NOTE: This topic recently came up in a Twitter exchange. Please remember that these opinions are mine alone, and may not (probably don’t in fact) reflect those of the San Diego Surge, the WFA or any other WFA team.
In the women’s game (and also in the men’s semipro level) sometimes there are a lot of blow out games. No one likes those – certainly not the team getting beat up and normally not the team that is doing the blowing out (I say normally because sometimes there is bad blood between two teams, but that’s another story). Yes, your backups get more playing time than normal, but in the end it doesn’t really prepare you for the tests that come later in the year –your “Week 10” opponent.
The question then is what to do about the lack of parity? For me, and I would hope any competitor, the answer is clear – pull the lesser teams up. Help them get better. Heck, that’s the main reason why I’m writing this blog, to give ideas and resources to those who might need them.
There are others who say the way to increase parity is to dumb the game down – eliminate special teams for instance, so that teams can spend more time practicing just offense and defense. Also, they want to eliminate blitzing, so that teams can simplify their pass protection.
Basically, they want to play by Pro Bowl types of rules.
Let me say this: The way to make something better is not to mold it to the lowest common denominator, but to the highest. When businesses in an association discuss practices, they take the “best practices” not the worst. That’s how they get better.
Teams that are good put in the work. They don’t look for rules crutches to equal the playing field. Teams that want to be good put in the work and are willing to take their lumps as long as they are getting better. See for example the Central Cal War Angels who have been getting better each year of their existence and beating us in the playoffs last year. They didn’t start off very well. Heck, we (as the SoCal Scorpions) didn’t post a winning record until 2005 (3-7 in ’03, 1-9 in ’04), but ended up winning the WPFL national championship in 2007).
In 2011 and 2012, we were pretty good, reaching the national championship both years. In 2011, we lost to a very-well coached Boston team in the finals. It forced us to re-look at what we did, and we vowed that if everything else was equal, we’d install thing that would beat Boston. We ended up not playing them, but it gave us a focus and a sense of urgency in 2012 that paid off.
In 2012, many people said that the best women’s game of all time was played in Heinz Field in front of an ESPN3 audience, with us beating Chicago 40-36 on the strength of special teams – a kickoff return for a TD, a punt return for a TD, and then pinning them on the 5 on the ensuing kickoff. The Chicago coach (John Konecki, I’ve mentioned him previously as well) told me later that they changed their approach to coaching ST because of that game. Chicago went on to win the national championship in 2013.
That is what champions and those who aspire to be champions do. They find a way to improve themselves.
In 2013, we had a roster of 28 players, 12 of which were complete, never-played-the-game-before rookies. We had to go both ways, we had to limit our practice time, we had to simplify things. We had to be better teachers. We went 9-2, losing in the second round of the playoffs. We didn’t make excuses, we didn’t look for shortcuts, we just went out and competed. At some point, just like in 2011, we ran into a team that was better than us, period. That’s football; that’s life. Not everyone wins or gets a medal.
There are teams out there that are not good right now. Whether it is coaching or a lack of players, they just aren’t good. If it is coaching, then sooner or later either those coaches will improve themselves, or they’ll get fired. If it is players, then at some point the owner will step up marketing efforts and attract more players. The players will buy in to the coaches’ scheme and program and they’ll turn it around. There are several parts to a successful team.
But again, let me be clear: Good teams will remain good teams with or without special teams, with or without blitzing and with or without any other silly rule modification you want to make.
If you tell us that we can’t run ST, so the lesser teams can devote more time to offense and defense, but guess what? So can we. If you tell us we can’t blitz, fine. Our DL technique will be top notch and we’ll lead the league in interceptions. That would be our attitude. Meanwhile, the same people that are complaining about how lame the Pro Bowl rules are would be complaining about our games.
Dumbing down the game because someone feels the women can’t handle the full gamut of rules (and yes, I’ve only heard men saying this) would not decrease the amount of blowouts. A talent deficiency is still a talent deficiency and a good coach will find a way to excel within the rules, while a poor coach won’t. Simple as that.
We’re getting more and more good coaches at the women’s level. Heck, Boston’s coaches have won games in the NFL. Dallas and Chicago’s have both won state high school championships. I’ve seen plenty of others (Central Cal, Seattle, Fresno, Las Vegas, Kansas City and Pittsburgh to name a few) that really tweak things to work in their favor – they do a great job with what they have.
Sorry if this has been sort of a rant, but I just don’t get those who would hold the game back – whether it be from a lack of effort or an assumption that the game itself has to be changed.