How to become a GFL starter

The GFL is a very competitive league, filled with US-Imports, European Import-Players and even more high quality german players. I will show you the path on how you can become a GFL starter no matter the circumstances, and how I have accomplished that.
If you can stick to a basic plan, put in the work and effort – You can also make that happen. The structure of this article follows a little red line – As I’m telling my story, there will be a section with “actionable advice” at the end of each part, where I describe some tips that you can put to use on your own journey.

You have unanswered questions that I might be able to help you with? Dont’t be afraid to contact me and write me a message. The best way to do this is writing an email to or reach out to me on social media. All my accounts are linked in the icons over there πŸ‘‰πŸ½ or if you’re reading this on mobile all the way at the bottom down there πŸ‘‡πŸ½.
I will read every message and try my best to help. Don’t be afraid – just message me.

The cover picture was taken by Eric MΓΌhle. Over here you can find his Website and his Instagram-Account.


1. My path into the GFL
2. The Recruiting-Call by Coach Robert Cruse
3. A whole new practice experience
3.1. Actionable Advice – GFL Starter
4. Fresh Start – More work, more practice
4.1. Actionable Advice – GFL Starter
5. A chance is presenting itself
5.1. Actionable Advice – GFL Starter
6. Success as GFL Starter – Back to the bench anyways
6.1. Actionable Advice – GFL Starter
7. Fulltime GFL Starter the next season

My path into the GFL

The first 3 years of my football career I played for the Leipzig Lions in the 3rd league. Everything was about to change when we got an american QB in my third year. I had already put in a lot of work and effort, but never before was I as dedicated to get somewhere as in that year.
We worked out 5 times a week additionally to scheduled team practices. Being WR that meant running routes, catching balls (an absolute sh*t-load of balls) and reading coverages.

All the work was justified when I led the team in almost every offensive statistic and was crowned Offensive MVP at the end of the season. During the game against the Rostock Griffins their Headcoach Christopher Kuhfeldt took notice and recommended me to the Dresden Monarchs (I only found out about this a few years later). I think I never had the chance to properly thank Coach Kuhfeldt. So in case you are reading this yourself, or anyone who knows him, please refer these words for me.

“Thank you for the enormous chance to develop and prove myself in the GFL

The Recruiting Call by Coach Robert Cruse

The season in the 3rd league was already done when I received a friends request on Facebook from Coach Cruse (Offense Coordinator of the Dresden Monarchs). At that time I had no idea who Robert Cruse was. I was a bit uncertain, why a person with obvious ties to the Dresden Monarchs (at least according to their profile) was trying to get to me. Still uncertain I accepted the request and just minutes later had a private message. πŸ‘‰πŸ½ I was brought to their attention and they would happily welcome me into their team for the upcoming season – I should give them a call in case I was interested. A brief phone conversation later it was set in stone – I was to become a GFL player for the Dresden Monarchs.

That moment was a bit surreal for me at the time. I felt like I was just surprisingly drafted at the number 1 spot. The GFL hadn’t even been on my radar. I never considered breaking into the 1st league. I was overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude and wanted to tell everyone I knew.

A whole new practice experience

After a very intensive off-season, that was mainly shaped by me getting ready for the team combine in spring, it was just about to begin. The very first practice with my new team. Practice in the GFL is something very different from a 3rd league practice. That was pretty obvious from the first day on. Everything is faster – so much faster. If you don’t know what to do, because you didn’t study your playbook, you can basically write the day off. Of course there is an “implement section” but that is to understand your job in the holistic picture of the play, not teaching you your individual part. So if you have no clue about your assignment you’re in for a good start in presenting a negative picture of yourself.
Luckily I had repeated and drawn the plays on my whiteboard countless times (the medical student in me was taking charge) during the offseason. Nevertheless it was hard getting up to the tempo.
In the beginning I mostly stood in my own way. There was so much new input, that I wanted to process and make a good impression. Though in the end this just led to me being nervous, making mistakes and not capitalizing on chances.

GFL Starter Chris Genau 80 Dresden Monarchs
Being a good teammate is imperative

I still remember one of the funniest quotes (at least looking back I find it funny) by Coach Cruse during my first months. It took me a while to understand that my raw speed (I ran the fastest 40yd dash in the combine) isn’t gonna solve all problems like it did in 3rd league football. Somehow I ended up running into people – yes you’re reading that correctly – I literally ran into the people. That very fact led to the aforementioned quote.
Following words were slightly aggressively addressed to me from the other side of the field.

“Are you a human magnet?! Or why else are you finding every single defender close to you? You’re supposed to get away from them not crash into them!”

Actionable Advice – GFL Starter

It’s never easy being the new kid on the block. There are things outside of your control. There will be situations where you are making mistakes and being yelled at (this is still American Football). Don’t let yourself be intimidated by that. You have to keep believing in yourself, because right now nobody else is doing that for you. Keep working, even though nobody is watching.
The single most important part in this phase however πŸ‘‰πŸ½ take control of all the factors that you are able to control. Learn your plays, get ready for the combine to draw some attention, ask the right questions at the right times in meetings. This isn’t school, there is no “stupid geek” – but there probably is a player next to you who wants it more than you do – and he will take that open spot on the field come game day.

“But there probably is a player next to you, who wants it more than you do – and he will take the open spot on the field come game day.”

Fresh Start – More work, more practice

All my success and raw abilities from the 3rd league were suddenly a lot less worth on the GFL level. As I didn’t expect the GFL to adjust to me, it was time to adjust myself.
Of course I didn’t miss any practices. I always wonder at teammates missing practices with the smallest injuries imaginable. Let me put myself out there and claim that 90% of the injuries players miss practices with are not that severe and qualified to be ignored in the short term (my “professional” oppinion as a medical student πŸ‘¨πŸΌβ€βš•οΈ). Just fight through the pain. A nice quote on the willingness to keep on, when others wont πŸ‘‡πŸ½.

“Today I’m willing to do what others won’t, so tomorrow I am able to do what others can’t.”

There will always be small injuries, that’s just part of football. But not every single one is worth missing practice over. Coaches recognize who really has the power of will and represents that.
And believe me when I say πŸ‘‰πŸ½ if your injury really is that serious, you will either know, or your body will tell you – trust me on that one.
I started going to all the voluntary, so called “international practices” as well, whenever med school made it possible.
That is another point where I’m always astounded on how few players take profit of voluntary practices even though they have more than enough time. There are 100 players out there wanting to be a starter, but it seems like only 2 of them are willing to walk their talk. If you haven’t heard that πŸ‘‡πŸ½ quote by Eric Thomas yet it should show you what it takes.
He is outlining a story of one young athlete with his coach at the beach. The coach puts the kid under water until he’s out of breath and keeps him there just the little while longer to really kick in his survival instincts. He then puts him up and tells him straight to the face.

“If you want to succeed as bad as you wanna breath, then you’re going to be successfull.”

So there I was at every practice, at every possible additional practice, asked the right questions at the right times and presented myself to the coaches as good as possible.

Actionable Advice – GFL Starter

Be at EVERY practice. If you really want to be a starter, there shouldn’t be a lot of things with higher priority on your list. Of course the job that pays your bills and obligatory school/university courses are on top of that list.
You should be able to fight through a minor injury and a little bit of pain every once in a while. You are already in pain, get through it and get the reward. Let me plug on of my favorite quotes by Eric Thomas here. This has carried me many times through physical pain, when I was still with the German Karate Nationalteam.

“You’re already hurt, you’re already in pain. Get a reward from it! Don’t quit now!”

Like I said above πŸ‘†πŸ½ if it is a serious injury your body will let you know.
As a further reference Mike Schallo german national team player 2017 and starter for the Dresden Monarchs since 2016, has the same view on that topic. We would always discuss on how young and upcoming players on the verge of making it, missed their chance because of minor injuries.
With todays modern methods πŸ‘‰πŸ½ social media (Instagram, Facebook etc.) you even have the possibility to show your coaches and teammates the extra work you put in. Post stories when you are working out and link/mention the account of your team. That is positive advertisement for your team so they will most certainly share it and your coaches will see it that way.
Honestly put – no matter if your coaches are social media fans or not – you’re accomplishing more than one thing doing that. Even if they don’t like social media, they will see your willingness to get better. More importantly πŸ‘‰πŸ½ they will see you! They will have you in their heads.
The psychology of quick decision making is easily explained. When we find ourselves in a stressful situation – coach on game day at the sideline needing a substitute – our brain will make the decision that is the closest and therefore easiest. Now take a guess who thanks to practice and social media presence ingrained himself into the coaches subconsciousness? In that split moment even he doesn’t know why he just made that decision. You have programmed yourself into his cortex.

The second benefit of your regular posts πŸ‘‰πŸ½ after a while you will feel obligated to go workout and post about it even when motivation isn’t that big, just because you don’t want to disappoint your followers. In psychology that is called “social accountability”.

A chance is presenting itself

I made the most of all the opportunities I had gotten. Whenever I was put on the field as a backup I caught every single ball that was given to me (there weren’t many). Through all the work and practice I was physically and mentally ready. I believed in myself and in my practice. I was convinced that I could deliver whatever was asked of me on the field. When I stepped off the field there were a lot more doubts and anxiety, but that didn’t matter.
As soon as I stepped a single foot on that field, I was the single best player out there. Imports, former college players, NFL-practice-squad – didn’t matter. Nobody else brings to the table what I do. There are many WRs out there, but there is only one Chris Genau. I knew that. Now I just had to prove it to the world. (if you want to know how to be mentally tough, let me help you with that and be a part of NoSuperMan-Coaching, just contact me like I said at the very top πŸ‘†πŸ½)
With a bit of additional luck in one of the games as a backup I caught a 5yd out and ran for a 50yd+ touchdown. My first GFL touchdown and another hello to the subconsciousness of my coaches.

Chris Genau 80 Dresden Monarchs fΓ€ngt Ball
At Braunschweig against the New Yorker Lions (Picture by Uwe Zingler)

Even bigger luck and a bigger chance came around when one of our import-WR had to start play DB due to an injury in the defense. Everything was falling into place for me. I was a GFL starter. The coaches gave me their trust, which I had tried my best to earn for the few past months.

Actionable Advice – GFL Starter

There will always be injuries in American Football. It’s just a part of the game. And if you are a backup those injuries mean chances for you. All you can do is position yourself for it and be ready to step up when that chance comes. Are you physicall capable? Are you mentally prepared? Their can not be a single hint of selfdoubt in that moment.
What I want to say – There are many factors that play into successs. Whether you like it or not, luck is one of them. But it is in your hands to a.) be ready for the moment and b.) keep believing that this moment will come for you as well.

“The day you gave up could’ve been the day of your breakthrough.”

Success as GFL Starter – Back to the bench anyways

After 9 games of which I started 5 I managed to climb into the second spot in our teams receiving stats. Even though my teammates on that stat sheet had 9 whole games as starters under their belt. I had a lot of fun playing the game and feeling as an important member of the team.

GFL Stats Info Chris Genau
Statistics Excerpt from

Unfortunately 2017 was also the year where I suffered my single biggest blow by destiny yet – on of my dearest friends (Thomas Gallus) died of sudden heart failure on the football field with the Leipzig Lions.(This is where I have written about that experience)

Also the import-WR wasn’t needed as a DB anymore. Being an emotional wreck I started missing practices. The other player of course didn’t miss a single one. Eventually I landed back on the bench even though I had been successful on the field. There isn’t just luck but also misfortune that shapes the path of an athlete. At that time I was unsure if ever wanted to be back on a football field after I had lost a friend there. But after a while and a trip around the world to find myself, I got back home and got back to work.

Actionable Advice – GFL Starter

How could you describe more vividly what all goes into one single season and how much success is tied to external factors. Factors that you have no control over. I can not stress this enough – but it is the single most important message of this article – you will get your chance. And when that chance hits you better make the most of it and control every last factor that is within your control.
So when your chance has passed and you have given EVERYTHING you got, there will be no regrets. Now all you have to do is prepare, be patient and seize the moment. Remember one last thing πŸ‘‰πŸ½ becoming a GFL starter is not a sprint but a marathon for most of the players.

“Becoming a GFL starter is not a sprint but a marathon for most of the players.”

There will always be a next season. A season where nobody else will need to get paid on your position, because you have proven you can handle the job. Sticking with it after you’ve suffered a blow sure isn’t the easiest part, but you have to believe that your moment will come.

Fulltime GFL Starter the next season

Well, in my case this all worked out the way you just finished reading. For the new season our team hired less WRs and I was announced a fulltime starter. I haven’t surrendered that role until I ended my football career last year. Becoming a doctor and finishing medical school is also a fulltime job unfortunately.

I hope I was able to give you a few insights into my journey of becoming a GFL starter and hopefully there is some advice that you can take home and will help you achieve your own goals.
If you have any questions, criticism or just want to leave your thought on the story – feel free to use the comment section down below πŸ‘‡πŸ½.

GFL Starter Chris Genau 80 Dresden Monarchs
Finally reached my destination

5 thoughts on “How to become a GFL starter”

  1. Great insight into the determination of a Young player Working his way up, as a veteran GFL player and now Coach, I was able to share this with my younger players to get them to see thru eyes closer to their own

    Great article

    • Thank you a lot. This is really what it’s aimed at, showing younger players and athletes a real life story. Usually we just see the end result and very seldom the process behind it.


Leave a Reply

πŸ’Œ Sunday Thoughts - Join The Journey
Care to keep up with new articles to help be a better version of yourself? 

Every Sunday I write an email newsletter with some thoughts, life lessons and links to books/articles/podcasts I enjoyed that week. I'd love for you to join.
Unsubscribe at any time. 100% Transparency. No Spam. Your data will never be shared with 3rd parties.