A look inside the Iowa Ladies Football Academy
Solon's Anne Edwards runs us through the experience
Anne Edwards, a Solon resident and good friend of the On Iowa, took some notes during last weekend's Iowa Ladies Football Academy, a fundraising project put together by Mary Ferentz, wife of head coach Kirk Ferentz. According to the UI football Twitter feed, the ILFA raised $230,000 this year and has a three-year total of $717,000. The money goes to the UI Children's Hospital. Thanks to Anne for her time and insight. I'll pass the blog to her now.
365....that was the number on the minds of many of us when we left the 2012 Iowa Ladies Football Academy.
365 long days until our next chance to work on our football skills with our beloved Iowa Hawkeye football team and coaches. Summer turned to fall, bringing Iowa football Saturdays (and one Friday), followed by a long dreary winter.
In February, an email announced that registration was open for the 2013 Iowa Ladies Football Academy! Facebook posts and Twitter tweets flew back and forth between friends. Several of us paid our registration fees and started our fundraising efforts. Each attendee is required to raise at least $500 for the University of Iowa Children's Hospital. Throughout the spring, several more friends signed up and we made plans for the big day. We decided to do what many Iowa fans do before a big Hawkeye football event – tailgate!
During the week leading up to the event, the enthusiasm built on social media. Finally the morning of June 8 arrived and the weather was perfect. Although this was my third time attending the academy, this was my first ILFA tailgate. We parked in the lot where the infamous “bubble” practice facility once stood, and set up our spread … food, beverages, lawn chairs. The sounds of the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band blared from my car stereo. As the other participants, event volunteers, players, and coaches arrived, we received quite a few smiles and compliments for our Hawkeye spirit.
The Iowa Kid Captains for the day’s event, the Schmid triplets, arrived with their family and stopped by for a photo. Now 9 years old, the triplets were born three months premature. You couldn’t have guessed it Saturday as they are all happy, healthy little girls.
At 10:30 a.m. our group of six headed to the event check-in in the new indoor football practice facility. We picked up our t-shirts and backpacks, which contained bug spray (for those pesky gnats), a rain poncho, note cards, and a pack of Bubble Yum bubble gum, the brand favored by coach Kirk Ferentz. We changed into our ILFA t-shirts and headed to the weight room where strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and several players were waiting.
Mark Weisman and C.J Fiedorowicz impressed the room of women with their weight-lifting strength. As we waited for the team bus to arrive to take us to the stadium, several ladies took advantage of the first of many photo ops.
We boarded the bus, and as we rode to Kinnick Stadium, defensive lineman Darian Cooper described the Iowa game-day experience from a player’s perspective. He said the bus ride from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City is usually quiet and intense, as most of the players are getting their minds set on the game. Players listen to music on their head phones and conversation is minimal.
We exited the bus on the south side of the stadium, graduate assistant Chris Polizzi described the tradition of each player touching Nile Kinnick's helmet for good luck and to pay homage to Iowa's only Heisman winner to date. We then recreated this “Hawk Walk” and each of us touched the helmet as we entered the stadium and made our way to the home locker room. There we saw a short film which explained what the players see when they come out of the tunnel.
We then split into groups according to the color of our registration arm-bands (ours was white) and listened from the stands as all of the position coaches explained what their players role is on the field. Our group received the honor of leading the swarm out of the tunnel. All 225 women ran out of the tunnel onto the field as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” blared from the new score board as the Hawkeye cheerleaders, spirit squad, and coaches cheered us on.
The next one and a half hours was set aside for photo opportunities on the field. Players and coaches posed with the participants and were gracious and tolerant with each and every member of the academy. Before the photography session ended, we grabbed some of the food provided for lunch, and chatted with several players about the experience so far. We also made a quick visit to the infamous pink visitors locker room.
After lunch, the Iowa Kid Captains, dance team, and players provided some very fun entertainment. Then the real work began – we moved through football drills with each group of players according to position. Footballs were thrown, caught and kicked. Pass routes were run, and tackling was demonstrated and then practiced. Several women showed nifty touchdown dances after catching long passes, which elicited a lot of laughter from the players and coaching staff.
I'm sure many participants are still feeling the effect of the drills – two days later, I am still sore.
After the drills all the participants sat down together, as the top twenty fundraisers were announced and they each had the opportunity to pick a prize. The total raised for the UI Children’s Hospital this year was $230,523. So far in the three-year history of this event over $717,000 has been raised, and next year the goal is to top $1,000,000!
Aside from Iowa football Saturdays in the fall, this is the most fun a female Hawkeye fan could ask for. The players and coaches all are the most polite and gracious people to be around. It makes me proud to be a Hawkeye.
At the end of the day, as we left Kinnick you could hear the chatter of how much fun everyone had. And in many conversations including my group of ladies a common theme again was talked about. 365 days…… 365 long days until the 2014 Iowa Ladies Football Academy. We will be back!