When Fort Lewis College junior Averi Basso was looking for an internship this semester, her adviser suggested that she work the football team, focusing on recruiting compliance.
Basso, who plays lacrosse for the Skyhawks and wants to go into sports psychology after she graduates, took a chance. She said she likes football, noting that her dad played college ball and her brother plays college football. Being involved in the male-dominated sport made her a little nervous, but those worries soon faded away.
“I thought it was going to be intimidating, but it has been awesome,” Basso said. “All of the coaches are super-awesome and supportive of their female interns. It’s been a great environment to work in.”
Basso is one of three female interns in the program. Junior Madison Carlton, who also cheers for the Skyhawks, and senior cross-country and track runner Karla De La Cruz also intern with the team.
“They are working directly with me on day-to-day operations,” said FLC head coach Johnny Cox. In general, the interns have been helping with fundraising, recruiting athletes and taking them on campus tours; providing information to incoming freshmen; attending meetings and taking notes; and giving evaluations on potential players.
In the fall, incoming freshman Alyssa Johnson also will intern with the program. Johnson, who played football four years at Vista PEAK Prep in Aurora, is coming to Fort Lewis because she wants to coach football.
“I’m extremely excited,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping to learn how a football team is run; what offensive and defensive coordinators do and how to be a head coach.”
Johnson also wants to make connections to help her in the future. One of her connections, her former coach and current FLC defensive backs coach, Emmanuel Bible, helped persuade her to attend FLC.
In general, Cox said he’s starting to see more women involved with football programs. He called it “a sign of changing times.”
“I have four daughters, and when they were first born, I didn’t think they would be able to coach with me,” he said. “Now as times are changing, there’s a possibility I could coach with my daughters. People have unlimited possibilities when given an opportunity.”
Carlton grew up as a football fan and was excited to help out the Fort’s team. “I’m originally from Oklahoma, and football is a big part of life down there,” she said. “I felt it was a great opportunity when it presented itself. I really like it; it really opened my eyes to how much detail is in the program and how much the coaches put into it.”
Carlton, like Basso, wants to go into sports psychology.
“I want to go into sports psychology and focus on football – the mental health side and the nutritional side,” Carlton said. “I want to be another helping hand.”
She said FLC’s cheerleading program is “relatively similar” to football’s.
“They both run a pretty tight ship, and all of the athletes are pretty tight-knit,” she said.
In addition to attending meetings and taking notes and helping with gear, Carlton has been helping the team land recruits.
“If we’re not the first faces they see, we’re the second,” Carlton said. “We keep their packets together and take them on tours. We really want to get them here.”
De La Cruz, who is minoring in coaching, said the internship has helped her learn more about football and she “would love to coach” after she graduates.
“I love how different it is,” De La Cruz said. “In cross-country and track, all the coaches do is tell you to go run. Football is more complex.”
Basso, meanwhile, has been tasked with making a poster explaining why she as an athlete chose Fort Lewis.
The city of Durango itself, she said, is a big reason she chose Fort Lewis. “I left my visit thinking this is the place I’m supposed to be for college,” Basso said. “It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and meeting the girls on the team, it was just such a positive environment.”
Johnson, who described her former teammates as “a whole bunch of big brothers,” enjoys film analysis, looking for routes, protections, formations, motions and other team’s tendencies.
“We look for small things to give the defense an edge so they know what they’re looking for,” she said.
To be a successful lineman, she said, “it’s all about footwork and hand placement and using leverage,”
Cox said there is kind of a barrier for girls who want to get involved with football since most didn’t play the sport, but said, “There’s a lot of great coaches who are male who didn’t play football or weren’t very good.” He said players are open to advice from anyone as long as it makes them better.
“When you communicate clearly and concisely and you’re right, if you can help a player, they don’t care where the advice comes from,” Cox said.
The interns, he said, are really helping the program.
“When you give people an opportunity and they do well, it opens the door for the next person,” Cox said. “They’ve been an asset to the program, and I’m excited they’re taking advantage of this opportunity. They’re a part of the team.”