Following is the second article featuring the New England NightMare women’s football team
When it comes to pay to play teams such as the NightMare one of the biggest concerns for the owners and coaches is the roster turnover. Many of the players work full time, are students, mothers or some combination of the three. And, as it is in many such leagues in all sports, making a multi-year commitment to a team that starts informal workouts in the fall, begins in earnest in January and can still be playing well into July that can be a lot to ask. Factor in the yearly cost and, especially in football, the threat of injury, roster turnover in any given season can be significant.
The NightMare had twenty girls return this year while integrating another twenty into the system. Given the complexities involved in football, from the offensive sets to defensive schemes, the coaching staff had their work cut for them. Limited to five or six hours of practice a week, it took the better part of a season of teaching and fine tuning before the team began to develop some consistency. Another issue the NightMare continue to contend with is that most of girls have never played football. Many are athletes in other sports, but occasionally the team will get a girl who is athletic and willing to learn, but has never played sports at any level. Especially for a young inexperienced team, this is where a large coaching staff is vital. This season the NightMare began with ten coaches and ended with eight at the close of the 2011 campaign. And like the players, coaches do not get paid. Co-owners Ronald Pittman and Tracy Parker pull double duty as head coach and defensive coach, respectively.
The majority of the players come from Connecticut with a few from Massachusetts. The team has had some inquiries from girls in Rhode Island and New York, but the time and travel commitments are prohibitive. The majority of the players range from ages 25 to 30, with the roster having players as young as 18 and even as old as 52. And because of the limited roster size many girls play multiple positions on offense, defense and special teams. For instance, NightMare starting quarterback rookie Megan Martell is going to the WFA All-Star game as a punter.
Despite a disappointing 0-8 season this year (The team went 2-6 in 2010) Pittman and Parker are hoping to return 24 players from this year’s team next season and add another 20 during the off-season. Unlike this season, where Coach Parkers defense returned only four starters from the 2010 team, with a greater number of returning players the staff is looking to quicker start out of the gate in 2012. The future bodes well with the NightMare defensive front four regarded as one of the best in the league anchored by linemen Lovette ‘Lovie’ Watson, a player with the rare combination of size and speed and defensive end Angie Mitchell.
The two biggest factors the NightMare will address in the off-season will be limiting the opponent’s big plays especially on special teams and the offenses inability to score in the red zone. The NightMare were shut out in six of their eight games this season and only scored a total of 28 points. The team was plagued by inconsistent play from the running backs, finding the right roles for their two rookie wide receivers, Candace Young and Chella Harlow and teaching Martell the quarterback position which she inherited in the middle of the season. The team hopes to build around Martell whom the coaches call ‘one of the most gifted athletes that we’ve come across in some time. Very dedicated. Studies the game. Great attitude’. Also adding that with experience she’s becoming more comfortable at quarterback, arguably the most important position on the team.
As with many young franchise’s there will be growing pains, losses and frustrations but Coach Pittman still praised the overall effort and attitude of the girls this season saying ‘they were a good group of dedicated ladies. That anytime, because an 0-8 season is hard to go through, they could’ve left and said ‘screw this, I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore’. But they stayed together. What we emphasize is a family atmosphere amongst players and coaches. They stuck together through thick and thin. I was really proud of them’. Coach Parker echoed those sentiments and added, ‘Other coaches have come up to us and said those girls don’t know the meaning of quit. I’m just proud to be with them’. It’s that attitude from the coaches on down that the team hopes to build on next season.
Next. The NightMare prepare for next season