Coach Ray Norell continues to prepare the Atlanta Steam for their Legends Football League season opener March 30 against the Jacksonville Breeze in Jacksonville. The team’s most recent practice was Saturday morning and Coach Norell worked the squad hard in near freezing temperatures. As the first game in franchise history draws nearer the coaching staff is working to teach the finer points of tackle football to a team that has little full contact football experience.
Coach Norell and his staff have years of playing experience to draw on and they are giving it all they have to prepare the ladies for their first experience with game speed competition. At the same time they must teach basic things like defensive coverages, route running, correct blocking technique, etc… to many players that have never played tackle football. With each passing day the urgency grows and Coach Norell is stepping up the pace.
The Steam players were unhappy with a recent season preview done by a writer for the league that projected the team would go 0-4 and they are determined not to see that come to pass.
The offense has a solid base to build on with playmakers like Coco Montgomery, Nasira Johnson and Krista Cross while the defense has experienced players including cover DB Ericka Smith and DL Tokyo Thomas. The team will need not only leadership from those veterans of tackle football, but also need some of the first-year players to step up and learn quickly.
Professional football mentality is also something that must be learned and the coaches are working to teach that mindset. At Saturday’s practice one of the coaches could be heard explaining, in not so delicate terms, that the LFL is a professional sports league and the players need to understand the distinction between professional and amateur sports. “This is not some rah-rah high school or college team-you are getting paid to play, so you better play like it.”
That message, along with Coach Norell’s end of practice talk, was intended to get the ladies to realize what they will be facing when the season opens. The Steam will be playing experienced teams with players that already understand the difference between amateur and professional sports. As Coach Norell put it, “I was hired to teach you the game and to win-if I don’t get the effort from the players we have, I’ll get other players.”
The Steam will play a four-game season that begins Saturday, March 30 on the road against the Jacksonville Breeze. The Steam will then play back-to-back home games on Saturday April 13 against the Omaha Heart, and Saturday May 18 when they host the Cleveland Crush. The Steam will close out the regular season schedule on Saturday, July 13 when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Passion.
The Steam will play home games at the 11,355-seat Arena at Gwinnett Center, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.