It doesn’t take long for a conversation with a member of the Boston Renegades to veer into the topic of standard s.
For the past few years, the Renegades have essentially been the definition of excellence in the Women’s Football Alliance, winning national championships in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022. If it weren’t for a pesky pandemic that shutdown the season in 2020, they probably would’ve been the proud owners of a five-peat by now.
On Saturday, they are playing for yet another championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, where they’ll be facing the St. Louis Slam. For quarterback Allison Cahill, it’s a trip that’s become something of an annual tradition. But it’s anything but routine.
“And I was thinking to myself recently, you know, it’s a privilege, but it’s very much a privilege that’s earned, nothing is handed to us just ‘cause we have Renegades on our jersey and, you know, historical precedent,” she said. “Every year’s a new year and you’ve got to start from scratch, just like everybody else, in January.”
The Renegades are the model that the rest of women’s football has been seemingly unable to crack for the last few years. The secret to all of their success, though, started well before the Renegades and goes beyond just the X’s and O’s.
Team owner Molly Goodwin points out that when the team picked up in 2015 back where the former Boston Militia left off, there was a core group of players and personnel that carried over. The majority of the group has been together for eight years. She says it’s provided am invaluable continuity.
“We’re setting the standard for ourselves, I don’t think we ever thought we would necessarily be there for the league, but I feel like we are now and it’s our duty to keep pushing that bar and not staying here. Because we do want, someday, for our women to be able to do this full-time,” Goodwin said.
Cahill, who was one of the key pieces that carried over from the Militia days, says that there’s a lot of turnover in women’s football, making the Renegades’ consistency invaluable.
“You know, we’ve certainly benefitted from that so that you don’t have to start from scratch every year in terms of your core values,” she said. “And hopefully, by bringing in new talent, our [general manager] Ben Brown is amazing at recruiting in the offseason, that standard will never drop anytime soon because, like I said, those new players come in and they know what that standard is and it’s just their job to uphold it for the next group of new players.”
What the Renegades have accomplished hasn’t gone unnoticed by their peers. Taylor Hay is a running back (along with fullback, holder, kicker and punter) for the St. Louis Slam. She praised the team’s coaching, depth and discipline and calls them one of the favorite team’s she’s played in her career.
“It seems as if everyone’s on the same page and they make very few mistakes,” Hay said. “In the game of football, the team that does make the least amount of mistakes usually wins.”
The Slam lost to Boston last season 49-21 in one of the closer games of the year for the Renegades in 2022. And it’s been lingering on their mind since.
“We’ve been preparing for Boston since Day 1, since January,” Hay said. “So that is the end goal. No offense to anyone else on that side of the East Coast, but it was expected that Boston was to be in the championship game.”
That may seem like a no-brainer given what Boston has accomplished. But there’s a big difference between creating a standard and keeping it.
For the Renegades, that’s meant continuing to push for more in new ways, like a team book club Cahill said started a couple offseasons ago to help the team bond over texts about sports psychology and championship mindset; or the players-only offensive film meetings the squad has outside of their time with coaches. Cahill said weekend captain’s practices have seen 30 people show up.
It all goes back to something Goodwin sees as key: She can’t imagine anyone is outworking them. And she wants what they’re doing to bring other teams up, too.
“And I hope teams are gunning for us. We want them to. ‘Cause that’s how we all get better,” Goodwin said. “And I think unfortunately in women’s sports, you often hear that teams that are winning a lot aren’t praised for being a dynasty. There’s ‘no competition.’ Again, I would go back to the work that we put in and I hope that that’s what people see is this does not come easy. It’s not because of lack of competition. It’s because of the work that we’re putting in. And we hope that the other teams will grow with us.