2013 Freedom training camp through the eyes of the coach...

I want to start this missive the same way I will end it by thanking everyone who took the time to participate over the weekend, what a fantastic turn out. The timeline shows how impressive the group was all camp long. 50 + at Masses on Friday night for dinner, 70+ at training and the games on Saturday followed by exactly 70 at our gala dinner at the Back Forty on Saturday night. A further 65+ to training on Sunday morning with 45 on the bus joined by 5 more at the races in the afternoon. What a great way to get behind the Freedom program and to “maintain the rage” all weekend long, well done everyone.

Kicking off on Friday evening with a light run at PHMS was an ideal lead in to the weekend. We had 20 girls there and it gave John and I a chance to go over our brand new “where to next” drill and iron out any bugs before the camp started in earnest the next day. As I still had some things to do before heading over to Masses I did not see the players that had turned up and on arrival I was blown away to see that we had taken over the entire bar area and to get to say hello for the first time to so many players was a great feeling. The camp was here, bring it on. I must say that Becky was not in her comfort level being that this was not a warehouse but after I informed her that Masses used to be a plumbing store, she relaxed a bit and was able to get into the spirit of things.

Saturday morning saw us up bright and early to take on the challenge of the day. One group left the hotel to walk along the path and a second group took the cars to the fields and walked back to join the rest of the team. This was the first time that we got to see the enormity of the group, 70+ walking along the path, hooting and hollering, and when we formed the wall and did our high five run through, then you just knew that camp time was here, what a feeling. I’m not sure what the other joggers thought of Kim Hemenway’s Prancersize exhibition, but we thought it was special!

The drills at the fields went really well, with all of the players buying into the Freedom/Team philosophy and all of the coaches were extremely happy with the enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge shown by the group, even if we were struggling to put names to faces. What a problem to have.

We then retired back to the Freedom Headquarters for lunch and to have our breakout sessions with our individual line coaches. I had the pleasure of being able to wander around the halls and listen to John, Diesel and Troy get their message across and to hear the feedback from the players and I thought it was a very illuminating and informative session.

Then, to the games.

On paper I thought I had it all figured out, but once we got to the field, the enormity of the task ahead looked  daunting in the extreme and I wondered how it was all going to unfold. Over 70 people on the sidelines waiting to play; such a sight I don’t think would have been seen in Freedom football up to now. I began to have doubts over how we were going to pull this off.

But pull it off we did. John, Troy and Diesel were bloody fantastic in marshalling their troops and we seen some really high caliber football being played out over the course of the games. Team A v Team B was spectacular in the endeavor shown by all followed by the round robin games between Red, White and Blue. These games encapsulated the Freedom spirit in its totality, players throwing themselves in at every opportunity and at the same time playing high quality team footy and doing pretty much all they could to help their team mates, which as we know is one of the core elements of the Freedom program.

A few hiccups here and there, Victoria Schoennagel needed crutches after the game, but thankfully no broken bones, Jessica Lund head-butted the ball and “Ernest” Hemenway head-butted Becky which resulted in a huge shiner for the latter (her first, of which she was very proud. Follow it on Face Book, Tom Harley has already ‘liked’ it) but all in all, a fantastic afternoon of footy.

The GGAFL were tremendous in supporting this event and supplied umpires, water carriers and manned the BBQ for us after the game.  All in all the Freedom thank them from the bottom of our cleats.

Saturday night was time for our gala dinner and awards ceremony at the Back Forty. 70 people attended which, as I have highlighted before, just goes to show the level of commitment and passion by all that attended the training camp. What a sight to behold.

I was pleased to announce our leadership group and to present them with their “letters” to proudly display on their jumpers when we wear them into battle. Our Captain, Eileen will have her “C” front and centre while our VC’s, Emily, Becky and Monica will all proudly display their letter V.

It was with much pleasure that I also announced the formation of our Ambassador Class for the first time. This group is for players who have shown great leadership, both on and off the field and/or have brought attention to the Freedom program with their exploits, such as making the World team, being a leader in their respective communities and generally furthering the cause of women’s footy in the United States. The first inductees to wear the letter “A” on their jumpers were Judith, Helen, Jessie, Courtney and Lindsay, thanks so much for your efforts, we know you will wear the letter with as much pride as you do the jumper itself.

The raffle was well supported, thanks to all and it would have been very interesting to see how Courtney got her weed wacker through Sacramento airport but it just goes to show, when she wants something, nothing is going to get in her way. Look out Nicole.

Sunday was fun day and did that not turn out to be the truth. We had a great info session in the morning courtesy of Diesel and this added to what we had learnt and experienced over the weekend. Emily chose to run back to the hotel but somehow or other the head coach was left high and dry to make his own way back. Where was the love when it was most needed? Never mind, make it back I did and then it was time to jet off on our magical mystery bus tour that that was not so much a mystery courtesy of Kyle “foot in mouth” Johnson from the previous night.

So, it was off to races we went and what a day. The bus took us through the tunnel into Berkeley and on to Golden Gate Fields and the magnificent dollar day promotion. Quirky got the girls into their groups of 3 and the trifectas were duly placed and it was with great anticipation, of fortunes to be made, when the first race was upon us. Alas, that was not to be but what a tremendous sight it was indeed in the last 3 races to see all of the girls out of their seats and cheering on their horses down the straight only to be trumped by number 5 on all three occasions. Boy can’t I pick ‘em? Go number 5!!!

One would think that the bus trip back would be uneventful, but with Black Star beer and Air vodka drinks doing the rounds, you just knew that this would not be the case. Troy was in need of a restroom break and negotiated the entry part without a hitch but had some trouble on the return voyage. I can still hear Milli’s “slide the door” and Jess “unlock the latch” voicing their advice echoing down the corridor only to hear the door not budging, the lock going up and down and Troy’s distant pleading, “I can’t get out, I can’t get out”. Of course, once Quirky let go of the door handle, things were made a little easier but I still had the giggles for a couple of days afterwards. Ah, if you can’t take the piss (literally) out of the ones you love, then who can yaJ. If you’ve ever ridden a mechanical bull while trying to squirt water in to a funnel, you would have some idea what it was like using the toilet in the back of the bus.

The final chapter was played out when the group split up for the last time. Some left for home, others got together at different eateries around the place to enjoy each other’s company one more time and reflect on the weekend’s events, while some just sat in the hot tub trying to see what it takes to make Eileen snort. Some finished the weekend watching John eat 4 tubs of ice cream (his only regret being that we didn’t have a nice romantic comedy to watch at the same time), while Marie just had to head back to Masses to bookend her weekend at the local.

Many thanks to all of our drivers over the weekend, especially Lainey, who made two trips to the BART. We could not have pulled this off without all of your assistance.

A big, big thank you to our sponsors, Mark and Davide from Reviver Soft, Mike from Athnet, Mike from Joseph’s Lawnmower and Quirky from Mars, your support was pivotal in the success of the camp, thank you all so much.

A tremendous shout out to Troy, John, Diesel and Chyna for all their help throughout the training camp. I was honored to be in their presence and to listen and watch the impact that they were having on our playing group. Thanks so much great guys.

To Quirky and the GGAFL, it would not have gone off so smoothly without your help, thanks so much for the time and the effort that you all put in. Amy and Drea put in a lot of work ahead of the camp and Amy was continually running around the whole weekend, so kudos to you both, thank you.

Lastly, the players. Wow, what a group you are. To have 70 players to the camp is a feat in itself but to feel the enthusiasm, the passion that you all brought with you was an amazing thing indeed. I said at the start of the camp that we would all make some new friends and learn throughout the weekend and this was definitely true in my case. I enjoyed my time with each and every one of you and, I appreciated the humor you brought along. It was a real pleasure to still see the smiles and grins even after the hardest of our sessions in the heat on Saturday.

Put simply, you were all a credit to yourselves, your team and to the USAFL. US footy and I could not be more proud of the efforts that you all put in. My sincerest thanks for making the camp what it was. An unqualified success.

Cheers, let’s go Freedom!

Remember, you girls rock; the posters said so.


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