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More stories from Nicole Bellford
March 14, 2017
Female Blugold football recruiter aspires to join the big leagues despite being a part of male-dominated realm
While the typical child may rush to the television for a glimpse of Saturday morning’s cartoon specials, sophomore marketing student Sydney Yantes said she preferred a different kind of program as a kid — college football.
“Growing up, it started as just a way to bond with my dad,” Yantes said. “It turned into a passion basically as soon as I understood it (football), and I started watching games all day. It didn’t matter who was playing, I just loved the game.”
Throughout her youth, Yantes said she quickly surpassed football fandom and entered the realm of expertise. She recalls attending all her high school football team’s games, often being the one to explain what was happening on the field to the players’ girlfriends and receiving the nickname “coach” from her friends.
Yantes carried that passion from her childhood and has transformed it into a career goal, currently serving as a part of UW-Eau Claire’s football recruitment staff, filming games for review and providing campus tours to recruits and their families.
Earning that position was no simple feat, however.
Yantes said she had an original plan in high school to attend UW-River Falls, the Blugolds’ “war on I-94” football rivals but had an underwhelming experience when the dean shut down her proposal to be on the university’s football staff.
Although upset from an unsuccessful visit, Yantes said she kept moving forward and decided to take a chance on Eau Claire. At her tour, the sophomore recalls taking her first stroll across the footbridge and immediately feeling “at home” on the campus.
Yantes said she got to meet with the football team and felt connected right away. Although Eau Claire doesn’t have a sports marketing program, Yantes said the team understood and accepted her desire to be a part of the team as a way to incorporate athletics into her marketing degree.
While the majority of her freshman year revolved around recording stats and making excel sheets for the team, Yantes said she came into sophomore year under a new head coaching staff, hopeful to earn a title that allowed for more involvement with the team.
“When coach Larson came in, I walked into his office and told him I would basically do anything to be a part of this team,” Yantes said. “I even said I would fill up water bottles.”
Yantes said the beginning of the season was a little intimidating, walking into training with around 100 players. She said head coach Larson made her comfortable from the get go, however, as he immediately spoke to the players about respecting the entire Blugold football “family.”
While Yantes said the Blugold football players and coaches have easily accepted her, she has experienced adversity among other schools, being of a minority gender in a male-dominated arena.
“I remember getting ready to film for a game and the other team’s coach asked who was filming, and when he saw I was a girl, he was like, ‘seriously?’” Yantes said.
Yantes said she tries to not let others’ attitudes bother her, but instead uses it as motivation to prove them wrong. She said people often change their tune once they realize how much she actually knows about football.
She recalled a specific instance in which she gave a tour to a prospective player and his family and began talking specifics with the player about his skills. Upon the topic of the recruit’s position, Yantes said the player backtracked to ensure she actually knew what his position was.
“I was like, ‘yeah I know what it is,’” Yantes said. “He was embarrassed at first, but we laughed about it and I think he could tell that I actually knew what I was talking about.”
Yantes said the recruit has since committed to Blugold football, and he mentioned during his commitment that his tour experience was a positive one, thanks to her.
Assistant Coach Zak Pfeffer said he admires the way Yantes has jumped into her position, maintaining a dedicated attitude throughout her time with Blugold football.
“From the start, she has shown she really wants to be here,” Pfeffer said. “She made a commitment to really step out of her comfort zone being involved with touring and communicating with recruits and their families, and it’s just awesome to have her around.”
In the long run, Yantes said she hopes her talent will earn her a paid recruiting job with a Division One football team, such as Boise State, which happens to be home to her favorite college football team. She said she would never be where she is today without the huge support of her family, who have always told her that if anyone is going to be a female recruiter, it’s her.
Overall, she said she will keep pushing toward her goals despite anyone else’s doubts.
“There’s always those people that say what I’m doing is crazy,” Yantes said. “But to them, I just say ‘watch me.’”