2012-08-29 / Sports

Monacan coaches educate football moms

Boosters hold pre-season female-friendly clinic
By Jim McConnell

Monacan athletics booster club president Kitty Ambers prepares to hit a tackling dummy, with instruction from Monacan assistant football coach Joe Ferrel. 
Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Obsever Monacan athletics booster club president Kitty Ambers prepares to hit a tackling dummy, with instruction from Monacan assistant football coach Joe Ferrel. Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Obsever Everybody knows football is a guy thing, right?

It’s been that way since the players wore leather helmets with no face masks. It’s a rough-and-tumble sport that appeals to the natural male instinct. With very few exceptions, girls don’t even play football.

Just don’t tell Kitty Ambers. The Monacan High booster club president has statistics that prove an increasing number of women do love football and she’s not afraid to use them.

Ambers, whose husband is a former Virginia Tech football player, knew that the Hokies have held a football clinic for women in Blacksburg every summer since 2001. She also knew that 500 women pay $75 apiece for the opportunity to learn about the game from Virginia Tech’s coaches and players.

So Ambers and other members of the Monacan booster club put together a similarly female-friendly “Huddles & Heels” football clinic last Friday evening at the high school.

About two dozen women paid the $30 registration fee, which included a gray T-shirt with the Monacan High logo in pink, as well as refreshments.

“It’s a way to educate moms about the game,” Ambers said. “With all of the associations that feed Monacan, we decided to reach out to the community and the moms whose sons aren’t even in high school yet. We‘ve had great support from the community.”

The event started with a silent auction and a tour of the Monacan football field house, during which several of the clinic participants jokingly commented on the typically funky odor permeating the Chiefs’ locker room.

The women also got seats in the film room and a chance to watch video of Monacan’s Thursday scrimmage against J.R. Tucker with head varsity coach Danny Parsons.

Asked by Ambers to help lead the clinic, Parsons gladly agreed and got his coaching staff involved, as well. But the coach didn’t mince words or stop to see which Monacan football moms were in the film room when he replayed a particularly egregious missed tackle from the Tucker scrimmage.

“That’s not the coach’s fault, I’m sorry to say,” Parsons said, drawing laughs from the assembled women. “He has to make that play and we’ll tell him that during film study.”

Encouraging the mothers of his players to learn more about the game their sons play was one of the biggest reasons why Parsons agreed to be involved in the clinic.

“Hopefully, this gives them a greater understanding of why we think what we think and do what we do,” he said.

Lisa Latham, whose son plays and husband coaches football at Monacan, said she knows “just enough about football to be dangerous.”

“I know I drive them crazy when we’re watching a game and I say, ‘What just happened?’” Latham said.

As part of the clinic, Parsons and defensive coordinator Scott Van Arsdale gave the women a tutorial on Monacan’s preferred alignments and strategies on both sides of the ball. Parsons even had a local football official come to explain some of the game’s more easily misunderstood rules.

After the talking was done, it was time to hit the practice field. The coaches organized the women into lines for some light stretching and warm-ups just like the players do prior to every practice, then put them through a couple of different agility drills.

Most of the women tried out the blocking sled and a few even took a shot at Monacan’s big, orange tackling dummy.

When one of the participants asked the coaches if they ever raise their voices with the boys, veteran coach Joe Ferrel jokingly yelled, “Heck no, we never raise our voices!”

Two of the Monacan players who helped demonstrate drills and techniques for the women said they barely recognized Van Arsdale because he was being so much nicer than usual.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile before,” one added.

Ferrel was especially pleased because the women showed enthusiasm and actively participated in the clinic.

“I thought they did great,” he said. “I’m really proud of them.”

Judging by the smiles on the women’s faces, Monacan’s football clinic was a huge success.

“We weren’t sure what to expect – that’s usually how it is when you do something for the first time,” said Kim Jones, a booster club member and clinic participant. “There are a lot of moms who don’t know much about football and I’m one of them. Hopefully word gets out and they can keep it going next year.”

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