VUFB101: Vanderbilt Football Women's Clinic

On Saturday afternoon, Vanderbilt Head Football Coach James Franklin opened the doors of McGugin Center and invited female fans of all ages to VUFB101, a football clinic for women only. Coach Franklin was joined by his entire staff and an enthusiastic contingent of Vanderbilt fans, excited at the opportunity to learn more about football in general, and Vanderbilt football in particular.

After gathering at Dudley Field around 12:30 p.m after the Saturday practice, the group tromped over to McGugin for lunch.

Lunch wasn't just any old lunch, brought in by an outside caterer. It was a meal fit for a king (or a quarterback) in the Magic Dome, the legendary training table for Vanderbilit athletes where chef Magic Moori, works his culinary miracles.

Besides a scrumptious selection of fruits and salads, the cafeteria-style line featured pasta, grilled meats, vegetables, rolls, and way-too-tempting deserts.

Some of the participants came alone to the clinic; others had joined up with friends for moral support. Many were already season ticket holders, others were new to Vanderbilt football. Some came to learn more about football; others came to get a look at the new coach, the staff, and the facilities. But all agreed -- lunch was fantastic!

After lunch, Coach Franklin posed with every participant for a photo in an impromptu photo studio set up in the Olympic Weight Room.

Next, it was time to focus on football, and the group migrated to the Team Meeting Room. First, Coach Franklin introduced his staff and their wives.

Using the same technology that the football staff uses for team meetings, Coach Franklin began the admonition to "WEAR BLACK AND GOLD!", then continued with a basic overview of the life of a football coach.

He said that one of the reasons he wanted to host a "women only" clinic was to provide an informal environment in which participants would feel comfortable asking questions that they might be intimidated to ask in other settings.

And ask they did, from the simple to the complex, beginning with "Why were some of the players wearing red shirts in practice?" (It's not the quarterbacks; guys who are injured where the red jerseys.)

Throughout the day, when Coach Franklin was especially pleased to a correct answer to one of his questions ("What does 'NFL' stand for?" -- Not For Long), the participant received a gift certificate from one of the event's sponsors.

The head coach began at the very beginning, with the basic principles of football, the principles that at first glance might give the impression that football is a simple game. But as the discussion moved on to rules for determining whether a player is an eligible receiver and illegal formations, everybody in attendance learned that football is a more complex game than meets the casual eye, a game that requires brains as much as brawn.

Coach Franklin gave a brief overview of types of penalties and the referee's signals, leading to a number of questions.

When someone asked about the "offside" penalty, Coach Franklin explained the concept of the "neutral zone", perhaps the first time that he's ever used a woman's purse in place of a football.

He continued through the positions and the types of players that play them ("a fullback is like a short offensive lineman who wakes up angry", "a corner has to be athletic because he has to do everything the receiver does but has to do it backwards"), then on to personnel groups and formations.

Next, Coach John Donovan, the Offensive Coordinator, took over to talk about the philosophy and principles of the offense.

Coach Franklin watched and listened as Coach Donovan gave his presentation.

During the presentations by his assistants, Coach Franklin listened attentively, asking questions or elaborating certain points. "I tell John, if we don't know what to do, chuck it deep," he said, reiterating the point that Vanderbilt is going to be aggressive on offense.

Next up, Coach Bob Shoop, the team's Defensive Coordinator, took over to explain the philosophy and approach to defense -- "11 guys flying to the football with never-ending pursuit."

As Coach Shoop explained about "down and distance", "turnover margin, field geography, "coming out" and "red zone" defense, Coach Franklin listened and occasionally added some additional explanation.

After the presentations by the coaching staff in the Team Meeting Room, the group got an inside peek at the team's locker room and some of the kinds of protective equipment that players wear. For example, the helmet being held in the air in the left side of the photo is a special $400 helmet designed for additional protection against concussions.

Some of the players were also on-hand to greet the clinic participants, including safety Kenny Ladler.

Kyle Fischer poses in front of his locker. As the photos show, all the lockers are kept very neat and tidy, a directive from the head coach.

Next, the group visited the football weight room, the domain of Strength and Conditioning Coach Dwight Galt. It's said that 50% of a football's player's success on the field depends on his football skills and 50% on his strength and conditioning. Coach Galt is responsible for that latter 50%.

From the weight room, the group moved outside to the John Rich Practice facility, breaking into six different groups to meet with six different position coaches, including Coach Sean Spencer, Defensive Line Coach.

Since much of the team's practices is structured around five-minute intervals, Coach Franklin used the same format here, blowing the whistle every five minutes to signal that it was time to move to the next position.

Coach Brent Pry, Co-Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach, worked one of the position stations.

To close the clinic, Coach Franklin met with the group one last time before they left to pick up their t-shirts and goodie bags. He listened to suggestions and ideas for the future -- Maybe a Football 201 road trip? Maybe the Football 101ers could run onto the field with the freshman class at the first football game?-- and invited the participants to a practice with the provision that they don't post anything about the practice on the internet.

He urged everybody to spread the word, and most immediately, to come to the Black and Gold Game next Sunday, April 17, at 6 p.m. (festivities begin at 3, fireworks after the game) -- and to WEAR BLACK AND GOLD!

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Photos copyright 2011 by Whitney D for

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