The sport of American football in the National Football League (NFL) is played by men. But more women are now teaching and training players how to do their jobs better as coaches.
Last Sunday, two women coaches became Super Bowl champions when their team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, won the NFL championship game.
Maral Javadifar is a strength coach. She helps players exercise so they can stay fit during the season. If a player gets hurt, she helps them recover. Lori Locust is a defensive line coach. She works to help players on the first line of defense against the other team. They work as assistant coaches under Bruce Arians, the head coach of the Buccaneers.
Cindy Boren is a sports reporter for The Washington Post. She recently wrote about Javadifar and Locust. She said those women and others have the ability to coach the men.
“Bruce Arians’ opinion on women and coaching is that if you can teach, you can coach. And he feels that it was more than time for women to be on the staff. And you know, he hired the first one, Jen Welter, back five years ago, when he was the head coach in Arizona.”
The Buccaneers coaches were not the first women to coach in the NFL championship game. The first female coach in the Super Bowl was actually Katie Sowers of the San Francisco 49ers, whose team lost to Kansas City in 2020.
In other sports, more women are now coaching men as well.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a large number of women assistant coaches, including Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs.
Hammon was a player with the San Antonio Stars in the WNBA. The WBNA is a league for female players founded by the NBA. One year, Hammon could not play after an injury. So she started helping the Spurs during some of their practices.
After Hammon stopped playing professional basketball, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich offered her a job as an assistant coach. In late December, Popovich was ejected partway through a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Hammon made history when she took over the team for the rest of the game.
Other NBA teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks also have women coaches.
Lindsey Harding, a former WNBA player, is now a coach with the Sacramento Kings. She told ESPN that women are often afraid of not being accepted by the players. But in her experience, she said, the players “aren’t the problem at all.”
Boren, the sports reporter, said the high-level college and professional leagues in women’s basketball make it easier for the men to accept the women. They respect their credentials. She noted that the NBA is probably the first league that will have a female head coach.
“I think the attitudes toward women are a little more advanced, a little more liberated than in football. As a female sports writer, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard ‘well, you never played the game, what do you know?’ Well, you know, it doesn’t really matter. And I think the NBA’s a little more evolved on that and a little more open to it.”
Women coaches are less involved in other professional sports.
The first woman to coach in a Major League Baseball game appeared during an exhibition game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics in July 2020. Alyssa Nakken, of the Giants, appeared on the field as the first base coach.
Jill Ellis coached the USA Women’s Soccer team to victory in the two most recent World Cups. She was considered a candidate to be the coach for D.C. United of Major League Soccer last winter. But she was not chosen for the men’s team.
In England, Emma Hayes is the manager for Chelsea’s women’s team. She is one of the most successful managers in the Women’s Super League.
Hayes was recently asked if she wanted to coach a men’s team. She said she is already happy coaching some of the best players in the world and is not looking for a new job.
Boren said Hayes makes a good point. Why take a job with a team that does not often win just to make headlines? She compared the world champion women’s soccer team in the U.S. with the men’s team which did not make the last World Cup.
“I mean the men’s national team may bring in money, but how often do they win? They don’t. The U.S. Women’s National Team has been a proven winner for years. You know, it is a juggernaut. And why would you not want to be part of that?”
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
coach- n. a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer
staff- n. a group of people who work for an organization or business
league –n. a group of sports teams that play against each other
eject- v. to force someone to leave something
credential- n. a person who makes, does, or discovers something new and makes it acceptable or popular
liberated- adj. freed from or opposed to traditional social and sexual attitudes or ways of behaving
evolve- v. to change or develop slowly often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state : to develop by a process of evolution
exhibition- n. a public display of athletic skill; often used to note a game that is not official
manager- n. someone who directs the training and performance of a sports team
juggernaut- n. something (such as a force, campaign, or movement) that is extremely large and powerful and cannot be stopped