These words give an adrenaline rush to every football player whenever a serve is about to begin. Among all sports worth writing about, I have gladly chosen Football.
I had little knowledge about the mechanics of playing American Football, but what makes it interesting is the fact that it has been a well-loved sport, adopted and played in the Philippines.
Allow me to share my immersion with one of the oldest and toughest Philippine teams in the country, the PILIPINAS JUGGERNAUTS
Evolution of Philippine Football
When the Filipino-Americans first introduced the sport to the country, the Philippines became one of the first countries to adopt this sport in Asia. Football in the Philippines began when players from various schools and organizations began to create teams to popularize the sport.
The Arenaball Philippines (ABP) was one of the first pioneering institution to act as the organizing body of the teams in the country. It was then abolished due to the inconsistencies and challenges brought about by the teams.
There are 6 existing teams: Bandits, Wolf Pack, Vanguards, Rebels, Knights and Juggernauts. The best players from the 6 teams get to be a part of Team Aguilas, the team that competes internationally, representing the Philippines.
Currently the teams are all under the leadership of, the Philippine American Football League (PAFL).
Tackle Football. Flag Football. Touch Football
The goal of American football is to do whatever it takes to bring the ball to the other side and achieve the 6 point touchdown. The evolution of the game brought other ways to play American Football in 3 ways.
Tackle: by the word itself, the game is played by tackling the opponent who has the football to prevent a touchdown. This is the classic American football played in the league.
Flag: team players have 5 flags attached to their waists and the game stops when the defense player grabs a flag from the waist of the ball carrier.
Touch: the game stops if the player who holds the football gets touched/tagged (with both hands) by an opponent to prevent a touchdown.
The Juggernaut Experience
It all started with an invitation to attend practice…
I never got to play Tackle Football and this invitation to give it a try made me nervous, considering that it would be a violent sport; well, at least in my opinion. When I was informed that practice would take place at 1330, I glanced at the venue and thought to myself “Really?”
It was a scorching afternoon, and players were already on the field. Some of the members have been on the team for a year or 2, some have just started. There were a number of players that retain as the veterans of the Philippine Juggernauts. What amazed me is the determination of the players to render their weekends for practice, despite having a busy week either in school or work.
They hold practice every Saturday from 1300h-1800h and sometimes continue practice as early as 4:00am!
I was hesitant to give it a try as it would be my first time in a long time playing a strenuous sport, not to mention doing so during the hottest period of the day. Luckily enough, I was geared properly.
It would be the first practice of the season. My first impression of the team members was that they were friendly and welcoming. I heaved a sigh of relief when I discovered that I would not be the only girl to train for the day.
Warm ups began and I braced myself to carry myself out well and give a good first impression to the team.
On normal training days, the team has to endure massive warm ups that not only use the normal standard warm up that we learned back in our Physical Education classes, but also includes the basic warms ups, rounds of sprints and an extensive body workout. Adding to that, these would all be done under the scorching heat of the sun.
Can you imagine 2 sets of 60 burpees, 60 lunges (front and side), 60 military push ups, 60 squats, 60 sit ups and many more?
One of the few routine exercises that all players have to finish is a warm up they call ‘Death Penalty”. This was led by the team’s beloved coach “Coach Beau”
I had to pause for a while, stay under the shade for a couple of minutes, and save my energy, for me to survive the rest of the day.
I never expected to have an extensive warm up, but I found out how the team needed it to toughen the players and allow them to endure a football match. There were instances when insults would be yelled but it served as a motivation to finish the course.
After the warm up, we were ready to start the drills.
The drills were a series of refresher exercises to improve speed, agility, and accuracy. As a beginner, my set involved catching and throwing the football, and also performing the right stance in the game.
First, we had to practice safety drills, and were taught the right way to tackle an opponent. I was given the chance to be partnered with another woman. That was a relief.
Second, the exercise on tackling began to level up, when we had to run and tackle a dummy bag. I can still remember Coach Beau’s advice on my first run: “Waistline Sunshine”. This practically means that we are supposed to tackle an opponent by the waistline, with the motion of looking up to the sun.
Third, It was an exercise on agility and how fast we could react to the position of the football.
We were made to practice for a real match, by being familiar with the positions in the game and team strategies. This was quite difficult for me because I was not familiar with the points and strategies, but as a keen observer, I listened to instructions and asked questions when I didn’t understand.
We played a scrimmage game and I managed to catch up with the set up. You can say my first run was a pretty good game having supportive teammates, even though I made a few mistakes.
It was a 6-hour training program, but it was worth it. The day spent with the team was a result of hard work and dedication made possible by the members. The teamwork and the determination of the team to train impressed me. Apart from that, I witnessed how the veteran team players of the Philippine Juggernauts placed all efforts to help one another in the team, especially exerting the patience to teach others how to play.
Tackle Football imposes discipline. A lot of people may consider this a violent sport, as I once did, but I realized that it teaches you to be tough and to handle different situations. The sport teaches us to stay motivated and get focused considering the factors of struggle brought about by the game.
Despite getting bruised from practice, it was definitely a worthwhile experience. I could say Tackle Football is a sport for practically anyone who has the guts and determination and desire to challenge themselves first before others.
Endured the strength of the sport until the very end. Kudos to the Pilipinas Juggernauts and to Tackle Football.
Much love from the aspiring Juggerbelle,