Women from across the community flocked to Winston-Salem State University Saturday to get a hands-on education about the game of football.
Hosted jointly by the university’s Department of Athletics and football program, the Second Annual Women’s Football Clinic drew over two dozen women of all ages and abilities. Aimee McCaskill, who graduated from WSSU in 1983, was among the women who paid $20 to learn the basics of the sport.
“I wanted to learn more about football,” she said of her motivation to take part in the clinic, which ran from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. “I love football, so I am trying to learn all I can about it.”
The clinic was birthed last year, as a means of expanding the Rams’ fanbase, which has grown ever more fervent in recent years, as the team has posted back-to-back undefeated seasons in CIAA conference play.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and the community of Rams and just all women that want to learn a little more about football and have a good time,” commented Head Football Coach Connell Maynor, who led his team to the Division II national championships last year. “We didn’t want it to be a one year thing. We had a nice showing last year, so we wanted to keep it going.”
The 2012 clinic was a three-day brown bag series focused on the fundamentals of the game. This year, organizers increased the stakes, challenging clinic participants to hit the field to see what it’s really like to be a football player.
“This year we’re taking it to the field; the ladies wanted to be a little more hands-on,” said Athletic Marketing Director Brian Murrill. “…The ladies are very excited. I’ve been getting nothing but positive feedback.”
The women were divided into groups and put through the paces, executing a demanding County Fair conditioning program.
“This year we wanted to change it up a little bit and actually get you ladies involved, so what we’re going to do is take you through what our kids go through on a daily basis,” Assistant Coach Daren Hart told the women at the outset of the program. “Keep in mind that our players do all the stuff that you’re going to do, but with about eight to 10 pounds (of equipment) on them.”
Though challenging, McCaskill, a social worker, described the clinic as “fun, fun and more fun.”
McCaskill’s former classmate, Mae Godette, an avid Rams football fan, also gave the clinic a thumbs-up.
“It’s exciting – energizing,” commented Godette, whose former husband once coached WSSU football. “It’s fun too.”
Former players Brian Mitchell and Keith Ferguson lent their support to the clinic, suiting up in Rams jerseys and demonstrating the drills for the ladies. The experience brought back not-so-long ago memories for Mitchell, a strong safety who graduated in May.
“It’s just like day one,” the 24 year-old said with a grin. “It’s like no time has passed.”
Ferguson, a career facilitator for Piedmont Triad Regional Council and a 2012 WSSU alumnus, said he was pleasantly surprised by the energy and enthusiasm he witnessed on the field.
“I love the overall atmosphere here,” declared the former defensive back. “The ladies came out super excited and ready to tackle the obstacles, and I’m just really eager to teach them the game so they can pass it along.”
After 17 years of marriage, Coach Maynor’s wife Meryl Maynor is already well versed in the basics of the game, but she said participating in the clinic was still a learning experience for her.
“This is fun – I’m enjoying getting to see what the football players go through,” remarked Maynor, an alumna of rival North Carolina Central University. “I’m getting a greater appreciation for what they do.”
WSSU employee and alumna Darice Wooten recruited a group of friends to join her at the clinic Saturday.
“My friends are trying to get back into exercising and working out, so I thought this would be a fun opportunity for them to actually get out and have fun, but also learn a little bit about football,” explained Wooten, a teacher recruiter for the School of Education. “To actually get in the shoes of the athletes here at the university, it makes you more engaged for the football season.”