May 14

The Tornadoes are born ­ First Girls Team in Oslo, Norway

I went to the Trolls practice, at Jordal, to train with the women, May 14th. I was not the trainer, but the player. We started out with some warm-ups, running, then passing drills.
As the players were running "down and out" pass patterns, I noticed a group of young girls standing nearby watching the women. There were 11 of them to be exact, and I approached them to ask if they wanted to learn how to play flag football.
Some of them started to jump up and down in excitement (I wish the women were this easy) which I took as a sign for Oslo's first girls flag football team.

I took them to the side of the field, showed them the football, belts & flags. Putting on the flags was the most difficult. These are strange devices if you have never seen flag football, or American football before. The size belts & flags were meant for "larger women" so, we had much "extra" belt wrapped around their skinny bodies.
I remember talking to Porter Wilson (the inventor of these flags), years ago, who explained to me the difficulty in developing the "one size fits all". He developed a little plastic attachment that could take excess belt, then loop through the buckle (are you following me?). This little attachment that Porter developed came in very handy with these girls who were ages 10 ­ 13yr old.

So, you wonder if these girls speak English so well, or maybe that my Norwegian is so good? (I am sure your wondering this ­ I will tell you).
I would speak as much Norwegian as I knew, then throw in the English for those Norwegian words I could not find. After 10 minutes of this combined language, while describing how to run our "flag grab drill", you had to see the look on these girls faces. Finally, I asked the oldest girl, Ingunn (that's her name) if it would be best for me to speak Norwegian or English, and she suggested I speak English and she would translate to the younger girls.


I have explained many times before to the Americans, that these European teams, start from scratch, in that, they have never seen flag football before, or it's ball. It's shape is funny to them, because in their world, all their balls are round (I am pretty sure of that: soccer, handball, basketball, tennis, golf, etc). Throwing and catching becomes a very new experience for them. So it takes a little more time during warm-up to allow these young girls to experience the football. And in a few weeks, it will happen this ball, it's shape, catching and throwing it will all become "one" with them in their lives (that's what happened with me anyway). And so, we ran: flag grab drills, pitching the ball, catching and running with the ball, sweeps right and left, and blocking during our first training! These girls are good, and they have a natural skill. They want more of the sport and I only wish I can start another girls team in Norway: Hidra, where there may very well be a group of other young girls waiting for me to train (or maybe not). We will have to be patient and see.

But after this first training, we decide to continue: Thursday May 15, Friday May 16, Not May 17th ­ this is their 4th of July, their separation from the Swedes (or for Americans our separation from the English) and they have a huge parade and big celebration this day ­ so no chance of flag football training here), Sunday May 18, Monday May 19, Wednesday May 21, Friday May 23 and Saturday May 24th. Lot's of training, because after the 24th, I will be on the road again and leave Oslo until one week prior to the Oslo Tournament. So, now my job is to continue training these girls until I leave, and also to find them a coach.
I believe that this coaching experience would be a great opportunity for one of the women flag football players to step up and gain more experience for flag football. So I start to ask around and find one player: Camilla Hegland,(of the Trolls) who is willing to coach these girls. Yayy! (let the women take control of their own game!)

So, the second week of training with these girls, brings us up to a team level where, today (May 21st), we have a quarterback, two receivers, one running back (I can't decide who should be the full back), one center and a whole defensive team. Some of the empty positions will be filled in by next training, and then we can start to run full team plays. Blocking is most important for the girls and new players to understand, because it will be difficult for a new quarterback and receivers to make passing plays successful. Each position learns that if they do not receive the ball, they should block and protect the ball carrier( a skill even the American teams could better hone down on).

During the first week, the girls had brought more girls, and we jumped from 11 players to 16. We have trained in the rain, for 1 1/2 hours each training (2 hrs. was too long for them, and they would start to get "ants in their pants" ­ so to speak), and we now have a regular routine where I do not even have to ask the girls to do certain things, they automatically know what to do once we begin trainings. We do team stretches where one girl says: (in Norwegian one, then the others follow with the even numbers and we go up to 20)

The girls are a special group to coach. It takes a little bit more time to explain things, but once you explain things, they remember and follow those instructions exactly. For example, when we were running the" down and out" drills, one player turned the wrong way, and everyone noticed and corrected her. I did not have to use my voice, which can get abused at times (so much talking). They are very responsible human beings and starting to develop personalities. Our half back, the smallest one on the team, received a new nickname whom we now call: "Tough Cookie", because she can run with the ball through 6 defenders and not be touched, as well as dive for flags when playing the defense. Soon, we will have nicknames for all the girls, as they are get more comfortable and show their personalities. The team name took a short while to figure out: "Tornadoes". I don't know where the girls got this name from, but they are very proud of it.

I also have a captain for the team, Ingunn (the translator) who will make phone calls to the girls and keep in contact with them while I am gone (I want to make sure this team stays together and does not fall apart). They know we have the tournament in Oslo, and we will see if we can field a team of girls in this competition. Whether there will be a second girls team or not, these Oslo girls will play against the women. And that is the beauty of what the IWFFA does. It is to offer competition to girls and women for flag football and everyone over here (Scandinavia) understands that and are happy to play against all teams (maybe I should warn the women to bring "pillows" for their butts, or maybe I will just let them find out the hard way).