Latest posts by Jonathan Greenstein (see all)
With the vast majority of sports crowning only 1 winning team, coping with the disappointment of defeat is something most teams need to deal with at some point. This was the case in 2017 for the Chicago Bliss. After making it to 4 LFL league championship games in a row, they lost in the conference championship to the Atlanta steam. Easily one of the best overall teams of 2017 (if not the best overall team of 2017), the Chicago Bliss started 2018 with a chip on their shoulder, new uniforms and a winning mentality.
I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Keith Hac, the Chicago Bliss’ head coach, about their 2017 loss to the Steam, the new uniforms and the future of the LFL.
For those of you unfamiliar with the LFL, the Legends Football League is a 7 on 7 full contact women’s American Football league.
What are your views on the Chicago Bliss’ new uniform?
I absolutely love them. The additional safety aspects not withstanding (limit turf burns), they just bring a whole new image for the players and the league. The players need to be viewed not only as beautiful but also amazingly athletic football players. I think the new uniforms take us to the next level of acceptance in the sports world.
Do you think it will have an impact on fans?
I think the real fans of the LFL will embrace the new uniforms. They are the ones that appreciate the overall improvement of the league over the past five years and do not come to the games to just see the players wearing glorified thongs. Trust me the ‘fans’ that we may lose because of the uniform change will be replaced ten fold by the new fans that treat this thing as a viable alternative for female football players and fans.
What are the biggest challenges faced by the Bliss this year?
Last season was a huge disappointment for us. The Bliss has been in four straight championship games and fully expected to be there again last season. Losing in the conference championship was something we never saw coming. We were incredibly confident going into that game. We felt we were by far the best team last season. But that’s why you play the games.
This season is about redemption. The offense had a complete meltdown in that game. Losing 14-6 will tell you that. We all learned some hard lessons last season. Jayne (Caldwell), our QB has continued to develop and we have again surrounded her with amazing skill players. Our O-Line must get better if we are to win the championship. Their play in that game was simply unacceptable and they know it.
Defensively this is the best defense we have ever had. We are loaded on that side of the ball with fast, athletic players. Our secondary is the best this league has ever seen. We have a pair of great safeties and cover corners. In the middle of the D-Line we have two time DPOY in Kristin Morrison. Flanked by multiple fast, quick DE’s. It should be interesting to see how teams match up to us.
What do you envisage the biggest challenges to the LFL will be going forward?
Player retention and continued main stream public acceptance. The new uniforms and the recent rules changes preventing fighting will help a great deal but the time has come to return to paying the players. If we are to continue recruiting the very best athletes out there, I feel we need to start paying them again. I’m not talking thousands of dollars per game. But something to help offset the expenses these players incur by just coming to practices and promotional events would go a long way.
Many of the new players are surprised by the commitment level that is expected of you when you play on the Bliss. We practice a minimum of twice a week and also have periodic film sessions. Plus you throw in promotional events promoting the upcoming home games and it can be a lot to ask.
As the game continues to improve with better overall athletes and coaching, the public will begin to really take notice on what the LFL provides the average fan. The games are exciting and the ferocity of football is on full display with these players. This is no powder puff.
Slightly different to what you predict the LFL will become going forward, what do you personally want to see happen with the LFL?
Very simply more games. Each team plays only four regular season games. Two home and two away. There simply is not enough games for the fans. They clamor for more home games and are confused when you tell them there are only two home games. An example, we opened the season April 14th but do to a scheduling issue with our home stadium, we don’t return home until August 11th. That’s a full four months between home games. The fans want to see more LFL. Since that’s the case, lets give it to them.
Another problem for only four games is player retention. As we continue to widen our recruiting into a wider market of player, they are stunned when we tell them how much we practice for as few games as we play. Many of our players come from the highly competitive Chicago Co-Ed flag leagues. I know it’s a whole different animal putting on a flag game vs putting on an LFL game but in those leagues the players play every week for far less commitment. With todays player it’s more about what they get out of it vs what the team gets. So my suggestion is increase the amount of games to make it worth the players and fans time to be part / fan of the LFL.
As the winningest coach in the LFL, what can you attribute your success to?
Since my very first day here, I’ve never treated this any different then any other team/league I’ve ever coached in. To me football is football and never treated the female players different than the male ones. The demands and expectations for the players and coaches here are very high. We are relentless in our preparation on and off the field.
We are the winningest team in the league because we never are satisfied. We are always recruiting. We are always developing new players. We are constantly changing our playbook. One year we led the league in rushing and the very next year we led it in passing. We are always raising the bar internally. Championships are all we care about.
Similar to the way the NFL plays international series games, would you like to see the same thing happen with the LFL?
The league currently has plans to play all star games overseas. In the past they have had games in Canada, Mexico, Australia and Central America. I believe there are talks to have future games in Europe and Asia. It’s great for the players selected to be able to attend these games.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I just want everyone to give these players and this league a real chance. If they come to a game, I guarantee they will not be disappointed. The players and coaches that give so much to make this league successful deserve the support the fans give and we all really appreciate it.