Kathryn Smith becomes first female NFL assistant coach

The Buffalo Bills became the second NFL team to put a women coach on the sidelines on Wednesday, although, they are the first team to hire a woman full time.

Kathryn Smith, 30, has had a love for the game since her high school days at Christian Brothers Academy. She would stand on the sidelines of the games, writing down player stats, helping with towels and water. Buddy Wleklinski, Smith’s high school athletic director told USA TODAY Sports, “I think it said something about her that during Friday night games – instead of hanging out with her friends in the stands – she was on the sidelines getting stats for the football team. That showed how passionate she was about working in sports.”

After many years working her way up from the highs school sidelines, Smith was hired as the Buffalo Bills special teams quality control coach. This position is specialized and full-time, therefore it is very different from the position given to Jen Welter in July 2015 by the Arizona Cardinals. During Welter’s internship, she helped and observed the coaching of the inside linemen. On the other hand, Smith’s role is to coach a whole part of the team, specifically special teams.

Welter was quick to give some friendly coaching advice to Smith saying, “The biggest advantage I had with those guys was the street credibility having played. That might be the most difficult part for you.” Although Smith does not have the on field experience like Welter, she is widely known to focus on the little details. Welter added, “She obviously has a great resume and background and relationship with the coaching staff. But everybody coaches in their own different way, and if she’s as detail-oriented and meticulously well-prepared as I’ve heard she is, what she’ll be able to give those players is a really well-prepared plan of all of the information they need on special teams.”

Regardless of on field experience, Kathryn Smith has made a giant step for women into the world of NFL coaching. Bills coach Rex Ryan emphasized that he did not hire Smith just because she is a woman and that she truly deserved this promotion because of  her hard work in the organization. Over the past few years Smith has done smaller jobs like keeping statistics and observing the other coaches. Ryan recently commented; “You can see the success some of these young ladies are having in the coaching profession, such as the young lady [Becky Hammon] that is an assistant to Coach [Greg Popovich] at the San Antonio Spurs, and realize how exciting this is for women like Kathryn Smith as well as the Bills organization.”

Now that the first full time coaching position has been given to Smith, Welter says that she is looking for any coaching opportunity that may come up as teams are building their staffs for next season.

On a local level there is currently no female coaches on the Normal West sidelines; however, Coach Darren Hess commented saying, “I think Smith being hired is great. Although women may not have much experience playing at the collegiate levels, it’s the understanding and the passion for the game that matters. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I think her hiring will open many doors for other female leadership positions in male dominated sports.”


Kathryn Smith talks with Bills head coach Rex Ryan.its the understanding and the passion for the game that matters.