opinion

EDITORIAL: Where are all of the female NFL coaches?



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This week, Condoleezza Rice responded to rumors of her candidacy for a coaching position with the Cleveland Browns. Although the Browns denied this was ever a possibility, Rice still took the moment of publicity to vouch for women coaches in the NFL. 

Rice advocated for increasing involvement of women in coaching, stating that one does not need to play the game to understand or motivate players. She has a point. How many people watch NASCAR but have never driven a car above 90 miles per hour? Coaching does not require being on the field.

While football has always been deemed a “man’s” sport, that does not mean women do not enjoy and even participate. In recent years some high schools and college football teams have allowed female players, albeit garnering criticisms. 

Some arguments for exclusion of women in football have included concerns about injuries, the existence of “girl equivalent” sports and blatant misogyny. While it might be fair to assume that a high school girl will be smaller in size than her male counterpart, this justification for exclusion of women ignores the ability of female athletes to be just as strong, fast and committed as male athletes. 

Even more preposterous than believing women cannot play football is the notion that women cannot coach football either — to which the Editorial Board says, why not?

While Rice may not have been qualified to be a coach for the Browns, that does not mean that other women won’t be. 

Coaching does not necessarily require a long career playing the sport. Unarguably first-person playing experience does increase knowledge of the game and strategy, but being a football player is not required for someone to know the rules and run good plays. 

The irony in all of this is that the only reason female NFL coaches may not have experience playing the game is because in the majority of youth, collegiate and professional football programs do not allow women to participate.  

Three years ago, in 2015, the NFL hired their very first woman coach. Jennifer Welter, linebacker coach for the Arizona Cardinals, previously played football and is one of only few women who have ever played for men’s professional teams. In this case, Welter does have the gameplay experience critics are looking for. The only issue seems to be that she is, in fact, a woman. 

At the time of Welter’s hiring, then-head coach Bruce Arians defended Welter and his decision regarding hiring a woman coach by saying, “I think it’s about time. Jen is a quality coach. She has earned this.”

More coaches should express and act in accordance with this sentiment. Gender does not determine your love for the game, your understanding of the rules or your worth as an athlete. Therefore, gender should never determine what jobs you cannot have. 

If you were to ask athletes about what makes their coach great, it’s likely that you would hear characteristics such as fierceness and the ability to encourage players, as well as good teaching ability and understanding of the game. None of these things have any ties to gender. 

Women are more capable than the NFL has given them credit for. It’s about time for them to be allowed to showcase that.  

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