TAMPA - If you're a female member of the Bulls fan base and you weren't at the Marshall Center on Saturday, you'll want to put it on your calendar for next year. The USF Ladies Clinic was an unbelievable behind-the-scenes look into the program and attendees had the opportunity to learn more about the game, while having the chance to interact with USF's coaches, players and support staff.
"We're just a few days away from the start of camp and we had the opportunity to visit with and teach some of our most loyal fans," head coach Skip Holtz said. "This is one of my favorite events to be a part of. Some of the ladies really understand football and some are there to learn more, but everyone comes with an enthusiastic attitude that makes the day a lot of fun. We love doing it and we hope it can continue to grow into one of the can't-miss events of the year."
With over 200 attendees, the program lasted most of the day with sessions that included offense, defense, special teams, equipment, rules, a wives' panel and a players' panel and at the end of the day, everyone left with a sense of excitement and anticipation for the 2011 season. One attendee in particular traveled a long way to get her college football fix.
"I flew in specifically for this event even though I had been last year," said Suzanne Ward, who flew in from Portland, Ore. to attend Saturday's session. "I'm an alumni from 1986. I go to every home game, every bowl game and most of the away games. I've even traveled to two games from Singapore. You're in college football withdrawal from about March to August, so this is a nice activity to have in the middle."
As the ladies arrived for registration, they had the opportunity to take photos and get autographs from the entire USF coaching staff. At 9:30 a.m., event organizer and quarterbacks coach Peter Vaas addressed the group, turning the initial program over to Holtz. And, in typical Holtz fashion, he had the ladies engaged right off the bat. The group also heard from one of the most prominent attendees, USF's own President Judy Genshaft, who sees the value in the event and appreciates the time the coaching staff takes to put it on.
"I love it," Genshaft said. "It's not only educational, but it's so much fun. The ladies want to learn more about the game, the specifics. Being able to divide up into the beginning group and the advanced group is great. You have repeaters coming back, like myself, and it is a wonderfully fun experience."
After the entertaining and informative opening, the groups were split into their respective groups as the offensive and defensive staffs had the opportunity to teach some of the basics of the game, from personnel to scheme.
"Every year, I watch football and I thought I got the basics," said Felecia Gilmore-Long, one of the many attendees from the Tampa area. "Until today, I never really knew how they lined up, but I'm in the beginner class and this is perfect because I'm getting the basics. Now, I can go and watch the game and be involved a lot more and know exactly what I'm talking about. It's awesome. The fact that the coaching staff takes the time to do this, and to see how engaged they are, I think that is huge and over-and-beyond what the expectation would be."
After a brief lunch break, the ladies were treated to a session on equipment that saw senior guard Jeremiah Warren and sophomore defensive end Julius Forte serve as models. The session included information on helmets, cleats and everything in between. Then, it was on to the rules of the game as the USF staff brought in one of the area officials to go over some of the most important points from a rules standpoint.
Next up, high-energy defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves, who also serves as USF's special teams coordinator, took the ladies through kickoff return and coverage, punt return and coverage and the kicking game. Hargreaves, who was so excited about teaching the phase of the game he could barely remember to use the microphone, had all of the attendees ready to sign up for one of the all-important special teams units.
Hargreaves gave way to the coaches' wives and families, led by the first lady of USF football Jennifer Holtz. The conversation varied from what it is like to move from place to place to what superstitions the family members have on game days. It was a very interesting look into the people who sacrifice so much, yet serve as the backbone to any successful football program.
In similar fashion, the wives turned the program over to a group of players that included Warren, Forte, sophomore quarterback Bobby Eveld and sophomore linebacker DeDe Lattimore. The players explained the challenges of balancing academics and football, what it is like to play in Raymond James Stadium and how much fan support matters during a game, amongst other things.
After a spirited rendition of the fight song and a group photo, the clinic ended for this year and you could see enjoyment on the faces of the attendees as they left better prepared for the upcoming season. The USF Ladies Clinic was filled with information and laughs, and for those in attendance, it was something they'll be able to tell their friends about as they make plans to return next summer for the 2012 version.