Event Review: Strong Women Love Texas Football

UT opens up facilities, staff for female fans



Longhorn's coach Charlie Strong welcomed participants to his first "Strong Women Love Texas Football" clinic.

University of Texas, Jim Sigmon

Texans love their football—and a large number of those Texans are women. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of options for women to play, certainly not at the level that orange-bleeding, come-early-stay-late University of Texas Longhorn fans enjoy most Saturdays throughout the season. Face it: girls in Texas will never know what it’s like to come out of the tunnel to 100,000 screaming fans and then play a series of downs on the field at DKR–Texas Memorial Stadium.

Unless, however, those female football fans sign up for Coach Charlie Strong’s women’s clinic.

University of Texas, Jim Sigmon

These sisters (left and center, in orange) were attending their first clinic.

On Saturday, June 21, 750 women had the opportunity to hear from the UT coaching staff about what they do and what’s new for the upcoming 2014 season. For the first two hours, lunch was served and presentations were given. They got a first look at Coach Strong and an overview of staff responsibilities. But the thing that had most of the attendees beside themselves with absolute delight was the new hands-on aspect of the camp. They got to taste what it’s like to be a UT football player.

The last four hours of the camp had all the registrants on the field and in the guts of the facility. Participants were divided into groups, which then progressed through a variety of stations each led by a coaching staff member. Stations on the field involved participating in drills; stops throughout the facility included exercises in the weight room, a panel discussion with players, sprints and drills in the south end zone athletic facility, and time in the locker room.

University of Texas, Jim Sigmon

Players answered questions during a panel presentation.

Participants were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and interact with the staff. Coach Strong took up position in the middle of the field and encouraged all to talk, take photos, and get their camp shirts signed. He also extorted everyone to hustle: “Let’s move! Let’s move!” A wide variety of ages and physical abilities were represented, and all were encouraged to participate at whatever level was comfortable. Women in their 60s and beyond tried out offensive line drills, batting at dummies and practicing a three-point stance. Fans with injuries and those with physical limitations were able to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the evening, too.

An Exciting Look at Longhorn Staff and Facilities

Anna Klaus attended three women’s clinics with Coach Mack Brown and thoroughly enjoyed them. She, her daughter, and two friends were back this year: “I wanted to see the inside of the facility and meet the new coaches,” she explained. Klaus, who is from Belton—which she identified as “home of David Ash”—got her wish with time in the weight room, albeit in exercises. Head strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer put the group through its paces with repeats of lunges, squats, and a ladder drill consisting of push-ups (“I don’t want to see any of those girl push-ups”) and sit-ups. When the group flagged, Coach Mo observed, “It’s looking like the fourth quarter and we’re a little bit tired.”

Chris Vaughn, the new defensive backs/special teams coordinator, had participants working on agility and directional changes. “Get your mean face on,” he instructed. When this appeared to be difficult for some, he explained: “Imagine your kid didn’t take the trash out. Give me that look.” Two of the youngest participants turned out to be Vaughn’s 8- and 10-year-old daughters, who kept up with (and often outpaced) many of their older counterparts.

University of Texas, Jim Sigmon

Coach Joe Wickline gives instruction to clinic participants.

While waiting for her turn at a passing drill, Nadia Zuniga commented: “I love how we’re hands on here. It feels like a preview of how the season will be—stripped down, nothing fancy, just good football.” There was nothing fancy about running the stadium stairs.  Joe Wickline, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, simply had everyone practice correctly lining up in stance—“I don’t want to see any feet in the orange. Go back.” Quarterback coach Shawn Watson and wide receivers coach Les Koenning had women throwing and catching passes (and quite a few couldn’t resist the urge to spike the ball in the end zone).  Former military member Jennifer Rhoades completed drills with efficiency and skill. “I’ve done this clinic for seven years,” she said, “and I am so excited to have the fitness component added this year.”

Up Close with UT Football Players

University of Texas, Jim Sigmon

Tyrone Swoopes gives encouragement during stadium stair run.

Player interaction has been a clinic highlight for some time, and year was no different. Longhorns were present at all drill stations. Defensive linemen demonstrated with practice dummies, giving a close look at their agility and strength that simply can’t be realized through a television screen or from a stadium seat. Linebacker Jordan Hicks modeled the 2014 uniform and later participated in a Q&A session led by ten-season staff member Ken Rucker, the Horns “surrogate dad, spiritual leader” in his role as director of high school relations and player development. He proudly noted that last season’s Longhorns had their highest average GPA, and the ten young men participating on the panel were well spoken. Malcolm Brown, the running back from Cibolo, Texas, responded thoughtfully when asked about any differences so far this season, “Better communication. There’s more coach/player interaction, and we like that.” 

University of Texas, Jim Sigmon

Players provided direction and motivation in drills.

In the locker room, Strong has made motivational changes. There are new graphics, including a wall of tombstones that memorialize scores from big rivalries and bowl games in which the Longhorns buried their opponents. Standing among the lockers, one participant, who has also attended UT basketball and volleyball camps, said that she felt the clinic was as beneficial for student athletes as for fans. “When you go get a taste of what the players do, you’re less likely to be a critical fan,” she explained. As a dedicated supporter who’s housed players (“I think the athletic department has our number on speed dial”), she added, “Players appreciate the one-on-one recognition and appreciation they get from fans.”

The evening ended with participants and players lining up in the tunnel and running out through fog to the sound of the Longhorn Band’s recording of “Texas Fight.” For female fans, you can’t get much closer to being a Longhorn than that.

University of Texas, Jim Sigmon

Fans experience the game day view from the tunnel.

 

 

For an overview of the Longhorn football coaching staff, see texassports.com

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