Something Special for the Ladies

by Christian Bryant

The unforgiving sun bears down on Wake Forest’s BB&T Field. The mercury rising indicates the temperature in excess of 80 degrees just before noon as a wavy, desert-like haze can be seen off in the distance. Down on the field, war is being waged. Mary Childers stands with her feet staggered and knees bent in a ready stance. With her arms tightly gripping the handles of a yellow, torso-sized pad, she grimaces across the line of scrimmage at her opponent and friend of 15 years, Meg Brown.

Childers’ objective: Protect the quarterback, which is represented by a yellow, life-size tackling dummy.

Brown returns the evil look from Childers with a scowl of her own. She’s in a ready stance and when a coach blows the whistle, Brown fires off the line and initiates contact between herself and Childers.

Childers stutter-steps, giving a little bit of ground but pounding her opponent with the pad the whole way. Brown jukes, parries one of Childers thrusts, spins and takes aim at the quarterback. Childers, now knowing that she’s been beat on the play, turns and lunges laterally at Brown. The two women crash and fall to the deep green artificial turf and just lay for a moment laughing hysterically. They help each other up to the sound of cheers and handclaps and fall back in line with the other women, ready to do it all over again.

The Wake Forest football program hosted the 14 th Annual Women’s Football clinic at the BB&T Field on June 4. The clinic, presented by Bo-Ty Florist, aimed to educate women on the Xs and Os of football while build ing anticipation around the 2011 Wake Forest season.

Earlier in the day, the clinic began with a feminine flair.

The lavish breakfast of biscuits, danishes, croissants and fruits sprawled on a long table, a floral arrangement sitting in the center. Following a few remarks by former Demon Deacon and current Detroit Lion cornerback Alphonso Smith Jr., the athletic staff distributed door prizes and held a fashion show with Wake Forest memorabilia up for grabs and discounted clothing items for men and women on display.

Two women leafed through the packets that were provided to each participant. The gunmetal folders with the unmistakable “WF” on the front contained a current Wake Forest football roster, a clinic survey, prize promotions and “The Basics” – a stapled stack of papers breaking down the rules, details and subtle nuances of the game of football into small, easily digestible morsels.

“It’s hilarious,” says Dawn DeRose, a Pre-K teacher at the New Philadelphia Moravian Preschool, referring to the page that listed different positions and explanations of each.

Anita Wilson, DeRose’s colleague at New Philadelphia, chimed in saying, “It’s elementary.”

Wake Forest football head coach Jim Grobe made an appearance and gave a few remarks. He approached the podium to a standing ovation and launched into a pointless but punchline-filled speech about how football is a “kinder” and “gentler” sport than it was in yesteryear.

“We’re living in a different world today,” Grobe lamented after giving firsthand accounts of hard-nosed coaches and players.

Then the women flooded downstairs through the same tunnel the Wake Forest football team exits to enter the stadium on gameday. They crowded around the entrance gate

and stood right behind a black-and-gold chopper driven by the Demon Deacon mascot. With each turn of the accelerator, the motorcycle cracked at an ear-splitting volume. Not a single woman flinched. They linked up, shoulder to shoulder, bent their knees and began swaying side to side, just as the Wake Forest players would do.

The gate was opened, the chopper ripped down the field and with a bloodcurdling war cry, more than 100 mothers, daughters, girlfriends, businesswomen and retirees ran onto the field with arms flailing, ready to begin a series of strenuous workouts.

As if heeding the call for more on-field physical toughness from Coach Grobe, the women unleashed an unprecedented amount of tenacity on the BB&T Field.

The participants split into six equal groups as the coaching staff administered authentic drills: backpedaling for the defensive backs, three-step drops and throws for the quarterbacks, precise route-running for the wide receivers, blocking for the offensive line, handoffs and pitches for the running backs and tackling drills for defenders. The groups ended each session with a tight huddle and a loud “break.”

The catching, passing, fancy footwork and tumbles on the ground weren’t surprising, but the physicality aspect was.

“We got serious last year,” said Childers, obviously one of the more aggressive participants.

“She tried to hurt me last year,” Brown said while laughing. “She dislocated my jaw!” Moments earlier, Childers had an interesting exchange with one of the coaches after playfully threatening Brown.

“I was going to trip you,” Childers said to Brown.

“That would’ve been a 15-yard penalty,” barked one of the coaches.

“15 yards?” Childers asked. “Really?” The clinic finished up with a short scrimmage that yielded three receptions, three interceptions and four incomplete passes in 10 plays.

“We just wanted to do something special for the ladies,” said Michael Odom, assistant athletic director of marketing at Wake Forest. “This is something that the ladies love.”