In the beginning, all Minnesotan and Wisconsinite flag football enthusiasts and flag football players called out—by the way with burning torches and pitchforks: “They’re flukes!” “They got lucky!” Or my favorite, “They were on an easy bracket!” And the nagging list goes on…infinitely…on…and on…until they came back and whoop some Minnesotans’ and Wisconsinites’ derrieres or better known to the common man as the buttocks.
I guess they proved everyone wrong, right? Of course they did!
Well my friends, their name alone can conjure up what many believe as one of the best HFF team in the nation because of their undertaking of 2 National J4th titles in a row. Yep, you heard it right, 2 YEARS IN A ROW!
No team—I mean it—no team, has done this! But, flag football has merely begun to take presence in the Hmong community and only in its infancy stage and these guys will be known as one of the pioneers of this sport—fast forward—in the next decade, leaving their footsteps to the next generation, perhaps their progeny will be the future prodigy.
I, initially, wrote a set of questions before the national July 4th 2008 season but had no luck in finding any information in getting a hold these Sanstorm guys, so we’ve waited and now finally, through sheer luck, made connections via the networking of MySpace and so here we go.
Jerry: My first question is obvious, how did you guys do it 2 years in a row in your indomitable march of madness to conquer both National July 4th titles through 2006-2007 and who were your fiercest competitors during your reign as champs?
Charlie: Our training and conditioning was a huge factor in our success those two years. In 2006 when we came up, we didn’t really know what to expect. We heard a lot of great things about the teams in the mid-west. We knew that this would be the ultimate challenge for our team besides battling with team Rebelz in the past years. That year, between us, Plazaboyz, and IDK, any of us could have won the championship. In our part, I think we won because we made a few more plays and stops here and there. In 2007, team X-conz (the J4 2005 champs) gave us a really good game in the semis. Their style of play on defense was pretty tenacious. Had we not been physically and mentally prepared, they would have beaten us.
Jerry: As defending champs of 2 years, how devastating was it to your team to get to finals and losing to Lights-Out during the 2008 campaign?
Charlie: I don’t think any of us is devastated from the lost to team Lights Out during the J4 championship game, but definitely disappointed. We knew how deep and talented they are because we played them earlier in the year. We knew that in order for us to beat them, we would have had to keep up with them on offense and not give up big plays. Unfortunately, both things didn’t happen and we ended up losing.
Jerry: Have you guys started training this year? Plus, as a motivating tool to grasp what you’ve lost last year to Lights-Out, I would assume your team’s more determined this year to convert your loss to a positive outlook in training even harder and becoming even better than last?
Charlie: We have not started training this year as of yet. Normally we’ll have a SANSTORMS kickoff luncheon around February. From there, we’ll have an idea about what we want to do as a team. As far as motivation goes, being a player and a coach for our team, my motivation comes from my teammates. The passion and commitment they exemplify is what motivates me and drives me to become a better coach/player.
Jerry: How about another trip to Minnesota in 2009?
Charlie: At the moment we haven’t decided if we’re coming or not. We would love to come back to support the biggest HFF tournament in the US and represent San Diego.
Jerry: Is every member of your team Sanstorm from San Diego, CA and what promoted you guys into playing flag football versus the other more popular Hmong sports like soccer and volley ball?
Charlie: We are all from San Diego. We originally started our team back in 2001 as a social and recreational gathering to keep our younger family members and friends away from gangs and out of trouble. We chose flag-football because we all love the sport. We also heard that this sport was growing and becoming more popular within the Hmong community. We wanted to be a part of it.
Jerry: With Minnesota’s partying nightlife for you out of towners during J4th and with hundreds of thousands traveling from all over the nation just to partake in this festive time of year, how do you manage headcounts from going out to enjoy themselves?
Charlie: Tommy (#3) and I are the two team captains of our team. As much as we would like our players to just chill and rest for the games during the weekend, it is really up them. We can’t force them to not go clubbing/drinking because we’re not a professional team and no one is under contract. However, with that said they outta know better not to be going out late or drinking the night before games.
Jerry: What obstacles or challenges do you see your team visiting this year versus the year before?
Charlie: Our main obstacle this year will most likely be getting ourselves motivated and staying committed to what we have been doing in the past that have made us successful as a team. More and more of us are becoming fathers for the first time and starting families of our own. It will be a challenge to balance family, work and football.
Jerry: How do you guys try to keep each other mentally focused before each game?
Charlie: There’s really no way to explain how we do this. It all starts with training and practice and being prepared before tournaments.
Jerry: Is there any particular team that you see as a threat this year since this sport is growing with more teams participating every year?
Charlie: We all know that team Lights Out is the team to beat right now. If they keep playing the way they did during J4 08, it will be hard to beat them. However, I know that there are other capable teams that can possibly win this year’s J4.
Jerry: Do you guys participate in a lot of out of town tournaments in California—I know, as a fact, since living in Fresno, it’s a distance from Fresno to San Diego, where do you guys normally compete? Or, if not then, how many other teams are there in San Diego’s greater area that you compete with?
Charlie: Our team has traveled a lot within the past 4 or 5 years just to compete. We don’t have many teams in San Diego so it’s hard to have tournaments down here. In the past years we have hosted Synergy flag-football tournament during the San Diego Hmong New Year. Other then that, the tournaments in California we usually try to shoot for is Spring Bowl (Fresno), Waterfest (Fresno), and Gibson Ranch (Sacramento).
Jerry: How many players comprise of team Sanstorms and any notable mentions in specific player(s) you’d like to recognize for their dedication and M.V.P. like status during game plays (I know it sounds a little redundant, but I think this question is a little different from the others)?
Charlie: We currently have 24 active players on our roster. The whole Team SANSTORMS deserves a notable mention for their hard work, dedication and continuing efforts to make SANSTORMS an elite team in HFF.
Jerry: I commend you guys for being self-advocates in protecting the Hmong youths (especially with San Diego’s Hmong community being so close knit) and building wealth in this prevention program for families and friends to keep out from gang life and street life, could you elaborate how this “flag football haven” help these kids?
Charlie: We are an active group of the Hmong community in San Diego. For us, flag football is not just a sport. We use flag football to teach the younger generation leadership, responsibility and teamwork. As a team we volunteer our time to help the Hmong community in San Diego, teach the younger generation how to raise money for the team by having fundraisers, and giving back to the Hmong community by donating to the Lao Hmong Family Association of San Diego. Back in 2007 when we won the J4 Minnesota Tournament we hosted a celebration party for the whole Hmong Community in San Diego.
Jerry: What would you like to say to all whose doubted your team in the past?
Charlie: If being in the finals 3 consecutive years during the biggest Hmong Flag Football tournament in the nation doesn’t prove anything I’m not sure what can. Our team will continue to strive to be the best and we are excited about the 2009 season.
Jerry: I know there’s no ranking system for HFF teams, but where would you think your team ranks nationally if there were one and why?
Charlie: We don’t really care for rankings but I hope from what we’ve accomplished we would be group with some of the elite teams in Hmong Flag Football.
Jerry: In every great team there’s a charismatic leader or individual that can “GEL” any team together, is there a person with such a prowess within your group, if so, who and why?
Charlie: We don’t just have one person like that on the team. Each member on the team brings their own uniqueness, talent, and personality but respects and appreciates everyone else. I am fortunate to be around such a great group of guys with a never quit attitude. At the beginning when the ship sank like they say, these guys never jumped off. That just goes to show how much they all care about wanting to win and being the best that they can be.
Jerry: Are there any question(s) you’d like to ask any of the staff members at Hmoodle.com?
Charlie: I want to thank Jerry Thao for having us here at Hmoodle.com. You guys are doing a really great job at promoting flag football. This website is rocking and will be rocking come J4 09! With the passion you guys have for this sport maybe you guys outta host a Hmoodle HFF Bowl? Host it in California so we can get a few mid-west teams to come out.
Jerry: Lastly, would you guys like to give shout outs to anyone out there in the sports world, teammates, friends or the Hmong community?
Charlie: I want to thank the younger brothers of team SANSTORMS for coming to practice and contributing to the team. Even though some of you guys can’t make it with the team when we travel out of town, your presences have made a difference in how far our team has come. This goes for Kou, Phat, LC, Omega, Kody, and Ming. If I am forgetting some of you, thank you for helping team SANSTORMS. I also want to thank our family and friends for all the support through the ups and downs and costs of traveling, especially our wives and girlfriends.
Lastly, I would like to recognize Lek (aka: S*U*N) and his E.C. refs who have been refing the Big Dance for these past couple of years. These guys have no bias and no bull. They truly have the passion for this sport for wanting to put the time and effort to make J4 what it is today. I wish we have honorable refs like that here in California.
Best of luck to everyone! Charlie
Thanks and much appreciated Charlie for taking time out of your busy schedule to complete this little query that I’ve sent. And to the rest of team Sanstorm, thank you for your dedication to the sport, keep doing what you’re doing. We, at Hmoodle.com would love to see you guys in action again and hopefully, you all can make the trip back to Minnesota for the 2009 Big Dance.
Let me say good-bye again. To all you sport players out there, whether it’d be flag football, soccer, volley ball and/or basketball teams/players and would like a future feature, please don’t shy away; hit me up at [email protected], PEACE-OUT!