Last weekend I was playing an old fashioned game of pick up football. Playing right guard, I, Carin McEvoy, 5’6” and 125lbs, tackled Spartan offensive lineman John Deyo. To the ground. And we scored.
Okay, so he didn’t land on the ground. And I don’t think we really scored. And this was no ordinary game of pick up ball. This was a dozen Spartan women learning how to move like a Spartan offense, “playing” against the real Spartan offense, twice our size and half our age. This was the 2012 Spartan Women’s Football Clinic.
Four years ago the clinic began in a fundraising effort to help offensive lineman Arthur Ray and his family cover the medical costs for his recently diagnosed cancer treatments. His mom still comes to the clinic every year even though since then funds have been donated to such causes as Ele’s Place and the Lansing City Rescue & Food Bank. The clinic, which includes a silent auction and facility tour beforehand, opens with each coach’s wife introducing her husband. While it may be a little cheesy to hear “he’s a great father and husband” ten times, it’s so great to hear that these guys, who devote as much (or more!) or their lives to football, are still true to their families. This year’s special guests even included Special Teams coach Mike Tressel’s mom (yes, she’s a coaches wife too!).
Coach Dantonio and his wife Becky clearly enjoy this event. I enjoyed their playful banter. After introductions, our awesome head coach, and a few of his assistant coaches came in to teach us a little bit about football. What I loved most was that neither he nor his coaches talked down to us. Sure, they tried to water things down a bit (not every woman there has an awesome football blog writer husband to help explain the game like I do), but they never “dumbed” them down (Coach Warner, what exactly was that 42 wide left B 12 Pancakes & Pickles on 6 play again?!?). Coach D was especially sure we learned a few key buzzwords, and shared with us their team mantra, that Spartan football is about commitment, communication, and trust.
Coach Tressel did a great job explaining how the Spartans use our special teams as an opportunity to put the best 11 players on the field at the same time (as opposed to just whatever 11 guys are leftover). We learned about the Kickoff Dawgs (the outside two guys who’s only job is to contain the ball), how to look for two guys double teaming an opponent in order to create a lane for the kickoff returner, that the decision to return or block a punt is made before the play begins, and that the kicker only needs protection for 1.3 seconds from snap to kick. I’d love to talk about the 3 on 2 field goal block in the bowl game last year, but I’ll leave that for Jim to capture and highlight in film.
Coach Barnett, the Spartans secondary coach, started out by explaining the proper stance for a defensive back: heads up! See the target! Hit the target! Hurt the target! After that motivating demonstration he gave a very thorough and accessible explanation of a special play they call Hot Main Magic Blitz. Again, while I’ll leave the pictorials to Jim, I’ll try to summarize as proof of Coach B’s excellent instruction. Most teams apply zone pressure using a 5-man, 3-under, 3-deep formation. This blitz uses a 6-man (linemen), 2-under (linebackers), 3-deep (secondary). This play got us THREE “pick-six” (Coach D buzzword!) this past season! The best news of course is that the only secondary man not coming back next season is Trenton Robinson. The rest of the guys, Isaiah Lewis, Johnny Adams, and Darqueze Dennard, are all coming back for the 2012 season!
Coach Warner our quarterbacks coach, was the only one who went a bit above my head (and I don’t think I was the only one). He talked about how much is going on in a QB’s head from play call to the end-of-play whistle. He explained the false cadence (to draw an off-sides) and taught us that when the QB is under pressure he is throwing “hot” (another buzzword!). But there was a lot that went over my head (did I mention the play 17 deep underwear pockets with 64 ham slices?).
After our crash course in Xs and Os we headed to the indoor field and weight room where we rotated through a series of workouts and training exercises taught by assistant coaches and players (or former players) like Aaron Bates, Andre Sims, Arthur Ray, and John Deyo. Remember? I “tackled” him! He and Ray, along with other linemen, showed us how to set and run a play. We even had our own “routes”! Maxwell and Warner helped us lob footballs (mine *almost* had a spiral!) at a target. (I promise we didn’t cause Maxwell’s injury!). We caught interceptions and learned to yell “Oskee!!” so the rest of the team knew to run the other way (I’ll be using this in the stands this fall). We learned how to catch and cradle the ball while running through an obstacle course, and tried a rope lifting exercise that burned after 10 seconds (though the players can do it for a whole minute at a time!). It was so much fun and yet I also feel like I can talk my talk that much more.
We ended the day with a talk-back about recruiting with Coach & Becky Dantonio, Brad Salem, William Gholston, & Fou Fonoti. The rules of recruiting are mind boggling and I’m sure we only skimmed the surface! Gholston and Fou shared their personal recruiting stories, with editorials by Coach D including an enjoyable tale about a friendly game of pool between the coach and Gholston. When Coach D stopped by one afternoon, Will was in the players lounge and mentioned that he felt he had to make a trip to Alabama. Not one to risk such a great player and person, Coach D invited him to a friendly game of pool.
“What are we playing for?” asked the coach innocently.
“Whatever you want, coach.” the young man replied naively.
“How about this. I win, you don’t take that trip?” the coach asked slyly.
To quote Coach Dantonio, “Will’s a man of his word.” In fact, both of these two young men presented themselves so humbly and sincerely it’s no wonder Coach D asked them to speak with us. My daughters and I will for sure be seeking their autographs at Meet the Spartans this summer.
This year the Women’s Football Clinic registration filled up in five days and it’s no wonder why. This clinic is so much fun for both fan and fanatic. Both educational and enjoyable, it is a very special gift that our Spartan football staff and players give to their female fan base, not to mention the charities they benefit. My girlfriends and I plan to make this an annual outing for many years to come.