NFL Welcomes Kathryn Smith, League’s First Female Coach


Kathyrn Smith (right) pictured with referee Sarah Thomas and Bills owner Kim Pegula before their historic game in August. (COURTESY OF KIM PEGULA/TWITTER)


Right now, Kathryn Smith is not a household name, but it should be. Smith became the first full-time female coach in the National Foot- ball League (NFL) in January when she was promoted to the position of Special Teams Quality Control Coach (QCC) in January by the Buffalo Bills.

Smith is no stranger to the world of football; in 2007 she graduated from St. John’s Universi- ty with a degree in sports manage- ment and a minor in business. Her first experience with an NFL team began with the New York Jets in 2003 when she held the position of Game Day and Special Events Intern. In 2005, she transitioned to a college scouting position with the Jets, before moving to a full-time Player Personnel Assistant in 2007. It was not until this year that cur- rent Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan approached Smith with the oppor- tunity to become the Bills’ Quality Control Coach.

As the QCC, Smith is in charge of breaking down film, analyzing data, running ‘scout’ or secondary teams in practice and preparing her team for the tendencies of their next opponents. Smith spoke to reporters on June 15, months after her initial promotion, and recog- nized that this was an entry-level, stating: “I’m at the bottom of the totem pole, and I’m just trying to get my work done and do it as best as I possibly can.”While this position may not be the most influential on the team,it is clearly on pace to becomin ga recognized coach. Several NFL head coaches served as a QCC at one point in their careers, including former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden, former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley and former New York Jets and Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini, among others.

Smith is very comfortable on the sidelines of a football field, as she has been there in some capac- ity since high school. Where she helped her father keep track of stats on his team during games. When asked about how far she has come her father, Robert Smith, said “the sky’s the limit.” He continued by saying: “I think she’s prepared for it. She is pretty tough…. She is always going forward, never going back.”

Smith is one step closer to breaking the gender barrier in pro- fessional sports by joining an ever- growing list of important female coaches and figures in national leagues. Last year, Becky Hammon became the first female coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA), acting as both an assistant coach and summer league Head Coach for the San Antonio Spurs.

In October 2015, Justine Siegal as- sumed the role of Guest Instructor for the Oakland Athletics, which made her the first female coach in Major League Baseball (MLB). Smith is the second female coach in the NFL, but she is the first full- time coach after the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as a training camp intern coach last year.

When Welter was asked how she felt about Smith’s hiring she said that: “I’m happy that I was essen- tially a lead blocker, and I always knew other women would follow. I’m good with that.” Furthermore, on Saturday, Aug 20, the Bills and New York Giants faced each other in a preseason game, and it was the first game in the NFL to feature both a female coach, and a female official. While neither made an official statement after the game, it is clear that this was a historic game, and hopefully one that will become more frequent as teams hire more female coaches.

Colt Anderson, a safety for the Bills, recognized that this was the first female coach he had ever had. However Anderson said that Smith has “been great from day one,” con- tinuing on to say “she knows what she’s talking about. You ask her questions and she’s on top of her game. You’ve got to respect that.”

Smith wants people to recognize that she earned this position, and echoed this idea when she said: “It is a big deal, but I hope people see that I’ve gotten this far by working hard, and I’m going to continue do that and focus on the job.” Smith has been a part of the NFL for a long time and at the age of 31 clearly has a long career ahead of her.

Smith concluded her press conference by stating that “I might be the first [female coach], but I don’t think I’ll be the only one for very long.” Let’s hope that Smith is right and that the inclusion of more female coaches continues across all sports as teams and women continue to make history.