ORONO, Maine — School teacher Brittany Taylor from South Hadley, Mass., was curious about the job of her boyfriend, Joe Harasymiak, who is an assistant football coach at the University of Maine specializing in the defensive backs.
“He’s never around. I always wondered what he was doing,” said Taylor.
Taylor and 32 other women found out what being a football coach entails, as well as some of the intricacies of the sport, during Maine head football coach Jack Cosgrove’s second annual Football 101 clinic for women at the University of Maine Thursday night.
Cosgrove and his coaching staff gave the women a comprehensive look at the sport while offering a tour, providing demonstrations, answering questions and allowing the women to perform drills.
The staff was thorough but stuck to basics and encouraged the women to ask questions.
It was evident that the women had a passion and interest in learning more about the sport.
“I liked the behind-the-scenes stuff,” said Taylor. “When you come to the games, you don’t see the indoor facilities where they spend most of their time. You also got to meet the coaches. It was a lot of fun.
“This has given me the insight about what [Harasymiak] is actually doing all day at work,” added Taylor.
She even enjoyed discovering “a lot of the mechanics into playing football the right way.”
Taylor said making people aware of the proper way to tackle is very important and is thankful it is stressed in youth football in her community in order to avoid spinal cord or head injuries.
“I love the hands-on stuff. I hope some year they get enough here so we can get a flag football tournament going,” said Taylor.
“Football is very complex,” said Lindsay Archer, wife of Maine assistant coach Kyle Archer. “I want to learn as much as I can.”
Charlotte Drake of Belfast laughed when mentioning a highlight was having her daughter, Devon, tackle her, as well as having a lot of fun with the other ladies.
“I thought I knew a lot about football, but I did learn quite a bit,” said Drake. “l enjoyed the behind-the-scenes stuff, the way they take care of injuries. I’d like to try on one of those knee braces and see how they run and play in those.”
Nell Hedstrom, a two-time attendee, said she has significantly improved her knowledge, even to the point where her husband, Warren, and son, Jake, ask her questions about football.
Surah Whelan gained a much better understanding which gave her better insight to share with her husband, Bob, whom she described as a “a big football fan.”
“You learn something new each year,” said Deedy Frederick of Dedham. “I appreciate the coaches taking time to explain it on a level we can understand.”
Frederick grinned saying, “I’ve improved upon my catching but I need to work on my throwing,” while adding that the clinic complements the 2011 book “Tackling Football: A Woman’s Guide to the College Game,” co-written by UMaine’s Mike Hodgson and Sandy Caron, who were both on hand.
Rachel Caron, who attended the clinic last year, said, “I feel for the players more now…all those braces they wear. I have an insider view. I’m not just some spectator. I feel like one of the team,”
She too mentioned the fun of getting to experience tackling saying, “The highlight for me was tackling my best friend, [Kelsey-Lynn Briggs]. I always wanted to do that.”
The three-plus hour clinic began with three video sessions in Bennett Hall.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin schooled the women on offense, explaining the positions and each player’s primary responsibilities.
“The wide receiver can also be called the split end, flanker or H-back, and his job is to catch the ball,” said Bourgoin. “The halfback’s job is to run the ball.”
He taught them about formations including what type of play to expect from a particular formation and how a coach will change personnel based on the situation.
Defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro showed the women how to tell the difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense.
“If you see three players with their hands on the ground [in a three or four-point stance], it’s a 3-4. If there are four, it’s a 4-3,” said Ferraro referring to the defensive linemen.
He told them to watch during a game for a big card shown to the defense from the sidelines with a number on it which refers to the number of backs and tight ends the opposing offense has on the field. That helps the defense predict the type of play the offense is going to run.
If they show the number 11, it means there is one running back and one tight end.
He explained the popular phrase “it all starts up front” by saying if the defensive line gets a surge and pushes the offensive line back, it’s a positive. But if the offensive line is pushing the defensive line back, it’s a negative.
Special teams coordinators Archer (offense) and Greg Webster (defense) explained the punting, placekicking and kickoff team responsibilities noting that an extra point or field goal attempt takes 1.2 seconds to occur from the time the ball is snapped to the time the kicker kicks the ball and a punt takes two seconds.
Director of football operations Ed Mestieri spoke about the roles of the referee and other officials on the field. He pointed out that each head coach meets individually with the referee before the game to discuss things like unique plays to watch for and tactics by the opponents that “aren’t in the framework of the rules.” He also discussed penalties.
The women were then broken into two groups and toured the locker room facilities and weight room. They were even given a squatting drill performed while holding a lightweight PC pipe.
Dressed in full football gear, offensive linemen Chase Hoyt and Daniel Carriker answered questions and head athletic trainer Ryan Taylor discussed injuries and rehabs. One of the assistants also taped a woman’s ankle. Taylor noted that knee braces cost $400 and offensive linemen wear them as protection against injury rather than just after sustaining an injury.
The women were also informed about the endless hours of video watched by the coaches and players.
When the women were taken to the field, they were broken up into groups with each attending four stations. They were taught how to tackle, throw, block and catch.
Cosgrove enjoyed getting to show the ladies the “incredible” amount of time and effort plus the processes that go into preparing for each game.
“The ladies had a sincerity. They wanted to know [and learn]. It was pretty cool to see that, to feel that and to sense that,” said Cosgrove.