TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— Being a Seminole runs through generations for Betty Lou Joanas.
Her husband, Jim, attended the first Florida State football game in 1947. Both are alumni of the university, and their kids and grandkids also graduated from FSU. Garnet and Gold colors the history of their family.
That’s why when new head coach Willie Taggart announced the Women’s Football Clinic, she jumped at the opportunity to attend.
“It’s super cool. Years ago the Extra Point Club would do a similar thing with Coach Bowden, but this is much bigger and certainly more grand,” Joanas said.
“It’s night and day, just incredible. Everyone is so happy and the fans love the infusion.”
Held at the Dunlap Practice Fields, Taggart and his assistant coaches started the day indoors. A meet and greet was followed by an intensive film review of the new offensive and defensive philosophies the staff is implementing with the players this season.
The breakdown of the X’s and O’s was a particular hit with the women in attendance as most enjoyed the deeper dive into the schematics of the game.
“I love the way this event is bringing the enthusiasm back to football. Just being able to learn about the plays was amazing,” June Duda said during the event.
Duda, a longtime booster and now member of the FSU Board of Trustees, has always had a passion for the game. She appreciated being instructed on the intricacies of the game from the coaching staff.
“I love football, but I didn’t really understand the X’s and O’s,” an excited Duda continued. “I learned what a nickel and dime was today. I always heard those terms but never knew what it meant. So when they put it up there (on the projector screen) it became very clear to me.”
After the film session, lunch was provided and current players on the team began to trickle in.
Among those in attendance were Deondre Francois, Jacques Patrick and Ricky Aguayo. The attendees and players had a chance to interact and get to know each other, often taking pictures and sharing laughs.
A silent auction and a football coaches wives panel also highlighted the day before it was time to get down to the dirty work.
Moving outside, the players and coaches ran the participants through drills and different stations. Some of the stops included tackling practice dummies and kicking field goals off a tee. It was a cool glimpse into the daily grind the team goes through during the season.
“It was really competitive, this was one of the best clinics ever,” Taggart said laughing. “We had some women who go up and catch some balls and I’m like, ‘man, we need to sign them up.’ Some of them have wristbands, gloves and towels, it’s really cool to see.”
Wrapping up the day was a trip inside Doak Campbell Stadium and an opportunity to run through the tunnel onto Bobby Bowden Field. As the Warchant blared over the speakers a great event came to a close, celebrating the program and game this group of over 300 women love.
“It’s been amazing to see the skyrocketing of women’s interest in football,” Joanas said. “Women used to be a little more subdued in their support of athletics and now they’re a very integral part of supporting the game.”
“This type of event helps that a lot,” FSU associate head coach and defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins said. “I wish we would have been doing this all along. It gives them an inside look on the things we coach with the kids and what they’re learning.”
“Florida State is a national brand and I met a couple of participants today who were from Connecticut and Texas. That means a lot to see their support and interest.”
The game of football transcends among many generations, races and genders. The chance to show appreciation to the women that support the program was an opportunity Taggart and his staff didn’t want to pass up.
“Seeing so many passionate women about the game of football says a lot about them and their love for Florida State,” Taggart said.
“Julie Reed (Assistant Director of Operations) and I have done this at every stop and I think it’s great that we could come out here and teach them some things that they may not have already known.”
Taggart’s first few months in Tallahassee has seen an increased attention to outreach and interaction with the Seminole fan base.
From Booster Tour stops in various cities throughout the state of Florida, to events such as this one and the upcoming Junior Noles Camp, Taggart sees an opportunity to bring back the family atmosphere around the program and build enthusiasm prior to the game against Virginia Tech on Labor Day evening.
“Any great team that wins championships, I think you see a passionate fan base behind them. To me, from afar, that’s what I always thought Florida State was and it was a big reason why we won a lot around here,” Taggart said. “So many people are invested and passionate about Florida State football. So, it’s been great to give back and be around them all, to let them know they’re appreciated.”
If the beginning of his tenure is any indication, he’s succeeding in that goal.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, they’re (the coaching staff) a different type of people,” Duda said.
“I think they’re going to do great things for our young men with responsibility and discipline, but also enthusiasm.”