The 2019 Kentucky Football Women’s Clinic seemed to have a theme this year: celebration. Ladies who traveled long distances to attend the clinic, those who had been season ticket holders for many years, those who hadn’t missed a home game in decades, and the special moments from last season were all highlighted and celebrated.
Christi Thomas from the UK Sports Network served as emcee for the event where 220 ladies were gathered. Attendees had come from all across the state, which is to be expected. But when polled, it was revealed one lady had come from Knoxville, two from Florida (one from Ft. Myers Beach), and one from New York. That is dedication.
You wouldn’t be surprised to hear a fair number of season ticket holders were there, but discovering some had held those season tickets for over 30 years might raise an eyebrow. Each revelation brought lots of cheers, none louder than those from the coaching staff and players that were on hand. Perhaps the biggest cheer for the ladies was the revelation that there were 2 attendees who had not missed a single home game in 30 years! These 2 ladies were strangers before today, but I suspect they may become good friends now. It was a nice touch that they received some very cool gifts for their dedication to Kentucky Football.
When Coach Mark Stoops took the stage, he received a standing ovation. He is always in a great mood at these clinics, but this year, he seemed to be smiling much wider and had a bigger bounce in his step. This was after having had his picture taken with many of the ladies at the clinic before the program began. And, while questions from the audience have normally been saved for the assistant coaches, Stoops even fielded a few before leaving the stage.
When asked if he was going to be breaking any more ceilings this season, Stoops laughed and then said “Sure.” He then continued with how the ladies at the clinic each year will come up to him and tell him how great he looks and how much weight he has lost. “Then I watch that video from the Missouri game, and all I see is my stomach hanging down!” Hey, Coach. If you keep winning games like that, you can let your stomach hang out at any time.
Coach Stoops also brought former Wildcat Courtney Love to the stage, introducing him as the new Player Development coach, a position that was recently vacated by Freddie Maggard. This job seems to be a perfect fit for Love and he brings instant credibility to the position as he played for Stoops.
Next up was Eddie Gran who explained the offensive goals, detailed different game situations (2-minute drill, 4-minute drill) and philosophies (no turnovers, recover from mistakes, clock management, game awareness). Much to everyone’s delight, Gran was able to illustrate each of his key points by using game film from last season. Clips from the Florida, Missouri, Louisville, and Penn State games were used and the ladies cheered each time the Cats scored a touchdown in those clips.
Gran also explained why he chooses the run option more frequently than some fans would like. “I’ve gotten used to the boos now,” Gran said and then showed video clips of plays that supported his decision to call running plays. To Gran’s credit, he also showed clips where things didn’t work out as planned. He emphasized these were the opportunities to recover, which is another key goal of the offense.
Defensive coordinator Brad White was up next and led the ladies in a cheer of “De-Fense!” He then emphasized how important it would be this season for the crowd to cheer loudly when UK’s defense was on the field. Like Gran, White used film clips to illustrate the defensive philosophy and goals. Also like Gran, there were numerous clips from the Florida, Missouri, Louisville, and Penn State games. But unlike Gran, White turned over the bulk of his time to his position coaches.
After the coaches had finished the technical presentations, a handful of players were on hand and came out to the stage. After introducing themselves, they drew tickets for more door prizes. A highlight video that was intended to be the last “big” presentation prior to ladies going down to the field to participate in drills stopped abruptly due to technical issues. To allow time to resolve the issues, the players returned to the stage to draw more tickets. But this time, another player joined the group and he received arguably the biggest ovation of the day: Josh Paschal. Just a year removed from a skin cancer diagnosis and treatment, Josh should be at 100% when the season begins and looks forward to a very successful season.
All in all, it was a great day for all involved. Food, prizes, and the opportunity to meet coaches and players are the staples of the clinic. But this year, it was extra special getting to celebrate all the successes of last season. Here’s hoping that “We’re just getting started!”