Outlaws Training Camp Part 2

During a recent chalk talk, the Austin Outlaws’ 2008 offensive coordinator, Michael Jordan, explained the level of performance he expects from his starting quarterback, Julie Wilke: “If you see it, run it. You’re the commander. You’re the chief. Take chances. That’s why you’re the quarterback. The quarterback controls the ball – not the coaches. Coaches don’t have the ball. Coaches are on the sideline drinking Gatorade.” (I know – I liked him right away, too.)

Fourteen years of coaching everything from Pop Warner to the Central Texas Wolf Pack has taught Jordan more than how to instruct with a sense of humor. He’s learned the importance of training a team to trust in his plays, but to adjust to the opposing defense as weaknesses arise. This guidance will prove important for the Outlaws, who hope to bring home their first National Women's Football Association championship this year. It won’t be easy. While the team can look to Wilke (a four-year veteran) and their returning running backs for leadership, rookies make up about half of the offense, and they suffer from a shortage of offensive linewomen. Jordan and the team still remain confident they’ll be ready come April. And I think they have a real shot as well. I mean, come on, they found a new wide receiver and an alternate quarterback on a wings run to Hooter’s. (The football gods must be on their side.)

Wilke joined the Outlaws after moving to Austin three and a half years ago. She started as a receiver and became quarterback the following year. When Wilke isn’t volunteering as an assistant basketball coach for Southwestern, she’s working hard to pull together a relatively inexperienced offense short on offensive linewomen. With the 2008 roster confirming just nine total linewomen – five of whom are rookies – losing one (or any player) due to injury rightfully constitutes a concern.

But when I asked Wilke about their offensive strengths, she eagerly pointed out what I noticed after attending just one Outlaws practice: they have two phenomenal running backs. Wilke stated, “Having Monica [Gauck] and Shadana [Hurd] back – their speed – it’s hard to stop two people at the same time. Offensively that’s probably our best strength.”

For a franchise full of rookies, they’re running tight plays in practice. Gauck attributes the team’s ability to pull together so efficiently to an “often unspoken, unbreakable, heartfelt bond” between the Outlaws players – regardless of their tenure. The new players’ level of dedication attests to Gauck’s point. Veronica Regalbuti, the team’s new backup quarterback and alternate wide receiver, returns this year in hopes of completing her first full season as an Outlaw. She started in 2006, but an eight-month deployment to Iraq cut her season short. She and fellow active-duty soldier Becky Lahmann (wide receiver) both drive bi-weekly from Killeen for practice.

With this level of commitment, it’s not hard to understand coach Jordan’s confidence in his team. He came to the Outlaws “curious about ladies’ football” and eager “to coach a different style.” His good-humored but serious coaching technique attests to how quickly he’s grown attached to his new team, which shares a lot in common with teams he’s coached in the past.

“The ladies know a lot about football – so it’s a lot like coaching a men’s team.”

And how do you think the team looks?

“We can win it. No doubt.”

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

austin outlaws, julie wilke, monica gauck

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