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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

By Bethany Bradsher

Red dogs and slants lady-style

Bonesville's 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. (submitted photo)

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Among the things that were causing me concern on Saturday afternoon:

  My 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.

  The 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.

  Something 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.”


Bonesville's 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 direction.”

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.


Bonesville's Bethany Bradsher found plenty to smile about as she participated in Saturday's ECU Ladies' Football Clinic. (submitted photo)

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.

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher Archives

08/05/2010 12:23 AM

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