Monday, June 9, 2008

5 Questions With A Running Back

Vanessa Santillan plays the position of running back for the Southern California Breakers women’s football team. A remarkable runner, she is often seen on the field running opponents out of their shoes. Vanessa is a Southern California native that watched and played sports starting at an early age with her father. She played nearly every sport growing up and excelled in soccer, volleyball, and track.

Vanessa attended Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo where she met her current boyfriend of 7 years. She took a special interest in weight lifting between high school and college. In addition, she is a 2007 graduate of Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Sports Studies/Sports Performance. She attributes the fact that she got her degree in Kinesiology to playing football. Vanessa now works with athletes of all ages in her current job as a Sports Performance Coach for Velocity Sports Performance in Irvine.

Vanessa has been playing football for four years now. She started as and continues to play as a running back. She plays corner/safety every now and then and enjoys playing special teams as a striker going straight for the ball carrier. The talented athlete slowed down for a moment to answer my five questions:

1. How did you first become involved in sports? Have you always been athletic? What did you do as a child, in high school, college, etc. before playing for the Breakers as far as sports?

My family really enjoys sports whether playing for fun or watching games. I have been involved with sports since I was seven years old. I started out by playing soccer up until high school. In high school I was on the track team and ran in the sprints (100, 200 and 400 meter races). I always enjoyed playing sports outside of school and would usually play with the guys that were more competitive.

I worked full time as a personal trainer during college and as far as my athletic career went I worked out regularly and got into a few 5k races. I had a great time running but really wanted to join more of a team sport. I was 19 when saw an article in the paper about tryouts for a women's football team in Orange County and that's when my football career started.

2. Tell me about your training schedule - with the team and on your own. What is the hardest part about training for you? What are the specifics for your position that you work on?

Our team training schedule consists of practice 3 times a week, Tuesday/Thursday 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm and Saturdays in the off season are a long 9:00 am to 3:30pm.

Because I work as a sports performance coach, I have a great facility to train myself - just like the pros! I work out almost everyday, specifically for football but in the past few years I’ve learned to take off a day or two here and there to recover but I really do love working out. I have recently taken up Olympic weightlifting which really helps me on the football field. I work on speed, agility and quickness as well.

The hardest part about training is taking what I learn in the weight room and training floor and executing it on the field. It’s hard to turn off the "inner coach" and over analyze something that comes so naturally to most athletes.

3. What do you find to be the most challenging part about playing football? What is the most rewarding thing? What is your most memorable/exciting moment playing football?

The most challenging part about football is just playing the game. Allowing myself to forget about everything and just running the ball without thinking too much is tough. Getting into the "Zone" and just letting my instincts come out is difficult.

The most rewarding thing in football on the field is when all 11 players are in sync. Perfect plays are executed and everyone has a great time. It is also rewarding to know that we are women playing football and showing little girls that women are strong and can accomplish anything they set their minds to and believe in.

My personal favorite moment in football would have to be our first regular season game when I ran in our winning touchdown, in double overtime. No other touchdown will ever be that exciting! I don't think I stopped smiling for days.

One honorable moment that deserves mentioning was our final game last season (2007) when The Breakers, including myself had 13 players take on the West Coast Championship team. We had suffered a lot of injuries that year and knew in our hearts we could not win that game, but played anyway for the love of the game & each other.

4. What do you get out of playing for the Breakers? How has this experience enhanced your life?

I know for a fact my life would be very different. I don't think I would have the career I have now without being involved with football. I have met and become close friends with my great and crazy teammates, we are all so different but yet we share this common bond. Football has brought out qualities in me that help make me the strong person I am.

5. Do you consider yourself a role model? What would you say to young athletes about following their sports dreams?

I think anyone that works with children/teenagers should automatically be a role model whether that be a teacher or coach. I work hard physically to make sure that I can be in the best shape I can for the game and I try my best to be a good teammate and athlete for the team.

I have the opportunity to really help develop athletes on a daily basis. I see young girls and boys who are reserved at times and hold themselves back because they don't want to stand out or don't believe in themselves enough. As a coach your job is not only to help a child get faster and stronger but also to help bring out their confidence so that they can have just as much fun playing a sport as you (the coach) does.

We play sports for fun and to feel successful. Young athletes especially need to make sure that at the end of the day they are having fun. If an athlete wants to take their sport to the next level they need to take advantage of every moment to get better mentally and physically.

Photos of Vanessa in action are courtesy of Eddie Perlas.


Lindsay said...

Football reminds me of rugby and how the whole team really has to work together in order to do well. I guess that's true with any sport though. I just related to Vanessa when she said it's rewarding when all players are in sync.

Apryl DeLancey said...

I know how that feels also and it is truly rewarding!