Normally those words would be a diss or a put down. However, things have changed when it comes to that phrase. Laila Ali retired undefeated as a professional boxer, although she had the greatest teacher in boxing in the house. Now we have the women’s arena football league known as the Legends Football League (LFL), where the hits come hard and often. The league started as the Lingerie Football League in 2009 and dropped the name Lingerie for Legends in 2013. The games are 7-on-7 tackle football. The LFL is comprised of eight teams. In the Western Conference, there are the Austin Acoustic, Denver Dream, Los Angeles Temptation and the Seattle Mist. In the Eastern Conference, there are the Atlanta Steam, Chicago Bliss, Omaha Heart, and the Pittsburgh Rebellion. The Atlanta Steam was established in 2012 and played their first game in 2013. Their colors are black and red. They play their home games at the Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett. The roster is comprised of 20 women. They are coached by Dane Robinson and led by quarterback Dakota Hughes. Here are a few questions and answers from a recent interview with them.
Stenson: How did you get started with this?
Robinson: Five years ago already. I was an assistant coach at the time. One of my teammates at the University of Buffalo was the head coach in the beginning. He was like “Hey, can I get some help.” So like any new coach to the LFL, I was like “Ha Ha this is cool, this is awesome.” The first year as an assistant coach I was able to see some of the behind the scenes of the LFL. That’s a hard thing for a first-year head coach. There are some many other peripherals you don’t know or just don’t account for. It’s not just help them with football and then leave and go home. You have to factor in the marketing, and travel, and wear so many different hats. So, when the first coach parted ways, I guess I got a good vote of confidence from the players. Initially I said no to it because coaching was something I never wanted to get into. It wasn’t on my priority list because I was still playing arena football at the time. I took a chance. I was with my last season in the IFL with the Wyoming Calgary. I said let’s go for it, let’s try it out. Five years later here we are still progressing. We tasted some early success my first year of coaching and her first year as quarterback. I think every year has been a different evolution of this team, a different iteration. There has been different challenges and DNA, no pun intended. HA HA HA.
Stenson: The attire that you wear, did that have anything to do with you not wanting to play at first?
Hughes: Because that was one of the first things said to me and I had no idea, I said, “I am 18 I am not wearing that.” In that slow transition from the lingerie to the legends I was thinking, I can’t be seen in this. What would my dad say? What would my family say? That was a big topic of conversation with my family. My dad’s biggest point was as long as you don’t let it change who you are I don’t care what you do in life. He said just make your impact with who you are and I’m ok with it. My grandma said don’t get to my age and have any regrets. My mom gave examples of growing up and certain jobs she had to wear things for. She said she can’t judge anybody on that. You can’t judge anything on what the outside appearance is. I was one of those people who judged that, but once you look into it and see those hits and the level of play we are at it’s incredible. Something that when you experience it, you hear “You guys really play. We came for the uniform but then after we left we came for the football. We are coming back because you guys are football players.” It takes a little bit of watching it and kinda being a believer. It’s something that you have to be open minded about and once you are, you realize why we do what we do.
Coach Robinson would relate how his coaching tree influences him today. There was one question that Hughes has never been asked in her four-year career with the Steam. To listen to the entire interview go to DNASportsTalk.com/Showtime.html. There you will find the podcasts for the June 19 show that contains the interview. Watching the Steam play in the LFL has been entertaining. After the first couple of plays you forget that they are ladies and realize that it’s real tackle football. This is not flag football and none of the ladies are worried about breaking a nail. As a football fan, it’s just a matter of seconds before you begin yelling at the referees on bad calls and questioning the play calling. These ladies love the game of football and are not paid to play. They all have jobs and careers outside of the LFL. They play this game because they love it and it shows. If you ever get a chance to go to a game, you will get a chance to see the phrase “Hit Like a Girl” in action.