The Ladies Football Clinic: Hokie Magic
by Vicki C. (HokieConvert), 8/7/01

Iím still not sure how and when I started to understand the game of football, but I can definitely remember the day I finally understood "Hokie football." It was August 4, 2001.

I spent the first twelve years of my life in England so football (American style) was never a part of my life. After I moved here, I attended high school football games, but only for the social opportunities it afforded. I attended two colleges that had no football programs (no, Iím not a VT alum, but Iím now a die-hard VT supporter). However, through my twenties I became more and more aware of the actual game of football, began watching it with friends and started to get really intrigued with the game. I figured out basically how the offense, defense and special teams worked and knew enough to be able to watch a game and even follow along.

Then, about five years ago, I met my Hokie friends. I began watching games with them. Now these were people who loved their football team with a passion. Whether it was a losing season or an undefeated season, they were dedicated. If the games werenít on TV they listened on the radio. By the end of my first season hanging out with these guys, Iíd dropped any allegiance to any other college team and was rooting for the Hokies. The next year we decided to get season tickets. I made my first trip to Lane Stadium, and I got goose bumps the first time I walked up to my seat. It was amazing!

However, despite my friends' enthusiasm and the thrills of watching the Hokies live, Iíve never been able to shake the feeling that I was on the outside looking in and there was something I was missing. Then several months ago, I saw a post on TSL about a ladies football clinic. This was it, this was what I needed. I could spend a day with the VT football team and finally learn about football and the power behind that "Hokie Magic."

I signed up immediately and persuaded some friends to come with me. Saturday finally arrived, and we hopped in the car and headed to Blacksburg. I wonít give you an extremely detailed description of the events of the day, as a couple of the ladies have handled that admirably on the message board. However, I will tell you how each session built on the next to give me that buy-in I was looking for.

Check-in was great, the coaches were all there and they were so gracious. None of them seemed the least bit bored or uncomfortable. Their enthusiasm was infectious and they really made us feel welcome. We convened in Cassell Coliseum, and they started things off in a very pep-rally like atmosphere. Each coach was introduced to cheers and clapping. If you werenít fired up at that point, you were probably dead.

Bud Foster and Ricky Bustle spent time explaining how they run things. This was absolutely fascinating, because before, I knew just enough to get through the games without too many stupid questions. Now, after they showed us how they do things, I feel like Iíve been let into a private club. My respect for all the coaches increased tenfold after Coach Bustle showed us the day by day preparation for a game. They leave no stone unturned and no play unscripted.

We then were treated to sessions with Coaches Pearman and Cavanaugh. If you know anything about Hokie football, you know that special teams are what make us, well, special. These guys showed us how a successful kick block happens and how itís more than just one person smacking the ball down, but a choreographed effort thatís never an afterthought for this team. They showed us how they work with the team to achieve the best possible field position on kick-off returns. They call special teams "Pride and Joy," and itís the perfect name, because thatís the feeling that was wafting around the coliseum as they shared their knowledge with us.

As each one of these coaches spoke to us, I started to understand this "Hokie Magic" -- it's pride, passion, hard work, and excellence. It was starting to make sense.

Next up was Coach Gentry, who spoke about the strength and conditioning program. Up until this point, weíd heard a lot about how the coaches participate in the program, but this is where the players started to shine. Coach Gentry showed us how the players work on their strength, agility and flexibility. These guys push themselves to the limit so that on game day their bodies will be able to put those amazing plays into action. I thought I couldnít be anymore proud of the program but after seeing what those young men put themselves through to be the best, I was in awe.

So, at this point, weíve got coaches who know their stuff and work incredibly hard to remain the best. Players who push their bodies to be as good as they can be so they can execute perfectly on game day. This "Hokie Magic" was starting to fall into place.

Next up was the Director of Training, Mike Goforth. What impressed me right away was his commitment to the players and getting them better, not just getting them back on the field. However, most importantly, it was the commitment to staying in touch with the parents. His first slide had a bullet point that said "Each player is someoneís son or daughter." He also shared with us how the Hokie football program makes the best medical specialists available to the players. Anything they need to get back to 100% is available to them.

Wow, this "Hokie Magic" was really starting to come together. Coaching excellence, player commitment and trainers who take care of the whole player, not just the part that needs to be fixed. I was beginning to think I might have this thing sussed. I probably could have gone home at this point and not felt like Iíd missed anything, but it was going to get better.

After our "classroom" sessions we were able to get up and go walking. We split up into groups and took a tour of the facilities. First stop was the coaches' offices, and what impressed me most were the many, many family photos and mementos. It was nice to see that as committed to football as they are, the coaches are just as committed to their families.

Next up were the meeting rooms. Each specialized unit on the team has its own room. This seemed to be well thought out, they are just the right size to allow for plenty of collaboration while watching tape, etc. The walls of murals, rosters of players in the pros, and lists of award winners provide even more motivation to achieve excellence.

Next we moved on to the strength and agility training rooms. I definitely got my comeuppance when I couldn't even lift one of the bars, with no weights on it! This is a well appointed, bright, airy facility. Once again, an example of the administrationís commitment to give the players what they need to be they best they can be.

We moved on to the training room, where we learned more about Mike Goforthís dedication to the players well-being. After that we hit the locker rooms. The lockers that have been "memorialized" to players with retired jerseys, such as Bruce Smith, must be a huge inspiration to the team. We moved on to the players lounge, which gives them a really nice place to kick back and relax.

Another piece of the puzzle had fallen into place. Add fantastic coaches, quality players to excellent facilities and you start to set yourself up for greatness. It was making more and more sense to me.

The finale of the day were the on-field activities. This was when we really got to interact with the coaches and players. They were so gracious about signing autographs, posing for pictures and answering questions. They worked with us on place kicking, throwing and tackling, and it seemed like they really enjoyed it. These guys were true gentleman, polite, gracious and most of all fun.

There was still one piece missing, and I found it at the end of the tunnel. I can only imagine how pumped the coaches and players must get running down the tunnel towards the field with all the noise. I know how loud it was with just 500 girls in attendance, Iím sure the noise of 50,000 fans must be intense.

As I ran out onto the field, after touching the Hokie stone at the tunnel's exit, it was so exciting. It was daunting with the stands empty -- the thought of being one of those players with 50,000 pairs of eyes on you -- it was quite an adrenaline rush. I can only go on what I know from Lane Stadium, but I canít imagine that any team gets quite the same reception as the Hokies.

So, here I was standing on the field, at the end of the clinic, and I finally understood. At last I knew why Hokie fans around the world are the most devoted fans anywhere. Take coaches and support staff who are committed to excellence, hard work, their players and their families. Add to that players who are dedicated to being the best they can be by pushing themselves further and harder every day. Mix in some premium facilities and add the best fans in the country, and you have it, the formula for what I call the "Hokie Magic."


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