CHICAGO | Some high school football programs are hard pressed to get as many as 70 kids out to cover all levels.
Mount Carmel was able to attract more than 70 mothers of Caravan players to participate in its second annual Women's Gridiron Football Clinic held Sept. 11 at the high school.
Then again, there were some eligibility questions. Like why was Beverly Butkus still on the squad?
"The last one was so much fun and I learned so much that I just had to come back," said Beverly, who no longer has a relative playing football at Mount Carmel as her son, Don, who quarterbacked the Caravan to an 11th state title last season, has continued his career at the University of St. Francis in Joliet.
"When you see all that goes into this, it makes you appreciate and understand the game more," Beverly said. "And I still want to learn more about the game."
Last year's clinic was held indoors later during the season. This clinic, which more than doubled in participation size, was held on MCHS's Carey Field, where the varsity practices and the sophomore and freshman teams play their home games.
The group was broken into five squads, which went from station to station to go through various offensive and defensive drills. As one may expect from a group of rookies and sophomore returnees, these drills produced a share of comedic pratfalls.
But before the ladies took the field, they got an indication how serious and sophisticated football can be at Mount Carmel when head coach Frank Lenti and his staff presented a slideshow of what is expected from their players as well as a sample of the vast amount of information they are required to absorb.
"How do you get them to attain such a retention level," asked one of the mothers who, like some others in audience, was probably wondering why their kids can't master the rigors of physics and calculus as competently.
"It usually takes going through it about six times before it sinks in," Lenti said. "But you need to be focused ... you can't just breeze through it.
"These last couple of days have been real hot, so we took off the helmets and pads and used that as an opportunity to concentrate more to go over what we're doing."
During the presentation, Lenti also revealed his general policy in dealing with parents disgruntled with their sons' playing time.
"Parents are too emotionally involved to be objective about things like that," Lenti said. "Everyone wants their 'Johnny' to be as good or better than everyone else.
"A father came up to me and asked, 'My son started for the sophomore team, so why isn't playing now?' I go, 'Because he doesn't know his role on this team, yet. It's for me to determine when he finally does. I mean I don't go to your work and tell you how to do your job. You may watch football on TV, but that doesn't make you a coach ... the same way with me watching hospital shows doesn't make me a doctor.' "
The clinic not only brought out players' mothers, but grandmothers and great aunts as well.
"What impressed me is all the preparation the coaches and players have to go through," said Pat Moran, whose grand-nephew Billy Stratton is a junior defensive back for the Caravan.
Moran, whose playing days are behind her as she didn't participate in the drills, said she learned a lot from a more intimate vantage of the program.
"I think I'll be able to better recognize some of their plays," said Moran, who regularly attends Mount Carmel games.