NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
By Bethany Bradsher
Red dogs and
Bethany Bradsher, in purple shirt, lines up with
"teammates" to take instructions from assistant coach
Marc Yellock in the finer points of the three-point
stance at Saturday's ECU Ladies' Football Clinic.
All rights reserved.
Among the things that were
causing me concern on Saturday afternoon:
center was too slow to line up and, as the left guard, I had to wait on her
before I could get into position. If I didn’t line up off of the center, I
was looking at an offsides penalty.
receiver next to me was running a short slant route, and I was afraid she
would get in my line of vision as I ran my post route.
about dropping back three steps seemed to negate my ability to throw a
football, and as a result the three-foot net that was my target looked more
like one of those nets that you use to retrieve goldfish.
It was, as you can see, just
another typical weekend for a middle-aged mother of four. Only on this
particular day, instead of flipping grilled-cheese sandwiches and arranging
play dates, I was barreling into tackling dummies and focusing on putting my
weight forward in my pass-rush three-point stance.
For my initiation to the ECU
Ladies’ Football Clinic, I joined 375 other women for a full day that was
part pep rally, part lunch meeting and part serious football practice.
“We’re going to get after ya’ll
today,” head coach Ruffin McNeil told us after we watched a highlight video
of the 2009 season. “Don’t take it personal. We’re trying to get you ready
for the season. For the next four hours, we’ve got you.”
Bethany Bradsher high-steps the obstacles in a
linebackers drill at Saturday's ECU Ladies' Football
Clinic. (submitted photo)
OK, so our drills might have
seemed basic to anyone who spent more than a week in Pop Warner, but our
group had an uncommonly steep learning curve. We were divided into squads
and rotated through every position on the field, and at each stop a Pirate
assistant coach ran us through the paces.
If those exercises were
challenging at times, they weren’t half as strenuous as the effort those
gracious Pirate coaches had to exert to keep from doubling over laughing at
us. Instead of cracking up, they encouraged us, joked with us and truly made
an effort to teach us something.
The first coach my team
encountered was defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell, and he seemed to be
having the time of his life as he led us in a drill. And in our wide
receiver group, Donnie Kirkpatrick told us repeatedly the command to start
the passing routes was “set, hut” and then entertained himself by yelling
“go!” to see if he could get us to start running.
|Jodi Wagner gets
her turn in the linebackers drill at Saturday's ECU
Ladies' Football Clinic. (submitted photo)
I have to admit that I came in
feeling like I had an edge over most of the women around me in football
knowledge; after all, I have been a sportswriter for nearly two decades.
When we arrived at the lunch in Harvey Hall, my superiority complex was
boosted when we all received booklets with nuggets like, “A kick returner is
the player that catches kickoffs and attempts to return them in the opposite
But when we got on the field and
started our rotations, I started gleaning some new information.
Sportswriting career notwithstanding, there were nuances of the various
positions that I could only learn by acting like a player. Now I grasp the
difference between the offensive and defensive three-point stances, mostly
because I have actually tried both. And from my brief quarterbacking
debacle, I developed the strong conviction that quarterbacks are the most
accomplished multitaskers with a Y chromosome.
I mean, I can make pancakes, check
my e-mail, switch the laundry and call out spelling words pretty much
simultaneously, but when I tried to call out a cadence, drop back, check off
receivers and actually throw the ball straight I looked, well, like a girl.
Bethany Bradsher found plenty to smile about as she
participated in Saturday's ECU Ladies' Football Clinic.
I met some great people there,
like the group of East Carolina alumni from High Point who had come for a
girls’ weekend in Greenville. Most of the women I talked to were diehard
Pirate fans anxious to get a picture in front of the expanded stadium or a
prized shot with ECU’s pregame Captain Jack Sparrow, who made a cameo.
The guy who was having the most
fun during the lunch and program portion was Antonio Huffman, the director
of football operations and the emcee for the day. He was the perfect choice
for the job, a man with the energy to match hundreds of screaming women.
If the purpose of the day was to
prepare a reserve squad in case all 100 of the ECU players go down with a
stomach bug, it was probably an abject failure. But if the idea was to
enlighten and enthuse some of the Pirate Nation’s most ardent fans who will
ride the wave of the Ladies Clinic all the way to September 5, then Ann
Coyle and her team of organizers can claim success for this biggest, most
interactive women’s event in Pirate history.
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08/05/2010 12:23 AM