Buccaneers: An acknowledgment for the women in the organization

Raymond James Stadium (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Raymond James Stadium (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

While everyone is salivating over the crop of draftees and UDFA’s, ESPN took time to check out some of the women involved in the NFL, specifically with the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers have of the largest contingents of women coaches and business office staff in the NFL. Lori Locust serves as an assistant defensive line coach in Tampa. Yes, one of the coaches responsible for that defensive line that dominated so many games over the course of the season.

Locust played football and other sports, but when the injuries started to wear her down, she still wanted to stay involved. That led to her getting into coaching. It was a process getting to be where she is now in the National Football League as a coach with Tampa, but she credits a lot of help she received along the way.

Locust went into detail on her journey to her current spot in a recent interview at the 2021 ESPNW Summit as a part of a panel comprised on people from the Buccaneers organization.

Locust pushed herself trying to get better as a coach and trying to get her players better. She was fortunate along the way to be treated like another coach, and the other coaches helped to mentor her and helped make her better at her craft.

That, in part, is what led Bucs head coach, Bruce Arians, to hire her as a coach. He had known her from before his days in Arizona. Arians used to attend clinics with Dot Murphy, a Junior College Coach, and her husband.

As to the why for including women in what had been primarily a male-dominated business, it’s not hard to fathom. Roughly half of the Bucs’ fans are female. So, by rights, they ought to be represented in some manner throughout the organization.

Arians had already started that in Arizona, and now, in Tampa, he and the rest of the staff sought out ways to get more women involved in the coaching and management of the team. This is never an easy process to break through that barrier, but it isn’t impossible, and it just takes some looking around and the gumption to “get ‘er done”, hat tip to Larry the Cable Guy.

They found two places for coaches, Locust on the defensive line, and Maral Javadifar, as a strength and conditioning coach who also happens to be a physical therapist.

Maral Javadifar, the Bucs’ assistant strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist came from a completely different direction, basketball. She had some experience with football, playing some in her home town New York City. But it wasn’t organized, and the girls were on the team because the league was co-ed and required the teams to have female players on the roster.

For her, it was mostly teams that her friends had or were invited to play from her cousins. She was not sought out for any particular skills, but to fill a roster spot that was set aside for a female.
This led to a desire to stay involved with the sport that led to her current position.

And then there are the women who are vice presidents in football operations.

"“Almost 50 percent of our fans are female. We really believe in a diverse landscape of thoughts and ideas to come up with the best ideas for our fan”, said Bucs’ co-owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz."

Kassewitz explained that the intent was to support and inspire the female fans. They had to somehow get the girls a chance to play football in some form or another. That led to the development of developing a flag football league for women. The Bucs are the only team in the NFL with two female assistants to go along with four of eight VPs in business operations.

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Much like Mina Kimes said in the interview; the Bucs’ having that much female representation throughout the team was rare. No other team in the NFL had so much inclusion of women coaches and staff. Getting more women involved in the business is a goal for the NFL as a whole, and Tampa is writing the blueprint each day. The Buccaneers are a vanguard when it comes to including women on the team, and Bruce Arians’ staff should continue to show this during his time with the Bucs.