I was laying down and watching my new favorite show “Billions,” when a notification came through my phone that the Buffalo Bills have hired Kathryn Smith as a quality control person for their special teams unit. The significance is that she is the first full time female coach in the NFL.
Jen Welter broke the barrier as the first female coach invited to intern and Kathryn has pushed that barrier another step further. Her position itself is not glamorous. It is essentially a position that requires breaking down hours and hours of film to critique and analyze special teams performance. However, it is a foot in the door position for her to learn in.
Personally, this news was exciting. Having played for now 10 seasons, and loved the game my entire life, seeing these women push the boundaries again and again, is both validating and motivating. Every step we take at this point is a milestone. To be on the ground floor of that work is exhilarating.
I use the term “we” because whether you are a female player, coach, ref, administrator, or media member, we are all doing our part to try to eradicate the football gender divide. For that matter we are fighting for the entire realm of female sports in general. We applaud you US World Cup team!
My high was quickly crashed when I made the mistake of being curious and reading the comments section on the article. Now, I really should know better. I have written time and again how our society has created a monster in the abyss of social media comment sections. If you want to see the seedy side of human nature, go to YouTube or Facebook and read comments on anything, especially if it’s controversial. It will make you lose faith in humanity and want to take several showers.
My curiosity was not disappointed in the comments were even worse then I thought. Thousands of comments read things like; she should make the sandwiches, she is a sexual harassment case waiting to happen, she couldn’t possibly coach men, football is a man’s sport, go back into the kitchen, she must have pretty feet, etc.
As someone who has sacrificed blood, sweat, tears, and more to play the sport I love and try to pave an easier path for later generations, it is infuriating. I am a laid back person but I had to take deep breaths and walk away from my phone.
Many of these comments were from people who firstly didn’t actually read the article or see how she is actually highly qualified and others who just made crazy assumptions.
I have learned the hard way that it is best to not directly engage. Due to the nature of their comments, these are not reasonable people and trying to reason with unreasonable people is like running your head into a wall over and over again and getting nothing out of it.
It is tough because my personality is very protective. I protect the people I love and the things I care about.
On the other hand, I also don’t think the general public realizes how bad it is. If you think about it, men get paid millions to wake up and train. They get attention whether they like it or not and for good reasons or bad. We worship male athletes from a young age and this has created a bunch of problems. That is a whole blog post in itself.
Because we worship male athletes so much, I don’t think the general public realizes how tough it is for the female athletes. We have to work so hard to get any attention or respect. We have made progress but it has been slow and painful.
I decided that I would expose these comments. So I screenshot a few examples of the comments and posted them on Facebook.
I wanted to prove a point. I wanted to show people how ugly this societal flaw can be so they can gain some insight on why we work so damn hard. I don’t wish to expose individuals but I do wish to expose a sentiment. By exposing this to light, we can then deal with it and try to learn with it.
I then went to work and had the reaction I was looking for to my post. People were aghast and angry. It got people talking about it. Talking is a good thing.
Work was very busy today so I was cut off a bit from social media until I saw notification that something was going on with a radio guy in Cleveland.
A radio host named Kevin Kiley went on a rant on the hiring. He stated such gems as:
“There’s no place for a woman in professional sports, in football coaching men.”
“If you have 10 men playing on special teams, eight of them will be mumbling under their breath,” Kiley said. “It’s counterproductive. You’re setting her up to fail.”
“Women are intellectual, smarter, more clever. They’re intellectual beings,” he said. “They have to be in order to overcome the physical advantage of men. Football is about physical advantage.
“She couldn’t possibly be qualified to the same level that a man could be qualified to [coach football]”
“When you stand next to a woman are you bigger and stronger? Do you have the ability to impose your will physically on most people? Women don’t have that.”
I’d like to thank Kevin for his ignorance because he is waking up apathetic bystanders by his lazy opinion. Yes, I said lazy. It takes no effort to make assumptions based off of ancient thinking. In order to actually do his job of reporting and forming an educated opinion, he would have to do research on female coaches and athletes in football.
Maybe he had a busy week? Who knows. The result is the same. People are furious with him and coming to Kathryn’s aid.
I’d like to address his comments because I find it fun to shoot down such weak arguments. I’ll be Mutumbo standing at the rim and sending them back into eternity, wagging my finger, and saying “not in my house.”
Firsly, there is “no place for women in professional sports?” Has he seen Serena, Venus, Ronda, and Britney Griner? These women are incredible. I hate to also break it to him that there are females all over the front offices of professional teams. Women own teams. That argument is invalid.
“No women belong in football.” Womens football has actually been around close to 100 years. Please reference my previous blog post on a quick history. Also, please try to tell me that as a middle linebacker and a veteran of 10 seasons that I don’t belong in football. Please also try to tackle Jessica Springer. Let me tell you it’s not easy. You want to try to rush Sami Grisafi? Not happening. Try to catch the speed of a Rachel Gore when she scrambles? Good luck. There are some serious athletes in our sport.
“Women can’t coach men.” Please. Your mother is a woman and she coached you as a child. Women coach men just fine. If you have experience it doesn’t matter where the instruction is coming from. The information is the valid key. Jen Welter did just fine. Becky Hamon does just fine with the Spurs. If you have a problem listening to a woman who is in authority it has nothing to do with that woman.
“Football is about physical advantage.” This proves you have no knowledge of football. Football is way more mental than physical. It is a game of waring over terrain. It is chess in motion. You are constantly checking to find advantages and seeking weaknesses. You counter. They counter. You counter their counter.
Football is the most analytical and mental sport I’ve played. Women are intellectual and therefore it is right in our wheelhouse.
Every coach I’ve had that coached men, prefers to coach women because we learn faster. We ask why, we pick up concepts, and we don’t think we know it all. We are sponges and like when we are children, women mature at a faster rate.
“She couldn’t possibly be qualified to coach men.” What the hell is qualified? She has been around the game 13 years. Also, you don’t need to play to coach. Please do actually make an effort to research in your reporting and tell me the percentage of coaches in NFL who haven’t played. It’s high. Not everyone is meant to play, just like everyone wasn’t meant to coach. The two aren’t a 100 percent match in skill set.
“She can’t be physically imposing. ” Excuse me. Where in the job description does it say physically imposing? How many NFL coaches are physically imposing? Does Chip Kelly scare you? Pete Carroll is kind of skinny. I mean you, yourself are not scary looking. Does this mean you too can’t coach? I wasn’t aware that the Hulk was the best coach of all time. Maybe he can fix my 49ers.
Thank you Kevin for instigating discussion based upon your lazy reporting. I will send you flowers when a female becomes a position coach, a coordinator, and later a head coach.
The point of my blog post is to bring attention to this issue. It’s what I fight every day that I put pads on. I can’t wait until the day we look at women as athletes, coaches, and refs, and reflect on their performance and not gender.
On that day, I’ll flex in the mirror in my best Hulk impression so I can become a better coach.