Sweatin’ with Strong

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“I wish the team was this excited about football,” Texas head football coach Charlie Strong observed as he took the stage at his second-annual women’s clinic this past weekend. Nearly 1,000 burnt-orange-clad female Longhorn fans crowded into the Red McCombs Red Zone on Saturday for the ’80s-themed Sweatin’ with Strong, an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at Texas football and the team’s upcoming 2015-16 season.

Gone were the cocktails and fajitas of Mack Brown’s Women’s Clinic, a Texas football tradition that ran for 16 years prior to Strong’s arrival. In their place: a hands-on opportunity for attendees to lace up their sneakers and pursue their own gridiron glory out on the field of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The event kicked off with presentations by UT’s coaching staff, who called upon volunteers to demonstrate proper football stances and scowls onstage—because, as running backs coach Tommie Robinson said, “You can’t have a great stance without a killer game face.”

Guests chowed down on healthy fare from Chobani and Daily Juice while getting an inside look at the ins-and-outs of the Texas football program under Strong’s direction. Behind-the-scenes tidbits ranged from the coaches’ secret talents (apparently defensive line coach Brick Haley is a gumbo master) and this year’s team strategy for fostering a stronger group dynamic (each player is responsible for calling five teammates he doesn’t know each week). A panel of student-athletes—including returning QB Tyrone Swoopes—fielded questions about their favorite moments in Texas football history. (Hint: Most of them happened in January 2006.)

After the program concluded, the ladies—who ranged in age from 18 to 77 and traveled from as far as Seattle for the occasion—braved one of Austin’s first near-100-degree days and headed down to the field to try their hand at various football drills led by the coaching staff. A DJ spun ’80s jams while attendees ran the stadium stairs, practiced patterns, and tackled the “Big 21,” a countdown of alternating pushups and situps, in the weight room.

“This is just exhilarating,” said Michelle Morse, who was attending the women’s clinic for the first time. “I’ve never had the opportunity to be out on the field before—not even when I was in school.” Morse and her friends won the clinic’s group T-shirt contest with neon matching tanks that featured Strong’s head superimposed on Mr. T’s body and the quote: “I pity the fool that doesn’t sweat with Strong.”

Despite its decidedly silly moments (think dance parties to the “Cupid Shuffle” while waiting in line for drills), Sweatin’ with Strong also introduced attendees to a more poignant and personal side of Longhorn football with a trip to the team locker room. From the list of Longhorns currently in the NFL hung for inspiration at its entrance to the shocking number of loofahs hung from the shower walls, the locker room offered up a unique perspective on the beloved program that you can’t quite get from the stadium seats. One player’s locker had a small notecard taped up inside that read simply: “Silence the critics. You got this.”

In the end, the entire day of activities was dedicated to the most important concept of any sports program: teamwork. While running drills and catching passes in the grueling heat, there was never a lack of high-fives or booming encouragements from Strong over the stadium PA. And, though the ladies of Sweatin’ with Strong certainly worked hard to prove themselves out on the field, the fastest they moved all day was to get in line for a one-on-one picture with that head honcho himself.

Photo courtesy Texas Athletics

 

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