At the conclusion of each LFL season, it’s always great to reflect on the journey we embarked on, dating back to September 4, 2009. Four-hundred plus games later, broadcasts all-over the world on prominent networks such as MTV Networks, NBC Universal, SBS Broadcasting and so many others, sold-out international All-Star games of 25,000 spectators, a national reality series, and now the most exciting opportunity, our 10th Year Anniversary year.
As we reflect on the 2018 season and prior to congratulating the Austin Acoustic and the Chicago Bliss for getting to our biggest stage and ultimately the Bliss for winning their 4th championship. I want to acknowledge a few other groups that make every season possible.
First, the LFL staff who work tireless hours starting with off-season preparation that include coordination of all the season’s logistics, scheduling, equipment procurement, set up and production of our games, produce and edit thousands of hours of content while also managing all the needs of our athletes, coaches and support staff, as well as our league partners. These men and women are unsung heroes of the LFL. We also had LFL family members step in to assist this past season when we were short-handed such as Nicole Peterson, Sam Zipp and Courtney Jensen. Continued hard-work and dedication from Tyler DeHaven, Wesley Jenkins, Jeff Gamza and Jeremy Fisher as well as some new faces to our roster that included Jordan Dunn, Bernard Shapiro, Andrea Cierno, Austin Lake, Victor Marks, Brett Sacks and Benjamin Pulido. Of course the heart-beat of the LFL, Heather Theisen, who despite a serious injury continued to play hurt, Captaining our ship. Have to recognize my broadcast partner Bobby Hewko who has stayed loyal to the sport, first as an outstanding coach and now the better broadcaster in our booth. We also saw a great addition to the LFL Football Night broadcast team, someone we have been in search of for years, a Sideline Reporter. Heidi Golznig stepped in with a hunger for learning the sport and a desire to earn the respect of our athletes and coaches, she is an incredible talent and someone that will hopefully be with our sport for years to come.
Second, I want to recognize the support staffs for each of our teams. These individuals at times work in various capacities to meet the needs of their affiliated team, yet often go unnoticed. Individuals like a Jessica Saltzman in Austin, Mike McGhee in Seattle, Colton Cull in Chicago, Jessica Robinson in Atlanta and so many others. I want each of you around the country to understand the importance you play in making your respective team’s season a reality.
Third, I want to acknowledge the six other teams that did not make it to Legends Cup weekend. Each of you are the backbone of our sport, whether you finished with a 3-1 season or a 0-4 season. While our teams are competitive on Saturday nights, I appreciate the support lent to those teams still struggling to find success. I will share a story with you told to me by Adam Johnson, head coach of our Denver Dream. Following a devastating and demoralizing loss this past season, Coach Johnson fielded numerous calls and emails from other coaches around the league, encouraging him and his staff to keep the course and continue to compete. While Denver Dream athletes received encouraging social media messages from their fellow athletes. Each of our teams are a member of the LFL family, we will only be as strong as the family member that is struggling and needs our understanding, patience and continued support.
Lastly, congratulations to the Austin Acoustic and the Chicago Bliss. The Acoustic under the leadership of our ‘Head Coach of the Year’ Mike Olvera, saw the biggest turnaround in league history. It was truly a magical season in Austin, whether it was the heroics of Michelle Marshall’s final-play game-winning touchdown catch or the emergence of Leilanni Lopez, this franchise is set up for success for years to come. How about the Chicago Bliss, a franchise that has captured more wins and more championships than any other franchise in league history. Led by Keith Hac who has worked since 2009 to build a culture of winning, surrounded by perhaps the most dedicated and passionate group of assistant coaches and a roster that continues to deliver. Congratulations to the Chicago Bliss, as I said at our LFL Awards ceremony, while teams chase a Legends Cup championship, Chicago is in pursuit of ‘Excellence’.
We certainly want to acknowledge our fans as well. I had an opportunity of hearing from our fans at our post-game ‘Meet and Greets’, hearing stories of fans traveling in from other countries such as Ireland, Africa, Brazil as well as other States, just for the opportunity to watch their favorite teams and athletes. It was also encouraging to see diversity grow within our fan base, which included our largest female audiences, a lot of next-generation fans as well as our loyal fans who have been with us since 2009. Thank you to all of you fans, you are what sustains our sport.
Every season includes standout performances, break through athletes and those who quietly sacrifice behind the scenes. Annually we recognize as many as we can. In 2018, there were no shortage of deserving LFL Awards nominees and winners. What will resonate from this season will be the dominant performances of athletes like Leilanni Lopez, the emergence of Kera Bryant, League MVP Michelle Angel having one of the most impressive and gutsy years of any LFL Quarterback in history and so many others. What was most striking, were just how many category winners represent the future of the LFL, with many seasons of LFL Football ahead of them. Of course the most special award, ChrisDell ‘The Ferrari’ Harris. ChrisDell was immortalized with her deserving induction into the LFL Hall of Fame.
Now that we have wrapped up the 2018 season and have had a chance to reflect, the obvious question is, ‘What is next’? First and foremost, we have to continue to find ways of improving the football product. How is that accomplished most effectively? I have said since the inception of the LFL, coaching is the most important element of a sport still in its infancy, with athletes, most of whom have never played the game prior to entering the LFL. While a vast majority of our coaches are stellar and have a passion to teach the game, in 2018, we certainly saw a lot of room for improvement within our coaching ranks. My office has already concluded our season debriefs with our head coaches from around the league. We have also begun the process of hiring incredible new coaches that will inject a renewed sense of passion and commitment to teaching the game. You will see some perhaps surprising moves within our coaching ranks to insure we continue to have incredible leaders in that position, who truly understand the importance and impact of their role.
hat is perhaps theI also had the opportunity to interact with a lot of fans both at our arenas / stadiums and online, each providing input on what they would want to see from their favorite sport. Responses ranged from better officiating to launching our e-Commerce platform LFLSHOP.com to moving to a more user friendly Mobile App, Trading Cards, a Video Game as well as securing a US National TV Partner that would broadcast LFL games LIVE. I can tell you each of these initiatives and many others that come with building a global sports franchise, are well underway and in the coming weeks and months, you will hear announcements working toward each of these goals.
Alongside securing a US National TV partner such as our previous broadcasters MTV Networks and NBC Universal – we are also continuing our focus to secure greater TV distribution internationally, growing our sport through television which leads to LIVE games being played at international destinations. In fact, in October, I will be boarding a flight to France to attend MIPCOM, the world’s most prominent television convention. Alongside meetings with current and future LFL broadcast partners, I will also be speaking at various panels educating broadcasters and producers from around the world, about perhaps the greatest untold story in sports, the LFL.
Our international television distribution has led to interest in bringing LFL exhibition games to countries all-around the world. Our athletes have experienced incredible atmospheres of over 25,000+ fans at international cities like Mexico City, Sydney, Brisbane and other great destinations. We are now in talks to bring our athletes to Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as taking the Legends Cup to an international destination annually.
In the coming weeks my office has also scheduled meetings with several medical and equipment partners to look at products that can greater protect our athletes. We will be reviewing various new safety and prevention products that we will take into our 10th Year Anniversary season and beyond. I also wanted to acknowledge the incredible medical groups around the country headed by our Director of Medical, Jeremy Fisher, who continue to deliver GameDay and year-round support of our athletes. These women and men in most cases our the medical support for their in-market NFL, NBA and other major sports, yet, believe in our sport and treat our athletes in the same manner as their major sports teams.
Heading into our 10th Year of operation is an incredible achievement for any sport or business as most fail within the first 3 to 5yrs, if they launch at all. In those 10yrs we have reached milestones that were first for women’s sport. Keep in mind it took Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) nearly 15 years to break-through and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) over 20 years. We are also trying to commercialize women’s sport, which presents an additional hurdle. However, you merely have to attend an LFL game to see the energy in the atmosphere, the passion of our athletes and potential of the sport – to realize this is simply the beginning of what is possible.