My weekends often erupt in loud conversations around the television as my buddies and I argue about sports. Typically the conversations will surround our teams, who got “jobbed,” rooting interests, and who is better among our favorite athletes.
One of our recent debates started during the NFC Championship Game. It started with friends on either side taunting each other as the plays unfolded. There was a switch in the script, however, as we watched the Carolina Panthers blow out the Arizona Cardinals. The actual game became uninteresting and one of my friends used this as an opportunity to take a swipe at the Buffalo Bills for hiring Kathryn Smith to a full-time coaching position.
What astounded me is that, among my friends, was a faction that it was incredulous an NFL team hired a woman. I could hardly believe my ears. “Women don’t belong in the NFL. Let them coach tennis,” was among the popular refrains.
This topic took the gentle ribbing of sports fans to a new level. Blood pressures rose, yelling ensued. Insults flew. Fingers were pointed and the friendly atmosphere of my living room nearly turned into a WWE event.
The Impact of Kathryn Smith
I’ve had a little time since then to reflect. I wasn’t able to articulate very well why it is a good thing that the Bills hired a woman in the heat of the moment, with beer affecting my clarity. But here is what I would have said, had I been able to:
- Sports has traditionally been a men’s club. Exceptions exist, but vestigial remnants of the good ol’ boys still dominate.
- We want women to participate. Many of us have daughters and want them to be involved in sports, among other things. Sports grow a person’s confidence, fitness, and social skills. But until groundbreaking laws, like Title IX, women largely didn’t participate. In fact, since Title IX’s adoption, women’s and girl’s participation in sports has increased 990%, which paved the way for someone like Kathryn Smith to become qualified.
- Kathryn Smith immediately becomes a role model for young girls. She shows that they can do anything and that is the message we want our youth to hear.
- We would all hate to be excluded from a job that we were capable of doing because of factors outside our control. Interest in sports jobs everywhere is booming, and we can’t simply relegate women to lower-ranking jobs while men continue to dominate the industry.
- Doing a job in a field where you spent your entire youth participating makes sense; if someone has played sports their whole life they are more connected and invested in that line of work.
Jobs in sports are coveted. Many of us would love to work in some capacity within sports. So instead of being envious of someone who has achieved in this area, it is important that we celebrate the success and look to it as an example of what can be accomplished.
Kathryn Smith can now be seen as an example of what we can do, man or woman. I often avoided applying for jobs in sports because I stopped playing football in tenth grade. There is a part of me now that knows that there are alternative paths.
Most importantly, it is critical that a new half of the population can look at an industry and say “I can succeed there.” This will not only create more opportunities for women, it will increase participation in sports, which will create opportunity for everyone.
Simply the fact that we had such a heated discussion shows the importance of this event. Ultimately, I share Kathryn Smith’s sentiment that I hope someday that such a hiring isn’t extraordinary.