NFL Evolving: Buffalo Bills Hire League's First Female Coach

NFL Evolving: Buffalo Bills Hire League’s First Female Coach

The Buffalo Bills did a notable  thing yesterday: they hired Kathryn Smith as the first paid female coach (an Assistant Coach) in NFL history. This pre-season, the Arizona Cardinals had Jen Welter on staff, essentially as an intern, and her employment ended with the pre-season. Kathryn Smith, on the other hand, is now the full-time Quality Control Assistant to the Buffalo Bills. This title might seem like a made up one to create great public relations, but it’s actually an entry level position where coaches often start their careers.

The quality control position is in charge of charting the tendencies of the opposing coach. This job requires long hours of watching film in order to discern the tendencies, which makes it a perfect job for learning. Notable former quality control coaches include Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden of  the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Todd Haley, now offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers and former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Tony Sparano, former Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Hiring Illustrates The Importance of Title IX

This is only a first step, but it’s a step that shows the importance of programs like Title IX, which improved women’s access to sports. Title IX was enacted in 1972. It forbade gender-based exclusion of participation at all federally funded colleges and universities. This law has often taken a beating on sports talk shows because it requires athletic departments to fund sports like women’s softball in order to counterbalance men’s football, which generates revenue. What’s lost on these critics, though, is that universities are the crucibles for future contributors to our society, not merely platforms for sports entertainment. And since Title IX was enacted, women’s and girl’s participation in sports is up 990%.

The hiring of Kathryn Smith as the NFL’s first female coach can be dismissed as too small of a step, or an attempt to curry favorable PR. Both views are too cynical. This may be a small step forward, but it’s a step none the less. And the thousand mile journey of bringing women onto the hallowed fields of men’s sports begins with one step, no matter how small it may be.

Featured image: screenshot, courtesy of Dailymotion.

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