Football team hosts student clinic, invites all

Photo of the football clinic
Emma Ford / The Mossy Log

Though their season may be over, Lewis & Clark’s football team is far from done for the year. Last weekend, the team invited LC students to partake in a student-led football clinic intended for people of any level of athletic ability. 

As someone who generally avoids running in any and all non-emergency situations, I was apprehensive to say the least. However, my commitment to my journalistic responsibilities outweighed even my most stringently held anti-running vow, so to the clinic I went. The promise of a free t-shirt, admittedly, was a big part of the deal for me.

The clinic, held Feb. 24 on a rare sunny Saturday, drew about 80 participants. Combined with as many players from the football team, about 150 people started warming up on the field, tossing balls back and forth, stretching and jogging in their complimentary, bright orange L&C Football shirts.

Head Coach Joe Bushman called the group together to bring the clinic to its official start, welcoming the group and laying out the three objectives of the afternoon. In order: to have fun, to not get injured (specifically but not exclusively directed at mid-season student athletes) and to learn more about football.

We were split into areas by grade level and started the warm-up proper. Lined up in 5 yard increments, we jogged, shuffled and karaoke-d in time with the whistle. This warm-up was led by Daniel Pham ’24, one of the student leaders who ran the entire event. 

When we were sufficiently warm, we reconvened and got to hear more from the coaching staff. Coach Bushman talked us through the beginning of a football game and then passed the explanatory torch to Assistant Coach Bruce Read, also the special teams coordinator, who described the kickoff. 

The ball begins at the 35 yard line, which is kicked as far as possible to gain field position. The kickoff team, one of the special teams Coach Read oversees, is trying to get the ball as close to the end zone as possible. Gaining yardage in the kickoff sets up the offense to score a touchdown, but is also an important morale element to start off a game.

“It gets your team all fired up. So there’s a lot going on in that very first play. It sets the tone, oftentimes for the entire game,” said Read.

Up next was Assistant Coach Mike Machado, offensive coordinator, who succinctly explained the main goal of the offense.

“We want to score,” Machado said.

Scoring can happen in two ways: a touchdown, when the team gets a ball into their endzone by running, or throwing it in. The other is to score a field goal, which a team can opt for if it is in a poor position to score a touchdown during that drive, usually when they are on their 4th and final down and are still too far from the endzone to make scoring a touchdown likely. 

Then Assistant Coach Daniel Fields, defensive coordinator, similarly summed up the defense’s goal.

“Stop them from scoring,” Fields said.

The defense will prevent the opposition from scoring by trying to take away possession of the ball. They can do that by intercepting a pass, or making the other team fumble by knocking the ball out of their hands. Once they recover the ball, they should run the opposite direction, towards their endzone.

“There have been people who go the wrong direction. Bruce, I’m looking at you,” said Fields, earning a good-natured laugh from the group at the expense of the unfortunate cornerback.

He continued to describe the job of the defense with great enthusiasm for his role.

“Our goal is to have 11 people hungry and looking for this football, trying to take it away and put it in the opposite end zone. That’s defensive football. It’s the easiest job on Earth. I just get to have fun and get 11 people … to go after the football,” said Fields.

With the educational segment of the clinic over, we were off to get some hands-on experience with the sport. The field was separated into different stations, each with a drill designed to highlight the specific skill set each position requires. 

Sports Section Editor Will Trunzo ’25, a linebacker on the team, promised me when I agreed to go that these would be the “fun drills” that the team “wish they could do all the time!” and that I would be “totally fine.” Not that I doubted him in the slightest, but I was pleased to find that these were, in fact, very fun drills. 

One station had me shove a few linebackers lined up with chest padding (Trunzo included) and then tackle a rolling doughnut-shaped, cushioned “bag.” I may or may not have let out a girlish yelp as I went for the take down, but I hear Ray Lewis swears by the technique.

I moved on to a drill where a “rabbit” chased a “fox” in a tight figure 8, and another where I ran backwards and diagonally in an X, flawlessly catching a ball at the end. There were more drills, more tackles and lots of energy. The whole afternoon was full of laughs and encouragement, and made me feel as though I were being welcomed into the camaraderie of the team. 

This was the goal of the clinic, which Bushman described to me in a conversation at the end of the clinic.

“I think it’s just a way to generate some school spirit,” said Bushman. “I think sometimes that Lewis & Clark kids work so hard academically, they need more fun things to do. So I just wanted to kind of create a situation where kids could come out and have a good time and get to learn a little bit about the game.”

He told me about the student organizers who planned all the drills and ran them. They were members of the team’s elected Leadership Council, who meet with the coaching staff weekly, going through leadership training and discussing the iconic coaching book “Row the Boat” by PJ Fleck.

“Every team I’ve been on that has been a championship-type of team always has really strong leadership,” said Bushman. “So that’s what we’re trying to bring out of the kids right now.”

Alongside providing a leadership opportunity for his players, Bushman hoped that the clinic would build connections between the team and the rest of the LC community. The team is planning to attend the Theatre department’s mainstage play, “Wolf Play,” together to show up for other students on campus.

“That’s what we always tell them. If you want your fellow classmates to come to your games, you’ve got to be willing to go support other students in whatever they’re doing, because everybody here is doing great things,” Bushman said. “You should go, whether it’d be the concert or the play or the game, to have students there rooting for you.”

Our conversation was underscored by students leaving for the day, but not before Bushman thanked, congratulated and bade them farewell. Just as he teaches his players, he expressed his enthusiasm and gratitude to participants. He also appreciated the joy that permeated the event.

“I walked around, and everybody was laughing and smiling. And look, we’re 15 minutes out and still have half of the people still here. So that’s pretty cool,” said Bushman.

Alex Sandoval ’25, a lineman on the team, shared Bushman’s sentiment, hoping to continue to connect athletics to the greater student body.

“I think that the future of community events can be very beneficial for the football community, and that this can lead to everyone being involved with football and help the community grow,” said Sandoval.

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