NFL’s first full-time female coach: I didn’t set out to be a ‘trailblazer’ (USA)
Kathryn Smith is no braggart. She’s focused on her work and shuns the spotlight. In fact, she’s hesitant to acknowledge the history she has made and the proverbial glass ceiling she has shattered.
But at just 32 years old, she has already broken through in the male-dominated National Football League, becoming the first woman to become a full-time assistant coach for the league.
“It’s crazy. It really is,” Smith says in CNN’s latest Boss Files with Poppy Harlow podcast. “You don’t set out to be a trailblazer, and I didn’t know that that’s where my path was going to lead me.”
During the 2016-2017 season, she served as Special Teams Quality Control Coach for the Buffalo Bills, preparing game plans and playbooks for the team. Often the only woman in the room during coach or player meetings, Smith notes, “It’s interesting because with the players there wasn’t a lot of focus… on gender at all.”
As a kid, Smith helped her father on the sidelines as he coached high school football.
“The sky is the limit. She’s pretty tough. She’s always going forward, never going backward,” her father Robert Smith, told The Fordham Observer during an August 2016 interview about his daughter’s work ethic. Smith was brought to tears hearing her father’s words read to her. “I didn’t know he said that… I’m really close with my dad, and he was just always so supportive.”
Both her parents told her and her brother they could accomplish the same things, equally, regardless of their gender. And that’s exactly how Smith says her fellow coaches and players treated her — as an equal.
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