By: Mary Thurman
For the longest time, N.F.L. football has been run by men and in my opinion has not really been accepting of anything that steps outside that comfort zone. The league is now requiring at least one woman to be interviewed for any executive position openings in the league office, stated by Roger Goodell (Belson, 2016). Since this has been a man’s sport for so long, it is hard to change that perspective and allow females to take on more executive positions and potentially be the future of N.F.L. But, if female coaches are getting the job done and doing just as good as male coaches, then why not hire them?
Just last year, the Arizona Cardinals employed Jen Welter as the first female coach for training camp and the N.F.L. hired Sarah Thomas as a first full-time female referee. Also, the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith last month as a special teams quality control coach (Belson, 2016). I do think in years to come that there will be more female leaders in the N.F.L., however, right now the N.F.L. and its teams have been slow to hire women for coaching jobs (Belson, 2016). I believe if you have the passion for the job, the background and experience the team is looking for, as a player and a coach, then does it really matter who gets chosen to coach an N.F.L. team.
“Belson stated that, over all, 30 percent of the 330 employees at league headquarters are women, while 30 out of the 120 executive positions, or 25 percent, are held by women.”
Certainly the N.F.L. has been dominated by hegemonic masculinity. Communication scholar, Nick Trujillo, defined hegemonic masculinity as “the culturally idealized form of masculine character.” The qualities of this idealized form of masculine character include the ability to be tough and competitive. Trujillo discusses the different features of hegemonic masculinity, two of which relate to the objectivity of women holding positions within the N.F.L. The first feature is physical force and control in which men are seen as the physical holders of power over women (Trujillo, 1991). The superiority of men becomes naturalized because women are seen as subordinate, according to Connell (1983). “The male body represents power and power itself is masculinized as physical strength, force, speed, control, toughness, and domination” (Trujillo, 1991). The second feature is occupational achievement in which capitalistic achievement and division of labor takes place, as well as the separation of gender in the workplace. For the longest time we as individuals classified certain jobs as men’s work and other jobs as women’s work, however, nowadays there is not a separation of gender in the workplace. If a female wants to run for an executive position in the N.F.L., she has the experience, and is good at what she does then she should get hired.
Many people question what would a woman coaching in the N.F.L. bring to the team? To the game? I feel as if they could bring a lot to the team and game. According to stereotypes, when a female coach comes along with a caring or empathetic attitude, the players will see it as more of a weakness. This is so beyond far from the truth. Having women as coaches could be a beneficial thing because they have a natural empathetic tendency, which could potentially make them good at recognizing player’s strengths and weaknesses. Players would need to change their attitude about that weakness and the strength of the female’s empathetic ability could be put to good use. The quote listed below supports this stereotype and is relevant to the natural ability of female coaches being useful to the N.F.L.
According to Kenneth Avery, “Female coaches are superior listeners. No matter what you say or how you say it, they will remember each syllable, so that can work in your favor. If you, the professional player, is accused by another player on your team, in a sit-down discussion with your female coach, she will surely know the truth from a fabrication when she hears it. Count on it, bud” (2015).
Additionally, aptitude for football strategy is not a gender specific phenomenon and women have the potential to be just as good or better at game planning or calling plays. I personally think this change will come eventually; it is bound to happen one of these days. In an article about Jen Welter, she stated that for an NFL team to have brought a woman into the coaching ranks speaks volumes (Welter, 2015). The reason it speaks volumes is because it is such an influential action of great significance with the potential to result in a change on an institutional level. Welter also states in her article, that her approach to the way she instructs players may take away a little bit of that head-to-head male competition. “Welter wants to help guys realize that football is as mental as it is physical and that she is invested in their future. When guys know they are cared about as a person, and not just a player or a commodity, they will absolutely play harder” (2015).
On the contrary, I do think by having female coaches in the N.F.L. will almost be a challenge and awkward at times. Most N.F.L. coaches have played football, therefore, how many women have a career in football? Since most of the male coaches for these N.F.L. teams have played in the N.F.L. at some point in their lives, they can relate much more than a female who is just thrown into coaching. I think this is the main challenge/hardship for women as coaches because by them not having much experience of playing football, it can ultimately lead for a lack of respect towards female coaches. On top of that, starting out they would have to gain respect from the players and that is not as easy being a female coach, especially since you are coaching over fifty men on a team. Most players may not think that women could know what they are possibly talking about or what they go through since that female coach has never been in that position. It may be a challenge for female coaches but eventually they will gain respect from the team, especially if they are getting the job done and have knowledge on what they are doing.
Another point in why it would be a challenge for females to be coaches for the N.F.L. is behind the scenes, such as the locker room. Having a male coach in the locker room is less of a problem when it comes to players undressing and locker room talk. Adding females to that mix is kind of risky because it would make the players feel uncomfortable and have to feel as if they would have to censor themselves versus a male coach being in there with them. As a matter of fact, the females would feel just as uncomfortable as the male players due to the fact that there is nudity and vulgar language, such as remarks and expressions, in the locker room. This could be a challenge for female coaches; however, it should not prevent women from being coaches or wanting to hold an executive position. This issue could be avoided by simply letting the players change and then attend the meeting once dressed.
By looking at the pro’s and challenges of women in the N.F.L., I think it is worth hiring female coaches into the N.F.L. I know change is bound to happen sooner or later, but is the N.F.L. really ready for that change right now? If women can get the job done just as great as men then we should hire them. Hegemonic masculinity is present all throughout the N.F.L. and in many ways presented through media. So in conclusion, I want to see women having the opportunity to prove that they can do it and all it might take is one success story to open the door and other people’s eyes to the flawed closed-mindedness of hegemonic masculinity.