flying across this beautiful country playing in the best stadiums in front of crowds of thousands of screaming fans.
The deepest sense of team comradery once you hit the battle field, one like you’ve felt in no other team sport. You will be surrounded by a group of the most inspiring, hard working, resilient warriors who will change your life. The Surge athletes all have this healthy inner confidence, a triumphant glow, that spills onto the field with their unity, into their everyday lives and those around them, that is why we're the champions. The women are in fact 'A League of Their Own.'


So I leave you with this question – what is motivating you to play LFL? If it’s for fame and your name in lights you will be embarrassed. If it’s for the love of football and you’re ready to dedicate close to every waking moment for the next 7 months of your life to defending the championship title, see you at the trials. Give it everything you’ve got, you’re competing against superwomen who have already trained for 2 years for their spot. Coaches won't expect you’re at the same skill level but they need to see your potential. I wish you the best of luck. Remember one last thing, never let anyone tell you you can't do anything, never, ever give up.
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