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By ASHLEY SCOBY
In the words of Kentucky special teams/safeties coach Bradley Dale Peveto, if you’re going to succeed, you need women on your side.
Head coach Mark Stoops and the rest of his staff are starting to realize that after leading a record crowd of 520 Cats fans at the annual women’s clinic Saturday.
Prior to coming to Kentucky, Stoops had never had much involvement with women’s clinics, but he was immediately told by fans that he “had to” keep the event. So he did, and it was a rousing success.
The number of attendees this year was approximately quadrupled from last year’s total. At one point, the food ran out and more had to be ordered.
It’s just another example of the intense excitement that has burned its way through the Kentucky football fanbase. Optimism is through the roof, as Stoops and company continue to clean up on the recruiting road, bringing in top talent for the 2014 class. The UK marketing team has also stepped up its game in recent weeks, putting up billboards throughout the state and paying for advertisements in magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Time.
That excitement was more than evident Saturday. When Stoops was introduced, he was treated as more of a rock star than a Kentucky football coach. He lived that label down even further, as he stayed through the entire lunch break until each and every autograph was signed and every photo was taken.
The same can be said of the players and other assistant coaches. Autograph lines were enormous, but everyone involved with the program was patient with the mobs.
That is the one thing that stood out about this year’s clinic: Even with the huge number of attendees, interaction between the athletes/coaches and the fans still existed as much as possible. Last year, women got the chance to run defensive and offensive drills, as well as go out on the field to try their hand (foot) at place-kicking and punting. Because of the sheer numbers (as well as rainy weather), none of that was possible this year.
That didn’t stop women from learning about the schematics of this year’s football team, though. Coaches on both sides of the ball did a great job of presenting what their respective job duties were, formations they used and football basics. Female football fans are known for their passion, but it’s obvious that many of them want to know about the Xs and Os too. This coaching staff did a great job of breaking down game film to explain to the ladies what exactly they would be seeing on the field this year.
Also due to space constraints, it would have been difficult for coaches to pull volunteers and coordinate the running of a play or a defensive scheme, as last summer’s clinic did. But, this actually allowed for more time for question and answer sessions with the coaches.
In addition to the offensive and defensive coaches, Erik Korem, who is in charge of the “high performance program,” spoke at the clinic. He explained the ins and outs of his job: From monitoring players’ heart rates to helping feed them the right foods to tracking their brain waves, this program provides UK an opportunity to individualize its training and get the, well, highest performance, from the players.
Something else different about this year’s program was the addition of the “wives’ panel.” For this, the wives of Stoops, Neal Brown (offensive coordinator), DJ Eliot (defensive coordinator), John Schlarman (offensive line), Jimmy Brumbaugh (defensive line), Peveto (special teams/safeties), Tommy Mainord (wide receivers) and Frank Buffano (director of operations) came to the front and answered questions from the women in attendance.
This was really a great way to connect to the women at this event. Several of the wives talked about having to raise their children by themselves when their husbands were on the road, having to move around the country often and not being able to have their families together very often. The lifestyle provides challenges, but they all agreed that it was something they were used to, and their families found a way to make it work.
All in all, the women’s clinic was an outstanding event, from beginning to end this year, and really provided an inside look at the “new era” of Kentucky football. That era is getting off to a solid start in recruiting and marketing, but Saturday showed that another good place to start is with the female fanbase.