Kathryn Smith Makes History as the NFL’s First Female Full-Time Coach

In recent sports news, the Buffalo Bills have become the first team in NFL history to hire a female full-time coach. Kathryn Smith has just been promoted to a full-time special teams quality control coach for the Bills, and the team has high hopes for her success.

Smith’s new position will mostly entail the analysis of data and film. She will also sometimes be participating in running “scout” team practices. News sources say that this position could provide a gateway into a future head coach position. Currently, there are no female head coaches in the NFL.

Kathryn Smith is no newcomer to the NFL. She began her career with the New York Jets as a special events intern while still enrolled in college in 2003. After graduating in 2007, she became a full-time personnel assistant for the Jets. She then became an assistant to head coach Rex Ryan, formerly of the New York Jets, now of the Buffalo Bills.

In 2014, Ryan moved from coaching the New York Jets to coaching the Buffalo Bills. Smith followed him over to his new team, and before this recent promotion, was employed as an administrative assistant. 

On Smith’s promotion, Head Coach Ryan stated:

“Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff. She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities… She has proven that she’s ready for the next step, so I’m excited and proud for her with this opportunity.”

Ryan also announced that Smith will be working with special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, as well as special teams assistant Eric Smith, in her new position.

NFLFirstFemaleCoach_640x359It’s no secret that positions in the NFL are dominated by men. There is only one other female coach in the entire NFL — Jen Welter was hired in 2015 to be a training camp/preseason intern coach by the Arizona Cardinals. Also in 2015, Sarah Thomas was hired as the NFL’s first full-time female official. Of all the principal owners and individuals holding “significant ownership stakes” in the NFL, only 13 are women. 

In other professional sports leagues, the state of affairs as far as female hires is not very different. The NBA has two female coaches, and the MLB and MLS have none. These associations have, by many, historically been called a “man’s game.” However, today, women are beginning to change the score.

The Buffalo Bills have been at the forefront of hiring women for many years — although the numbers are still miniscule. In 1986, the team hired Linda Bogdan as the first female scout in the NFL. Now, the Buffalo Bills are being widely celebrated by fans for hiring Kathryn Smith, a move which may potentially pave the way for more women in the coaching department. 

Kim Pegula, co-owner of the Buffalo Bills, however, cautions fans that Smith was hired based on her accomplishments, and not because she is a woman. On the Buffalo Bills’ decision, Pegula said:

“While we understand the significance of this announcement, it’s important to understand that Kathryn earned this position because she has shown she is qualified, dedicated and puts in the work needed for this role.”

Do you think there will soon be a female head coach in the NFL, or do you think this breakthrough is still years away? We welcome your thoughts!

-Tanya Rakhmilevich

Tanya is a writer at The Alternative Daily with a passion for meditation, music, poetry, martial arts, and overall creative and active living. She has a special interest in exploring traditional Eastern remedies and superfoods from around the globe. Currently, she and her son live in Wisconsin, where they enjoy spending time immersed in nature.


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