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Guest post: Calipari Women’s Clinic was not nearly as special for a lot of reasons

Nick Richards makes his entrance at the Women’s Clinic Sunday. (Elizabeth Burton Photo)

Vaught’s note: Elizabeth Burton is a long-time Kentucky fan and regular participant at the John Calipari Women’s Clinic. She was not overly happy with the clinic this year for various reasons and offered to share some of her insights from Sunday night’s event in Memorial Coliseum.

By ELIZABETH BURTON, Contributing Writer

Overall, the clinic this year was a disappointment compared to prior years. Here’s why:

1. Ticket prices went up this year. The price of the camp was $110 and the price of the signed basketball was $60. If you wanted an extra basketball, you had to note that on your registration, but it was not guaranteed. I had ordered an extra basketball with my registration on Oct. 4th, but did not receive it. Instead, on Oct. 25th, I got a notice from the ticketing system that the extra ball I ordered was cancelled. My niece, however, did receive extra basketballs.

2. Communications about the event were not good. The event was announced very late, and I never received any emails, other than registration, confirming the event, providing directions, etc. My niece did receive a confirmation on Oct 23. I checked all my SPAM folders, and I never received one. It would have been nice if UK had posted info about parking, etc. in its Facebook page or social media.

3. The event was moved to Memorial Coliseum. Although Memorial has a lot of history, it was disappointing compared to going to Rupp Arena, seeing the locker rooms, the old floor, etc. At the end of the camp, John Calipari said next year it would be moved back to Rupp. Unfortunately, this year there were multiple scheduling conflicts. Women were very happy to hear it would move back to Rupp.

4. The time of the clinic was terrible, especially for those that are coming in from out of town. The time of the camp was 6-9 p.m. on a Sunday. There are multiple problems with this, but overall, I believe it impacted the energy of the camp. Most of the attendees, coaches, staff, etc. seemed extremely tired. I had to drive 1.5 hours to get there, and by the time I got home it was 11 p.m. For women who have children, particularly single parents, this is a burden in terms of finding childcare and/or getting kids ready for school the next day. 

5. We had less time with coaches and players that any of the other clinics I attended. The photo opp with coach Calipari and (his wife) Ellen was extremely rushed. In the past we were able to exchange pleasantries (for example, last year I got to wish coach Cal good luck and got a hug from Ellen), this year, we didn’t even get to make eye contact. It was extremely impersonal and rushed, although efficient. One of the things I loved most about the clinic in previous years is that you had the 1:1 interaction that made the clinic more special than other paid events. The only time we saw coach Cal during the clinic was the photo opp, brief intro remarks and brief wrap up. Other clinics, he was much more involved.

We saw the players only twice: at the beginning of the clinic when they were introduced and they did a quick 6-minute transition drill, and then at the end for a rushed photo opp. The group photo was done at the end of the night. My nieces ended up leaving before getting their photo with the team because the event ran so late (they drove in from Bowling Green). In previous years, we actually got to MEET the players, which made the clinic so special. One year, women actually got chosen form the crowd to do some instructional drills with the players. There was absolutely no interaction with the players this year and it really took away from the special nature of this event.

6. The emcee (I believe his name was Will) was absolutely awful. We could not understand a word that he said, and he lacked the energy to got the crowd going that we’ve had in the past. In the past, we had inspiring speeches from coach Cal, coach Robic, etc. That was completely lacking this time. 

7. Women at the clinic were given a wristband when they arrived, and were divided into three groups. The groups rotated between stations: 1. Memorial Gym (Q&A with assistant coaches); 2. Men’s gym (Maria Taylor and Holly Rowe/Tour Marksbury Player Suite); and 3. Women’s Gym (Robert Harris – Strength and Conditioning). I made a decision to stay at the Memorial Gym — I was tired and would rather spend time with the UK coaches. The Q&A was OK, although it was hard to understand the coaches at times. Not sure if it was the PA system that was the issue, but it was very difficult to hear them.

8. I was starving! My understanding from other clinic attendees is that there was food available for those who arrived early in the registration process. However, by the time my family and I arrived (still within the registration window), got through the signing line with coach Cal, there was no food. No concessions were open during the clinic. There was free water and soda available, but it was HOT — like it had been sitting out in the sun — and no ice. I drank hot water. By the time I left, I was practically sick from no food and hot water.

9. We were shown the Bahamas recap video and a hype video — similar to what we see posted on social media. There wasn’t anything real unique about them. For example, one of the years I attended the women’s clinic, we actually got to see the recruitment video.

10. One of the most important aspects of this event, as with previous clinics, was a donation was made to the Markey Cancer Center from clinic proceeds. This year it was $10,000. This was unchanged from previous years.

At the end of the clinic, coach Cal spoke to the group and asked if everyone enjoyed the event. The response was tepid — it was obvious there was some disappointment in the room. Coach Cal admitted that they had a difficult time scheduling the event. In my mind, this no doubt impacted the content and energy of this year’s event. It felt and looked thrown together. With the increase in ticket prices, I had expected more, not less.

I love going to the women’s clinic and I love supporting the Markey Cancer Center. But unless they bring back all the things that make the clinic special, I’m not sure I will go next year. I love my UK Wildcats — so I may change my mind! 

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