Editor’s Note: Theresa Guthrie attended this year’s Ohio State Football Women’s Clinic last Saturday. This is her recount of the day – of the experience – in her words.
It all started with a news story, a Facebook friend sharing a link (thank you Mitch). It was a call that THE Urban Meyer was looking for a few good women. Meyer of course is known for making recruiting news, but recruiting women? Yes, for the inaugural Ohio State Football Women’s Clinic that was to take place at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Saturday June 9, 2012. A unique opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the new coaching staff, the facilities, and what the team (my FAVORITE team) goes through for practices and conditioning. I had barely finished reading the article before clicking the link to “apply here”!
As if I needed anymore motivation than meeting the coaches and participating in the infamous Mickey Marotti drills (ok that last part kind of scared the heck out of me at first), this opportunity was for a good (scratch that) GREAT cause. A cause that is important to a lot of women out there and the people who love them: The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research. Stefanie, for those who may not know, was a graduate of the Ohio State University in 1988 where she met and later married Chris Spielman, the All American linebacker, NFL player, and current ESPN analyst (we won’t hold that last thing against him). They started the foundation together in 1998 after she was diagnosed with cancer the first time. Sadly, Stefanie is no longer with us after passing away in 2009, but her legacy and desire to “pay it forward” lives on through her foundation. They raised 1 million dollars in their first 6 months and to date the foundation has raised over 10 million. The women’s clinic and the 800 attendees helped to add to this great cause through their attendance fee and bidding on various signed items and packages during both a silent and live auction held that day. The big-ticket item, which went for $7,000 after some furious bidding, was for 4 tickets to the game against the team up north, sideline passes, being on the field with the team to sing Carmen Ohio, and an opportunity to call the first play of the Spring Game next year! Too bad this little writing project didn’t come with an expense account!!!
So with this the event’s number one goal of helping THE cause covered, it is time to move on to what Meyer deemed the number two and three goals of the day: Football and Fun!
The day started with registration, a goodie bag, and every participant taking a formal picture with Coach Urban Meyer. Since that took a little time to work through the 800 participants, we had some time to mingle once our turn was done. I used that opportunity to get pictures with Mike Vrabel and Luke Fickell and a few autographs. Yeah, there are worse ways to kill time and it certainly wasn’t a bad way to start the day considering the clinic hadn’t even formally started yet! I guess I set the bar pretty high.
Things officially kicked off with welcomes from Stan Drayton (RB coach and MC of the event), Gene Smith (yeah, I know what you were thinking but he was actually pretty funny…who knew), and of course once he was finally done with 800+ pictures Urban Meyer! Coach Drayton spoke about “having juice or being juiceless” and how the expectation was to bring the “juice” (high intensity energy) in everything we did and if we were “juiceless” then we would be doing it again until it was done in the right way and we exuded that energy and enthusiasm! It was an example of what they expected from the team too. If we failed, we could be singled out to wear the dreaded maize and blue shirt (which has replaced the controversial lavender one) and of course no one wanted that!
Meyer spoke about doing things with Passion, Energy, and Style. He said those three things should encompass all that Ohio State Football is and does. It certainly applied to all that we saw that day! He said that they are striving for and expecting a culture of achieving “competitive excellence”. He wants the team to be the “hardest working team in America”; to be “more prepared than any team” and it is their job as coaches to ensure they are prepared both mentally and physically. In order to accomplish this, players should take advantage of both mental reps (watching someone do something and running it through in your mind) and game reps (actually doing it yourself). His expectation is if a player is not in on a play or exercise they should be watching and getting a “mental rep”. He said teams needed three things to be successful: talent, discipline, and leadership. According to Meyer, talent can win you 6-7 games a year, talent and discipline 8-9 games, and having all three on the team is when you win 10, 11, 12 games a season. Great leaders on the team “set high standards for themselves and demand that everyone on the team also lives up to those standards” and he felt that is what was lacking from some of our past teams. He pushed us, as he pushes the team, to “go for 12 yards when you need 10” and to “play until after the whistle is blown, don’t anticipate it and slow down”.
Meyer gave out some awards (OSU footballs) for people who stood out in the picture line: one of the oldest attendees to a woman celebrating her 81st birthday there that weekend; the most enthusiastic in line to the woman who nearly tackled him when it was her turn to get her picture taken; the most creative to a woman wearing a “Vrabel’s Vixens” t-shirt she made; and one to the very first woman to sign up for the inaugural clinic (I guess Mary’s modem speed must have been faster than mine…darn it Time Warner).
Then it was time to turn it over to the defense, offense, and special team coaches. Stan Drayton introduced the coaching staff including what he dubbed the “two prettiest coaches in football” Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel, both of whom had quite the lines earlier that morning for pics and autographs (Stan said he was a little jealous cause he didn’t). Fickell talked about the 4-3 defense as our base package and how nose guards (his position in school) never get any love, but are the anchor of the defense. He called for audience volunteers to stand in for each position during his demo and was quick to point out during the huddle not to treat it as a group hug because you lose the intimidation factor! Zach Smith (Earl Bruce’s grandson and wide receivers coach) stood in for Meyer who normally coaches special teams and had his volunteers demonstrate the punt formation. Tom Herman and his lucky volunteers demonstrated our run-first spread offense’s 3 by 1 formation. Mickey Marotti, whose reputation for high intensity and toughness made me a little nervous about having to do drills with him later that afternoon, took the stage and taught us all a new tradition they were starting called “quick cals”. We did it over and over till we had achieved max volume and all hit the proper football stance. Trust me, we learned to do things right the first time and give it a 110% all of the time, but hey we wanted the full experience right? Note to Buckeye Nation: these boys are going to be in serious shape this season!!
Shelley Meyer and the other coach’s wives took the stage next to answer a few questions about the challenges of raising a family while moving around and being in the spotlight. Then there was a brief presentation from a few representatives of the James Cancer Center on cancer prevention and healthy living. After a really quick lunch we were entertained by Kirk Barton, a grad assistant and former All American, on how to squeeze and dance your way into the tight uniform. Trust me it is no easy feat as one lucky audience member found out when she got to try it. The grad assistants all had their turn to entertain us by showing off their dance skills, in what I have to assume was a hazing exercise, as they demonstrated the Macarena, the cupid shuffle, and the electric slide!
Now it was the time for the moment of truth! We broke into groups for drills and tours. My group, Gray Heisman, went outside first to the 90 degree sun for a little “football fun”. All the coaches had their stations we rotated through. Anthony Schlegel started us off with some stretches and warm up drills. For the record, I think he definitely has a little bit of drill sergeant in him!! Next we got to run routes and attempt to catch passes from Zach Smith. I caught two out of three…not too shabby! Our next station taught us how to properly hold the football and move in and out of the pocket to avoid being sacked. There was a slide and scoop drill, a step ladder/lead tackle/scooper drill, a defensive line sled drill, and my personal favorite the tackling dummy drill! It earned me props from Fickell for my follow thru and ability to wrap my arms (not to mention a great way to release some frustration). Coach Meyer was walking around reminding us to hustle between stations and keep hydrated because the heat index was over 100 out there.
When it was time for the gray group to switch, we got to go inside back inside and tour the WHAC. Our guide was a new member of the Meyer staff (his job was to help in the recruiting area and had worked with Meyer at ESPN) and had just moved to Columbus so he mostly let us wander around and take pictures (his way of saying he wasn’t intimately acquainted with the building and the history yet unfortunately for me and some the recruits I would think). However, it did not dampen the opportunity to see things few outside the program get to see. There are awards and photos occupying every bit of wall space. We toured the weight room, locker rooms (where I got a picture with DL Chris Carter), the player’s lounge, the coach’s offices, and the trophy room where we keep the BIG awards (Heismans, National Championship and Bowl Game trophies, and Big Ten Championship trophies).
To wrap up the day we all reconvened in the indoor practice area to participate in a “smokehouse” drill. After rounds of Marotti yelling “smoke’ and we return with “house” to get us fired up we competed in 40 yard dashes by age group, and yes the oldest attendee an 83-year-old woman represented herself and any age group well. Next we did group push ups where the last woman standing won an OSU helmet for her 160 full-fledged pushups…you go girl!!
And just in case this behind the scenes opportunity wasn’t enough already, they brought us TBDBITL to serenade us with “Hang on Sloopy” (video below) and “we don’t give a damn (for you know who)”. Then something really cool happened as the drum majors lead us around the field to participate in the incomparable script Ohio….now how many people can say that??? (ok, well there are 800 now I guess.) The day came to an end with Carmen Ohio and we parted ways with some new Buckeye friends! Next year, I highly recommend you join me!!!! Go Bucks!!!