Samantha Rapoport: She’s Tackling Gender Issues in the NFL

June 16 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Root for the Home Team

From the well-loved movie Rudy to the popular TV show Friday Night Lights, football is practically a second language for Americans. I grew up near a city that recently set the record for the loudest crowd at a sports stadium, so though I still don’t know much about football, I can enthusiastically roar “Defense!” and “Hustle!” with the best of them. What I can appreciate about attending a football game is that it’s one of the few places you can totally let loose, act a fool for your favorite team and chow down on greasy, satisfying stadium food. That all seems like a pretty good game plan!


One of the clearest gender divides in the U.S. can be found in sports, but like with most things, women prove time and time again that we can kick butt in any sport just as much as the boys. Here’s an exciting example: Earlier this year, 18-year-old Becca Longo from Arizona earned herself a football scholarship to an NCAA college. She’s the first woman to do so, despite at least a dozen other women previously playing college football. She got the attention of Adams State University in Colorado after following the head coach on Twitter. He then saw film highlights of her exceptional kicking abilities and offered her the scholarship. We’re sure we’ll get a kick out of following Becca’s collegiate football career!

WOMAN TO WATCH: Samantha Rapoport, Director of Football Development for the NFL

Another cool, hard-hitting woman who is breaking ground and making history on the football field is Samantha Rapoport. She started playing tackle football at the age of 14, and took the helm as quarterback for 14 seasons for a variety of women’s professional sports leagues. And having spent her entire career working in football, Sam isn’t just qualified; she’s an accomplished professional with some serious football cred and a reputation as a top-of-her-game athlete. Given her wealth of experience in the sport, it’s no wonder the National Football League recently hired Sam as its director of football development.

The NFL created Sam’s position in order to help bring more women into coaching and scouting for the league. Sam’s duties include identifying women who can fill these roles, training them and providing a supportive social network to continue their growth. It’s all about creating a pipeline for women to enter NFL positions that have traditionally been held by men.

Sam is no stranger to recognition from the NFL. In 2003, she applied for an internship by sending in her impressive resume, along with a photo of herself in pads, and a football, on which she’d written, “What other quarterback could accurately deliver a football 386 miles?” Obviously, the play earned her the internship. Sam spent the first eight years of her career working at the NFL League office, and received the NFL Commissioner’s Innovation Award for creating a program that fosters football participation among girls throughout the country. Yeah, that’s pretty amazing!

As Sam works to get more well-trained female coaches into the NFL, she understands there will be critics who dismiss women coaches who don’t have firsthand tackle-football experience. Sam notes that the head coach of the Miami Dolphins never played tackle football either, and, in fact, Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley never played football at all. This example proves her point that regardless of your gender, coaching football is all about knowing your stuff and communicating it effectively.

Thanks, Sam, for doing the rough-and-tumble work of making the NFL a more welcoming place for women, and for fostering the next generation of totally kick-butt female football coaches.


Life is all about the journey, as they say. You’ll have days when you fumble, days when you intercept and days when you just sit in the stands. Wherever you are in your journey, these wise remarks from Olympic gold medalist and Women’s World Cup soccer champion Alex Morgan are words to live by:

“Always work hard, never give up and fight until the end because it’s never really over until the whistle blows.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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