Ask any Fordham student what they do at 3:30 on a weekday afternoon, and most students would tell you they are either in class, in the cafeteria, or in bed. But if you ask any of the members of the Women’s Basketball “Scout Squad,” they’d tell you that they are in the Rose Hill Gym, helping the best basketball team on campus get even better.
“Scout” is a group of seven students, all males, who compete against the girls for the last hour of practice, assuming the role of the Rams’ upcoming opponent. “We’re here to help them win,” says junior Scout member Tommy Mahony. “It’s a collective effort.”
The goal of the Scout Squad is to prepare the girls for the toughness and physicality that they will see in games. As senior Scout member Jake Steiss explains, “We are supposed to emulate the other team’s offenses and play at a higher level of intensity and speed than the other team is going to play, so the girls are ready for their opponent.” Coach Whitney Coleman, the team’s video coordinator, is in charge of organizing and coaching the Scout Squad. He believes that the competition and energy of the guys really bring out the best in the girls, saying, “The Scout Squad guys bring a bunch of energy to practice each day and that helps the team play at a higher level. Competing at a higher level on a day-to-day basis has made our players tougher and much more prepared to be successful in the Atlantic-10.”
Rams’ Senior guard Abigail Corning knows that the girls are at a disadvantage physically against guys, which forces them to improve on other facets of their game. “They are stronger and quicker than most of the girls we play, so we learn to play disciplined basketball against them; play smarter than them.” Steiss begrudgingly agrees, saying with a smirk, “the girls are significantly smarter than us.”
While they are friends off the court, don’t think for a second that either side takes it easy on the opposite gender. To emulate the in-game atmosphere, score is kept for every competition, and both teams are wary of the scoreboard as the time winds down. The guys don’t want to hear about how they lost to a group of girls, and the girls don’t want to hear about how a Division 1 team lost to a bunch of college kids. As Corning puts it, “On the court, it’s pure competition, but off the court we’re all friends. It’s disappointing when they beat us in drills and scrimmages, but it makes the times we beat them that much more special.” And if you ask the guys, those victories by the girls don’t come all too often. “I’d say 2/3 of the time we win,” says junior Scout member Cam Smith with a laugh. Both sides love to battle each other on the court, and many girls say it is their favorite part of practice, mostly because of the competitiveness.
A year after finishing their best season in 30 years and the second best record in school history, the Rams are back this year looking to improve on last year’s record-setting season. Corning says that much of their success hinges on the Scout Squad: “Scout Squad helps us so much… We learn a lot from our experience playing against them. They’re a great group of guys and they love helping us get better.” Steiss says it is a rewarding experience for the guys too. They feel a responsibility to these girls; it is their job to make sure that the girls are playing at the highest level they are capable of. “You feel like you’re helping the girls get better,” says Steiss. “If they lose and they got out-rebounded, I kind of feel responsible, like I should have crashed (the boards) a little harder in practice.”
While the guys agree that Scout Squad is a great experience, it is not for everyone. Some guys don’t feel comfortable playing against girls. It is a selfless job, for these guys don’t get much recognition for the work that they put in every day. But when they see the girls perform and find success like last year, it makes it all worth it. When asked if they felt responsible for last year’s success, senior Scout member Sam Budlong responded with an answer that embodies the Scout Squad mindset: “I felt more privileged to be a part of it. Privileged and proud.”