Liz: Welcome to the show, Jennifer. How are you?
Jennifer: I’m doing well. Doing well.
Liz: That’s good to hear. Thank you so much for taking the time out to speak with me. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Now, you are in your first full season coaching with the Washington Redskins. How does it feel to have earned the opportunity and what does it mean to you to be part of the team?
Jennifer: I’m super excited to be a part of the Redskin organization and super excited to work with our runningback and Coach Jordan. You know, we’ve had have some legends on deck here with Adrian Peterson and I’m ready to get started.
Liz: Absolutely. I’m really excited to see what you’re going to do with the team as well and Ronald Rivera, he made some really lovely comments about bringing you on the team in a recent press conference. How much are you looking forward to working with him?
Jennifer: Yeah, you know, me and Coach Rivera developed a really good relationship so I’m definitely excited to continue working with him and the rest of the staff as well, you know I’m familiar with most of them from Carolina.
Liz: Yeah, of course. You were intern coach for the Carolina Panthers. You’ve got some incredible experience, not only within the NFL but the assistant coach for Alliance for the American football team, Arizona Hot Shots, to the offensive assistant at Dartmouth College. And in each of these roles, you’ve looked after different positions from wide receivers to running backs, the special teams. What’s that been like?
Jennifer: It’s been awesome. You coach different positions, you know, you learn a lot more about the game coaching in different positions and you know, they’ve all been really cool to learn.
Liz: In February was the Women’s Career in Football Forum, which to those unfamiliar is a highly selective two-day event that connects qualified female candidates for positions in football as coaches, officials, scouts, athletic trainers. How important is it to you that this type of network exists?
You know, I think just that event was invaluable to what I’ve been able to do. You know, that kind of launched me into all the positions that I’ve been able to acquire, just because that’s where I met Coach Rivera for the first time and we were able to start building our relationship.
Liz: So not only do you have all this coaching knowledge behind you, but you were a player too, up until 2017 you’d played 11 years for the Carolina Phoenix Football Team of the Women’s Football Alliance. You are a seven time all American quarterback and receiver for your team. You also played defensive back for the New York Sharks and won the 2018 WFA National Championship before you went on to play for the DC Divas in 2019. Do you still play now or is the focus purely on coaching?
Jennifer: Yeah, technically I still plan on retiring thing yet. So, I’m not officially playing this season, but I’m not saying that I’m not going to play anymore.
Liz: The game of women’s football is one that continues to grow, what advice would you give to another female who’s looking to play?
Jennifer: I mean, it’s an awesome sport, awesome game. You know, learn as much as you can and just prepare yourself. It’s a great sport, it’s a physical sport so be ready for that. But if you’re thinking about playing, I definitely recommend you giving it a shot.
Liz: Over the years, we’ve seen more females take on coaching and scouting roles, which is incredible. But as it stands, you are one of three women working as a full-time NFL coach. What do you feel needs to happen to get more women in these roles?
Jennifer: I think things like the women’s forum will help that cause because it’s doing a good job identifying qualified females to fill positions and I think that’s one of the most important things is finding people who are qualified. We’re not asking for anything special or accommodations. Find people who can do the job and get them in position and also start building a kind of a pipeline to learn who these people are earlier to start developing them earlier in their lives.
Liz: You as the first black female in a full year coaching role at the NFL, how important is it when inspiring the next generation to be seen in these roles, not just females, but ethnic minorities too?
Jennifer: Yeah, I think it’s important to do a good job. Obviously, there’s a lot of eyes on you and it’s really important to do your best to try to make the job a little easier for the people coming behind you.
Liz: And finally, I can tell that being involved in sports is something that you’re hugely passionate about. Was there anyone who inspired you to take the career path you have or was it just a route that felt natural to you?
Jennifer: I mean, there’s been a lot of people along the way. I’ve had some awesome coaches who’ve definitely kind of inspired me to coach and to teach. And there’s been a lot of people that have helped me get where I am today and I’m super appreciative for them for the work that they put in with me.
Liz: Amazing. Well, Jennifer, it’s been incredible to hear your story. Thank you so much for taking the time out and best of luck to you and the team for the season ahead.
Jennifer: Awesome. Thank you so much.