Team rallied in huddle

Bent, but never broken

June 1, 2024

Julieann Challacombe

Gathered together following a loss at St. Louis, the Boston Renegades stood in a circle at the edge of the field. For a moment, their heads hung low and their hearts ached for the loss they just endured.

But it didn’t last for long.

The walk back to the locker room was solemn and steady knowing they would get through this loss because they were together, and they believed in the process..

For Head Coach of the Renegades John Johnson the ride back to the hotel was full of scheming and planning. His mind never settled, there was no time to sleep, he had a date with film. To him, the road back to a championship was still a work in progress.  

“There were some good lessons to learn about all the things that we preach,” said Johnson. “We fell short of the standard in quite a few areas, so we just have to pick it up, correct the correctables and move forward.”

After organizing his thoughts, Johnson called a meeting he seldom does. The very next practice, rather than meet on Zoom, the entire team sat together in a muggy, sweaty locker room to watch film, The first time the full team and staff watched together since 2018.

Back then the team met in person regularly to watch film, but were separated into offensive and defensive sides. They had experienced losses much like their recent one to St. Louis. The Renegades record had fallen to 4-2 ahead of the final two games of the regular season, and he needed to find a solution fast.

There were a lot of things he learned about himself, his coaches and his team, said Johnson. He felt like he needed to bring the team together to remind them who they were.

“We had to figure out whether it’s an emotional thing, a physical thing or football intelligence thing,” said Johnson.” Now it’s about how you practice, how you watch film and more importantly how the team does those things together.”

Wide receiver Stephanie “PB” Pascual recalls the joint session with a similar sentiment. She was present in 2018 when the full team gathered to watch film for the first time, and knows the significance of its impact very well.

“Watching film through the coach’s eyes, seeing what they see is a different kind of intensity,” said Pascual. “After a loss like that sometimes you need to hit the reset button, it was the right call to make.”

And that it was. The Renegades would go on to win the 2018 championship becoming the first women’s football team since 2007 to win a major national title despite having two losses on its season record.

“We’ve been here before, we know how to get things done,” said Pascual. “We got knocked down, we’ll get back up.”

Maybe it was the conviction in the coaches voices, or the intensity of being held accountable, but it worked in 2018. The loss to St. Louis brought a sense of deja vu and brought them back to basics, said Johnson. It was time once again to hit that big, red reset button.

”They outlined who we are as a team and showed us where we fell short,” said third-year linebacker Kara Gailiunas. “We’re not forgetting about our mistakes, we’re learning from them. We’re drawing from the heart and how fun it is to play football as a team.”

Now, a brand new Renegades team has a chance to write their own legacy; start a brand new streak. With remnants of the knowledge, passion and dedication of the all-time greats that came before them, Gailiunas is certain she and her team are fully prepared to carry on the Renegade legacy.

“There is so much excitement to put in the work and continue to build together,” said Gailiunas. “We’re all going to do this together. We’re all in the same ship and we’re setting sail. There’s no turning back.”

The Journey starts this Saturday, June 1, as they take on the New York Wolves. With a clean slate, hunger for success and the same Renegade mentality, the team has tunnel vision and it’s set on a Championship.

Yeah, their 42 game win record was broken, but there’s one thing you should know.

Their spirit will never be.

“Being a Renegade is being knocked down and bouncing back up,” said Pascual. “Our job is not to be undefeated, our job is to win a championship. I don’t care that we lost this game, I care that we bounce back.”