When I told people I was going to the Gator Women’s Football Clinic, the most common responses I got from people were:
“We have a women’s football team?” or “YOU are going to a football clinic? You think you can handle that?”
Granted, anyone who looks at me can tell I wasn’t built for football. The only thing I’d be good at is if they decided to have a pirouette contest.
But these responses mainly told me one thing: Most people know nothing about the Gator Women’s Football Clinic. And, until last weekend, I was one of them.
My goal for the day was simple: don’t faint.
Now, this may seem easily attainable to most people, but I’ve fainted at the Swamp TWICE before. So embarrassing. As excited as I was for the clinic, I was feeling slightly nervous about someone possibly snapping me in half. But once I arrived at registration on Saturday, my nervousness disappeared.
I walked into a room buzzing with the excitement of about 500 women. Immediately, I was struck by the diversity of this group.
Women of all ages had traveled from all over to be there. I got in line to have my picture taken with Coach Muschamp, and in line I met Peggy Nehring and Carrie Chavers. They’ve been coming to the clinic for four years and so I asked them to describe the day to me.
“Besides AMAZING??” Chavers said. “It’s a day full of football, but specifically geared towards women. You get to spend the morning part with the coaches and really learn what Gator football is, and then you actually get to spend the second half of the afternoon on the field running drills, actually acting like you are a Gator football player. And that’s amazing, you’re not ever going to get that chance again.”
Nehring chimed in, “and I think even bigger than that, it’s the best opportunity to take a weekend with your best friend and have some fun.”
All of the Florida coaches were in the room and, not only did women get to take pictures with them, but they all took the time to really talk to us and let us get to know them.
“It’s a great opportunity to mix and mingle with people that we really admire,” Nehring said.
A few former players made appearances, too. The sound of women screaming filled my ears as I turned to see Riley Cooper and Steven Wilks waltz in to the room.
Women jumped out of their seats to get their pictures taken with the Swamp Studs.
The Pouncey twins also stopped by.
Meanwhile, all the Gators coaches did presentations for the women on what they do during the game. It was a great opportunity for us to learn a little more about the X’s and O’s of Florida football.
After spending the first half of the day inside, it was time to head to the Swamp.
The coaches gave us a tour of the trophy room, weight room, and locker room. And every step of the way coaches were there to answer questions and tell us everything we wanted to know about what goes on behind the scenes of Gators football.
In the locker room we got to try on gear and learn about the equipment rules and procedures. Fun fact: if a Gator gives away his gloves to a fan one week, he doesn’t get new ones the next week.
Then we hit the field. We split up into groups and rotated through various position drills that the coaches took us through. For Joni Florence, this was her favorite part.
“I love the exercises we get to do out here, like we are real football players,” Florence said. “It’s the best day on earth. You learn something about football, you get out here and really see what really goes on, you get to come on the field and you get to go in the locker rooms and not everybody gets to do that.”
She laughed and said, “If we just had an overnighter that would be even better!”
To make a perfect day even more perfect, we finished off with the ultimate Florida football experience – a run out of the tunnel. Half of the group lined up to high five the others who ran out, everyone screaming and cheering. By the end of the day, we were all a family.
Carrie Chavers said she loves seeing familiar faces every year.
“Everybody’s so nice,” she said.
Peggy Nehring added: “It’s a great way to make a connection with people you may not have otherwise run into.”
“Like you, Amy!” Chavers quipped back at me.
So I finished off the day having learned so much about Gators football, but more importantly I realized I had made some new friends.
And I didn’t even faint.