Browns coach Callie Brownson energizes the US national team

NORTH CANTON — Callie Brownson alternated between running and stepping back, spotting the ball and shouting instructions along the way.

While Brownson’s assistants worked from the sidelines during Friday night’s 11-on-11 practice at Walsh University, she was at the forefront of the practice field, realizing a dream as head coach of the 2022 US women’s national tackle team and navigating Players through the final phase of a grueling two-a-day marathon.

Sweat was dripping on a habanero-hot day, but Brownson never seemed to stop moving.

“I don’t need caffeine during the day,” Brownson told the Beacon Journal afterwards. “This opportunity kind of drives it all.”

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Brownson has played a key role for Browns coach Kevin Stefanski for the past two seasons, helping to plan and organize the day-to-day operations of the franchise as his chief of staff. She has also assisted in leading several positional groups on the field, adding the title of assistant wide receivers coach in February.

Seasoned players recovering from injuries, quarterbacks and rookies reported to Browns training camp Friday. They started field work on Saturday in Berea. The rest of the players are due to report on Tuesday and the first full-squad camp practice session will take place on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, Brownson began her first full-scale practice as head coach in North Canton on Friday after Stefanski gave her his blessing to lead the national team late last year.

“There’s been a lot of work and hard work that has gone into it on both the coaching and player sides since the March trials,” Brownson said, “so it’s incredible to be able to bring everything together and finally be in the same place.

“It’s great to be in this position [as a head coach], but I think it’s even better to be in this group in this position, which means a lot to me because of my time as a player. It is a good feeling.”

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The national team pulls out of training camp on Wednesday and flies to Vantaa, Finland, where they will compete in the International Federation of American Football Women’s Tackle World Championship, which runs from Thursday to August 8. The USA start their game in the round of 16. Team tournament on Saturday against Germany.

Brownson played wide receiver and safety for the Americans as they won gold medals in 2013 and 2017. They also captured gold in 2010 during the inaugural IFAF Women’s Tackle World Championship.

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USA’s status as winners of the previous three World Cups prompted Brownson to adopt the “gold standard” mantra for this year’s team.

“When I got the job, I had to come up with something that would make this national team different from everyone else,” said Brownson, 32. “For me, there have been three other national teams before them that have all won gold, so the standard is gold.

“It’s more than just ‘Hey, let’s get off the plane and get on the podium.’ For us, it’s in every little facet of what we do. Every single review, the classroom reviews we get, how we fuel our bodies, how we sleep, how we recover is a gold standard. It is the standard by which a person who deserves a gold medal acts, and all the small facets ultimately lead to the larger facets.”

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There’s no time to lose. The national team’s training camp lasts about a week before the start of the tournament. In other words, Brownson doesn’t have a month of training camp drills like NFL coaches to lay a foundation.

“It’s a tricky science, but ultimately the best thing about the game of football is that it shows identity,” Brownson said. “It shows who you are and we presented them with a lot of images and here is our mantra, here is what we are.

“We have a lot of leaders in a group like this when you talk about a national team taking the stuff and running with it. A lot of this is very strategic about messaging and then trusting that they will bring it to the field and then holding them accountable on the field.

Brownson said she already knows her team is “grainy” but is excited to see how the group fares in the short time before boarding their flight at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport this week.

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Meanwhile, Brownson has remained associated with the Browns to some degree, but she stressed her confidence in Chavis Cook’s ability to stand out as chief of staff in her absence. Cook — dubbed “the perfect guy for the job” by Brownson — is the team’s logistics coordinator.

“I juggle a little more [with the Browns], but I have to be honest, the crew covering for me while I’m away has been amazing,” Brownson said. “They were great. I get a text here and there with just an outlier question, and obviously I’m willing to help them out.

“I wasn’t trying to put her in a bad situation by leaving, so I’ll do whatever I can to help if I have the time. But that’s an incredible crew over there and I have all the confidence in the world that everything will go as it should.”

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Stefanski did not want Brownson to miss a chance to lead the national team, which is scheduled to attend a soccer clinic for girls ages 8 to 14 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Sports Complex on Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“In addition to the honor that comes with representing the United States, this is an exciting professional development opportunity that I encourage everyone on our coaching staff,” Stefanski said in December when Brownson’s pick as head coach was announced. “Callie and USA Football have our full support.”

Now is the time for USA to live up to the ‘gold standard’ championed by their coach.

“The energy has gone through the roof,” Brownson said.

And she has no interest in resting until the standard is met.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com.

On twitter: @ByNateUlrich.

US women's national tackle team head coach Callie Brownson won two gold medals as a player.  Now Cleveland Browns assistant coach Brownson is preparing the American women for the International Association of American Football Women's Tackle World Championship in Finland.  The team trains at Walsh University in North Canton.

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