Long-time OGGOA reader Jennifer contacted us last week and offered to share with our readers her experience at the Florida Gators’ annual Women’s Football Clinic hosted this year for the first time by new head coach Will Muschamp. Below is her account from the exciting day (pictures included).
I heard about this event about a year ago and always thought it sounded interesting. After rounding up a couple of friends, we registered and were off to Gainesville. The day started in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom. After checking in, where we were given a t-shirt and small goodie bag, we were free to roam around the ballroom and meet the coaches. Even though I am a huge sports and Gators fan, with all of the new coaching changes, the only coaches I could recognize at first were Coach Muschamp, [linebackers/special teams coach] D.J. Durkin and [defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn. As we walked around we got autographs, took pictures and briefly chatted with the assistant coaches and grad assistant coaches. All were very friendly and seemed pumped up about the day’s activities.
One coach stood out among our favorites for his personality and friendliness, which only got better throughout the day. That was tight ends coach Derek Lewis. He was funny, saying a few times to the ladies throughout the morning and during some of the presentations that “tight ends” really are a football position. Another of our favorites was [wide receivers coach] Aubrey Hill, who when we took pictures with him, told us to “bring it in tight” and pulled us close for a picture with a huge smile on his face.
After mingling with the coaches in attendance, we proceeded to buy some raffle tickets and then moved over to the longest line, which was the opportunity to get a professional picture take with Coach Muschamp. We weren’t allowed to get his autograph or take our own pictures here, but many had the opportunity to do so later in the day as he was walking around. Also in attendance were Muschamp’s two boys and his wife, though they weren’t introduced to the crowd.
Everyone took their seats and the crowd got to listen to Coach Muschamp. It was similar to what you reported from the local Gator Gatherings. Then the crowd was given the opportunity to ask questions. He said why a few of the coaches couldn’t make it that day including [offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis, who he said had knee replacement surgery on Wednesday, and Mickey Marotti, who had a family obligation and “family comes first.” Coach Muschamp said he finished moving to Gainesville on Thursday and jokingly added that he still had lots of extra boxes, if anyone had extra time.
Read the rest of Jennifer’s story from the clinic including a few interesting details related to the football team…after the break!
One woman in the crowd stated she had season tickets behind the band and asked if he would continue the tradition of the team gathering there after the game to sing the alma mater. He said that he would continue this tradition of “singing after we beat everyone at home.” Another woman asked about the practices being closed, and he replied by saying that since they were a new staff, they wanted to keep some elements of surprise such as how is Coach Weis going to use Chris Rainey. He also said that on one of his other teams, during an open practice a player got hurt and someone “twitted” (his words) about it and the father of the child found out before the coaches could call him. He wants to protect the athletes and their families.
Someone also asked about [South Carolina head coach] Steve Spurrier’s recent proposal to play players, and Coach Muschamp agreed with “Commissioner Spurrier” but said that not just football players should be paid, but all student-athletes. He said that even though Florida probably could afford this, not all schools can, so he doesn’t think this will happen for a while. He also answered a question about a playoff system, which he is not a fan of. He thinks of bowl games serve as a reward and a playoff system would cut into students’ exams. Muschamp said academics are important and we wouldn’t be setting a good example if they had to miss exams.
He was also asked what his goals were for the season. Coach responded with: “Lead the nation in effort, toughness and turnover margin, and do your job. If we do all of those things, we will win games and championships.” Coach also talked about growing up in Gainesville as a kid and selling Pepsis ([athletic director] Jeremy Foley told him he wasn’t allowed to say “Coke” after he told a story about selling Cokes one time). On a question about handling off-the-field issues, he replied, “I don’t want to have any.” Then he followed up with that he wants to recruit good people, show there is going to be consequences and surround the players with good people.
Next up was Coach Quinn with a defensive presentation. He talked about ball hawks with rips, strips, bats and picks. Players get varying points for all of these. He showed us various NFL clips that demonstrated these four things and was so excited about the good form. Then they brought in the Pouncey brothers and Carlos Dunlap to “model” the equipment. I believe it was Maurkice Pouncey that stripped down to just spandex shorts and was “assisted” by a volunteer to help put on most of what the football players wear to play. The model was then helped by Mike Pouncey, as she got to try on another uniform.
The rest of the morning included offensive presentations going over what each coach would do on a game day to call in a play and how involved the methods are for substituting players. [Running backs coach] Brian White will be the coach in the press box while Weis will be on the field. There were also presentations about new rules, taunting rules and special teams. Towards the end there was a dance competition with four of what I assume are grad assistant coaches and some volunteers. It was hilarious! The morning session ended with who the coaches refer to as the “hype man” in Lewis. He got the crowd going with some cheers then we watched a pump-up type video of highlights.
After box lunches in The Swamp, we were split into groups for the afternoon. Our group started with doing relays having to wear and pass-off shoulder pads. Each team had a coach and we were led by Coach Lewis who named us Team Bring It. Riley Cooper and Steven Wilks were also walking around all day shooting footage for their Swamp Studs show. Our group then got to go inside for tours of the tunnel entrance, locker room, weight room and the Heavener Football Complex. As we were walking around, we also got little peaks of a film room, equipment room, the training room, and various accomplishment walls documenting the SEC and national champions along with other awards and one poster featuring shirtless football players near the weight room that many ladies were taking pictures of.
In the locker room, they had a display of all of the uniforms and t-shirts that the players and coaches wear including the Gator logo palm gloves which I got to try on! We also got to see the barricaded Gator head logo on the floor that you are not supposed to step on in addition to the team records against rivals lining the walls. Additionally, we noticed that Rainey’s locker plate had the No. 1 next to his name, so a change in numbers may be in store. As we were walking around, we also got to meet and take pictures with a few of the players.
All of the participants then gathered on the field. As we were lead through stretching and breakdown, cheers spread across the yard lines. The women were split into 10 groups as we went around to stations on Florida Field that were led by position coaches. We got to work on footwork and agility, pro shuttle, offensive line stance, and a defensive back drop back and catch drill. All of the coaches were great, yelling but encouraging us to push ourselves and motivating us to keep going.
The day ended as we were split into three groups and were given the opportunity to run out of the tunnel to the gameday intro and an announcer yelling “…here come the Gators!” Coaches also led us into the tunnel and got us moving, jumping up and down and cheering right before we ran out. You really got a small sense of how it feels to be player on gameday.
I cannot say enough good things about how awesome the coaching staff was. They were so encouraging throughout the day and seemed to really enjoy themselves. By far our favorite was Coach Lewis, and we can understand why he is called the “hype man.” I am sure he is a player favorite as well. Additionally, [director of player and community relations] Terry Jackson was hilarious all day. As we were stalling and trying to make the most of our locker room experience, he yelled that we didn’t want to end up like the kids on Willy Wonka and told us to get moving. As our group continued to lag behind, he kept saying “Willy Wonka” at us and laughed as we tried to take more pictures.
I don’t think I can fully express how great of a time I had and it is truly an amazing experience for any Gator fan.
The 2011 Women’s Clinic, hosted by Florida on June 4, cost $80 per attendee and ran from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.