Women Can Win: Changing The Gender Composition Of The NFL And College Football
While the NBA, NHL, MLB, and a number of other professional sports leagues have come to a halt amidst the global pandemic, this interruption has made room for athletes that linger in the shadows of such a vast sports industry. After state and federal demands shut down arenas, gyms, parks, and other facilities for organized sports, we ask, what is left? While we may feel stripped of our daily routine, we are afforded the time to look past major sports leagues and identify activities that we can still take part in, and maybe even stumble across some unknown legends.
The NFL is starting to change the rules. In February of 2020, Tennessee Titans Head Coach, Mike Vrabel, Washington Redskins Head Coach, Ron Rivera, and San Francisco 49ers General Manager, John Lynch sat on a panel at the 3rd annual Women’s Careers in Football Forum in Indianapolis, IN. These three men sat in front of nearly 40 women who were given the opportunity to ask questions and gain insight into how to further their careers in the college level and the NFL.
The NFL describes this forum as one that “educates and connects” women who are
highly qualified to pursue careers in football and gives them a platform to interact with coaches, executives, and general managers at the collegiate and professional levels. From 2017 to 2018, 26 women who attended the forum earned positions within the NFL, and that number continues to climb as these women prove to the world that their gender has no bearing on their ability to coach or manage, but ultimately, win. This forum, along with the support of men who are fortunate enough to already hold high positions in football, has dramatically increased the number of women who desire a career in football.
Dartmouth College head coach, Buddy Teevens, was the first in Division I college football to hire a female coach for his staff. “People think it’s going to be shockingly different,” he said in an interview with SB Nation, “there’s no difference.” Callie Brownson has in fact proved to him that there is no difference. Her display of excellence at Dartmouth in the 2018 and 2019 seasons allowed her to break through yet another barrier in 2020 when she was named as Chief of Staff for the Cleveland Browns.
Brownson referred to the football hiring process as a “vicious cycle,” in an interview with SB–but she was sure to counter with the sentiment that things can also change very quickly with the help of men like Coach Teevens. Men who are willing to create opportunities for experience and exposure for women who are interested in careers in football.
All coaches, whether in the NFL or NCAA, are quick to admit that winning is the top priority–that’s what keeps coaches around. What the football community has doubted for a long time is that women can contribute to the success of the team without ever having played the sport. It is clear, however, that the NFL and NCAA are beginning to realize the value that women can bring to the table.