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New Harvard coach starts new tradition with women's football clinic

HARVARD – Harvard football coaches shouted instructions for individual drills with a different reaction – laughter – than they will receive in two weeks when real practices start.

About 30 women, mothers, sisters and coaches wives, assembled for the first Harvard Football Women’s Clinic, an idea hatched by new Hornets coach Sean Saylor, Monday night at Dan Horne Field.

“It was awesome, a lot of fun,” said Kim Hansler, whose junior son Austin Niemesz will be a lineman for the Hornets. “It was nice to see what the boys do. We just bring them to and from [practice], we don’t watch like we did in junior tackle. It’s great to see what they’re doing.”

Saylor, who was defensive coordinator at East Peoria the last three seasons, takes over the program Tim Haak ran for 29 seasons. Haak retired after last season. Saylor figured the clinic offered a way to become acquainted with parents on his new team. The coaching staff accepted monetary donations and planned to give any money to the American Cancer Society.

“I thought it was a good way for the [women] and have them ask questions on their own,” Saylor said. “I figured at the parent meeting it will be dads [asking more questions] and families coming. It was another avenue of meeting people before the first parent meeting [in August]. You’re in a more relaxed environment and you let the ladies do something maybe they haven’t done in the past.”

Saylor was pleased with the numbers for the first time at his new school. Local football official John Stricker started off the clinic speaking on rules and describing penalties like holding and pass interference.

Saylor then talked about equipment – helmets, mouthguards, shoulder and hip pads – and then assistants set up stations for smaller group instruction.

“We had a lot of fun. You got to get out on the field and see what they go through every day,” said Laura Bochette, whose senior son Lewis will play on the line. “It kind of puts it in perspective when he comes home and says he’s dying.”

The women cheered one another when they nailed the technique in drills and laughed with one another when they looked silly.

“It was OK because we were all comfortable with it,” Hansler said. “It helped the women get educated a little bit more about what the guys are always talking about at home.”

Rita Stephens’ older son, T.J., already went through the program, but has freshmen twins Ryan and Dylan starting this season.

“It was wonderful,” Stephens said. “I wish they would have done this before so I would have understood it better. It’s great. All the parents should do it. I think they should involve the men, not all of them understand it either. It’s really a good program.”

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