As the 2020 International Cup in Queensland, Australia looms on the horizon in late July, this year the women's USA Freedom team Head Coach, Christina Licata's unfinished story is remarkable already. From the humble beginnings of finding the sport whilst attending her last year of College at Arizona State University, to establishing the first women's team in New York, to being the only Level 2 AFL coach in the USA, to now leading the USA team herself into battle at the 2020 IC. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and passion for Aussie Rules Football.
Christina originally played with one of the only three women's teams at the time in the USA the Arizona Hawks and attended the first National Championships for women in the USA, which was played in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 2005. Though the Hawks were not successful that weekend that taste of competitive contact sport was enough to fuel a passion for Aussie Rules Football that is still as evident today as it was 16 years ago. Unfortunately Christina suffered from two ACL knee injuries, the second in 2013 after moving to New York in 2008. Christina hung up her playing boots after the second one, but that did not stop her from continuing on in the sport she now loves, helping establish and later becoming the Head Coach of the New York Magpies women's team. With the help of her best friend to this day she met in college in Arizona, Andrea Murphillas (Casillas), they have been pioneers of women's footy in New York and across the USA.
With a drive beyond all in the USA so far, Christina became the only USA Level 2 AFL coach in the country, either men's or women's. It was inevitable perhaps or destiny maybe that she would be appointed in 2018 as the USA Freedom Head Coach and lead the team to Australia on tour. It is not a place unfamiliar to Christina being a part of the very first tour to Australia in 2009, at a time well before International women's AFL football was a thing.
For our soon to be released episode of Outside 50 podcast show, Christina mentions some of the people that have helped and guided her along the way. New York men's coach Rob Oliver especially and another notable was Chyloe Kurdas who made a significant contribution to the organization and therefore success of the 2009 Freedom tour but also to women's sport in general when working for AFL Victoria. Chyloe was also an attendee at USAFL National Championships and ran clinics in New York and other places around the USA, as a true leader of international women's footy development she remains a great friend of Christina's and many USA women players around the country, to this day.
Also in our interview, Christina elaborated on the plans this year for the final Freedom camp weekend to be held in Sacramento, taking place from May 28th to the 31st. There the 28 selected players and 6 emergencies will undergo testing, advanced coaching seminars and certainly full scale match practice sessions, prepping them all for not only the 2020 IC tour, but the future of the sport in the USA.
As Head Coach of USA, Christina was clear that the goal at the 2020 International Cup was, "Win it all", but still pleased to say like maybe a typical well educated coach, "we will take it one game at a time, when the time comes."
There is no doubt regardless of the results on the Sunshine Coast later this year, women's USA footy at the highest level is in good hands, through Christina Licata's, vision, drive and passion for the sport there is no looking back, only forward.
We are proud to know her and to have seen part of her unfinished story.
The USAFL Freedoms tilt at the 2020 International Cup in Melbourne Australia goes into full swing this week with a 4 day camp in Racine Wisconsin.
Earlier in the year at an Arizona camp with 75 players in attendance the USA Freedom selection panel lead by head coach Christina Licata, selected 54 players from 125 available to remain in IC2020 tour contention. In Racine this week from Thursday 14th through to Sunday 18th, over 40 of those players will be striving for selection in the 28 player squad to head to Australia in 2020. That squad may also include players currently playing outside the USA with ten squad players playing overseas in 2019, mainly in Australia, but also in Ireland.
This week USFootyNews heard from Coach Licata who related "While selection for the squad that will ultimately compete at the International Cup in 2020 won't occur until the Nationals Championships in Sarasota, performance at the 4-day camp will factor heavily into the coaching team's decisions."
Licata with all the assistant coaches this weekend will put all the players to the test, the 4-day camp will feature;
Skills and fitness assessments
Full sided games
Small sided games
Team goal setting and self assessments
At the 2017 IC the USA Freedom did not live up to their own expectations after several set backs through injuries and finished with a 2-3 record. Leading Great Britain in the last game at 3/4 time, the Freedom team saw that game slip away in the final minutes to finish a disappointing 2017 campaign in 4th place.
For 2020 however we see a far greater preparation through well attended and stronger Regional Championship games, Freedom camps and initial squad selections allowing a far greater pool of players prepare for selection. Also with several players having valuable match and training experience in Australia since 2017, all other teams better watch out in 2020.
That Freedom roster will be announced at the 2019 National Championships in Sarasota FL however we are sure there are 40 or so women footy players getting ready for a massive 4 days in Racine Wisconsin this week.