Yesterday, nearly 68,000 American Football fans flooded the Minneapolis’ US Bank Stadium to watch the Super Bowl match between Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.
It was an extraordinary match and records were broken, but it was, of course, a resoundingly all-male affair. Indeed, the sport is notoriously aggressive and macho… so can there be a place for women in American Football?
Enter Phoebe Schecter, who, despite being just 5ft 4in and weighing 10st, has become Britain’s first female NFL coach.
Half British, half American, Schecter captained Great Britain’s women’s American Football team before she was recruited by the Buffalo Bills to become a part of the NFL’s ‘Play 60’ team, who work with local children to help spread the popularity of the game.
Until 2015, no woman had ever coached in the league, but, with female interest growing, Schecter is now keen to see more ladies get involved.
TRAIN for HER caught up with her to find out more about what it’s like to be a woman in such a male-dominated sport.
What’s it like being in such a masculine environment?
“American Football has been predominantly male-dominated for years but that is starting to change now. More and more women are getting involved in all elements of the sport, be it coaching, scoring, in operations or in the office.
“The more women we see in these roles, the more it becomes the norm and the less the gender of the people in these roles will be under scrutiny.
“As for the physical danger of the game, I actually quite like the violence that comes with the sport. I enjoy the control and discipline required to play with aggression within the rules of the game. I think of it as aggressive chess.”
Is it mentally and physically demanding being in the NFL?
“Being in the NFL is the pinnacle of your career at the ultimate elite level of the sport.
“Whether you’re a player or coach, there are long days, including watching numerous films of your team and your opponents. The learning is endless – which is what makes it so exciting at times.
“Physically, these athletes need to be in peak condition, as their opponents will be doing everything they can to be their best.
“For me, the constant mindset of an NFL athlete or coach is so addictive to be around. You’ve never felt motivation like it and it’s contagious, making you want to be a better person both on and off the field.”
How does the life of a coach compare to a player’s?
“Being a player or coach at pretty much every level is very different. The actual time put into American Football as a coach is unbelievable. I hadn’t fully appreciated it until I became one.
“As a player, you show up to practice, do your workouts, study film, do prehab and rehab and that’s it. A coach, however, has to prep all of that.
“When I was fortunate enough to have my internships in coaching, we would work from about 6:30 am to 11:30 pm, and even then I felt like we never had enough hours in the day; it’s madness!”
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Why should more women get involved?
“It is an incredible, team-oriented sport, unlike any other that I’ve been a part of. The other women become your family and I can guarantee that you will start to feel more confident and empowered! I wish that I’d had this sport as a kid!
“I know it has changed my life, as well as becoming my source of meditation. When I’m on the field, I don’t think of anything bar what’s in front of me and that’s how I de-stress.”
Can any woman take part?
“The most incredible thing about American Football is how inclusive it is. It’s a sport for all shapes, sizes and ages.
“All you need is a willingness and hunger to learn, alongside an interest in a teamwork-driven game. The rest can be taught!”
How can women best train to play American Football?
“There are two types of American Football: tackle and flag (a non-contact version). If you’re interested in the sport you should increase your cardio, add in sprints and try to keep everything short and sharp. In regard to weights, think explosively!
“This is a game where leverage wins, so make sure that you’re doing your mobility and flexibility as well.”
How can women get involved in the UK?
“There are plenty of avenues in the UK for women – and anyone else – to get involved. There are playing, officiating, coaching and administration opportunities, plus the national teams.
“The NFL UK has a brilliant program that’s just rolled out to encourage more kids to get active and play in schools, so you could become an ambassador through them.
“American Football is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, with endless opportunities for roles. It teaches you good values and you could have a positive influence on someone else’s life, so why not get involved?”
For more information about American Football in the UK, go to www.britishamericanfootball.org To find a club near you, check out this interactive map which features all the BAFA-affiliated clubs in the UK.
Phoebe is an ambassador for sports nutrition brand, Bio-Synergy www.bio-synergy.uk
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