NFL women’s forum attracts GMs, coaches from all 32 teams

Mar 15, 2022, 2:26 PM | Updated: Mar 16, 2022, 2:27 am
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, Samantha Rapoport, the NFL's senior director, diversity, ...

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, Samantha Rapoport, the NFL's senior director, diversity, equity and inclusion and the creator of the forum, speaks at the NFL Women's Forum in Indianapolis. During the sixth annual NFL Women's Forum on Monday, coaches and general managers from the 32 teams were asked to spend one hour participating. Some stayed several hours longer, with Brian Daboll, recently hired as head coach of the Giants, stressing he wanted to learn more about the program. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

During the sixth annual NFL Women’s Forum, coaches and general managers from the 32 teams were asked to spend one hour participating. Some stayed several hours longer, with Brian Daboll, recently hired as head coach of the New York Giants, stressing he wanted to learn more about the program.

“This was at the beginning of the free agency period,” said Sam Rapoport, the league’s senior director, diversity, equity and inclusion and the creator of the forum. “That’s the attitude one of our coaches had. He wanted to learn more not only about the participants but about how he can better learn in this space.”

Daboll hardly was alone as 45 young women from colleges on all levels attended the invitational event this week. So did team owners, executives and personnel from the football and business sides of all 32 franchises. There were 73 speakers this year.

“It goes beyond job opportunities,” Rapoport explained, “though that is one of the outcomes we’d look to see. But it’s also about development and education, connecting women with people at all levels. It creates a network, not with women only but with people who believe in this cause and want to see it move forward.”

The movement has gone forward so rapidly that there are now about 150 women working in football operations across the NFL. There certainly are hundreds, possibly thousands more, hoping for such a chance.

Two of this year’s attendees were Camille Wilson, a football operations assistant at North Carolina Central who also is working on a master’s degree at nearby North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Isabel Diaz, a junior at Oklahoma State working as a student assistant for the team’s defense.

Wilson, 25, of Cincinnati, was a Division III tennis player at Agnes Scott College in Georgia, but her passion is football, particularly in player engagement and operations.

“I got to hear from scouts, player personnel, administration,” she said of the two-day forum, “and just being able to see how all these departments work together and how interchangeable they are, there’s so much you can do. That really stood out to me. I definitely fell more in love with player engagement and operations than I was to begin with. I would say I know more overall than what I began with; I knew nothing about player personnel beforehand. Now I know so much more, and it will let me try to reach out and learn more.”

The mini-community that the women formed for a short time this week was just a starting point as they all pursue similar goals.

“I will continue to grow in these relationships and networking, and continue to communicate and lean on the other 44 women who were a part of this. That is my tribe now,” Wilson said.

Diaz, from Lewisville, Texas, began watching football with her grandfather when she was 4 years old, spending Sundays in front of the TV with him — even begging her parents to let her stay up for the prime-time game. By the time she was a wise, old 10, she told her mother she wanted to become a football coach.

While she notes that “all the coaches were amazing to talk to,” Diaz was particularly impressed by Daboll.

“I really enjoyed my time with Coach Daboll,” she said. “He wanted to have informal conversations, didn’t worry about what we were asking.”

“I made this decision I wanted do this and there was no representation of anyone who looked like me,” she added. “To see how much it has grown, just to see the growth, I am in awe and amazed, and super in awe to be a small part of that growth. It’s hard to fit it all together.

“I got advice before from a person who said we all put our pants on the same way, kind of a little silly thing. But every time I’d go into a breakout room or when I would introduce myself, it is still intimidating. But the coaches and owners and general mangers who are participants are all there loving football and they want to see us grow and be successful.”

Success stories are what the forum is all about. When the invitees meet and listen to past Women’s Forum participants Callie Brownson, the Browns’ chief of staff, or 49ers pro personnel analyst Salli Clavelle, they get knowledge and insight, but they also are inspired by where those women have come from and gotten to.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Rapoport said. “For women to understand the landscape of the NFL is changing and that progress is only going to continue, we want them to know they belong and see they belong.”

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against...
Associated Press

Wilson cleared by doctors, will start for Jets at Pittsburgh

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson will start at quarterback for the New York Jets at Pittsburgh on Sunday, six weeks after having knee surgery. Coach Robert Saleh announced the decision Wednesday to have the second-year QB make his season debut “if all goes well this week” at practice. Wilson had been ramping up […]
1 day ago
Australia's Lauren Jackson poses for a selfie with a young fan following their win over Japan at th...
Associated Press

Lauren Jackson, Aussie fans enjoying her World Cup finale

SYDNEY (AP) — Thirty minutes after Australia knocked off Canada in the preliminary round of the women’s basketball World Cup, Lauren Jackson was back on the court signing autographs and posing for selfies with hundreds of adoring fans. They couldn’t get enough of the Australian star and she reciprocated the love, not wanting to leave […]
1 day ago
Germany's head coach Hans-Dieter Flick, left, shakes hands with England's head coach Gareth Southga...
Associated Press

World Cup Watch: European giants showing flaws before Qatar

LONDON (AP) — All roads now lead to Qatar. With the conclusion of the group stage of the Nations League, Europe’s top soccer countries have played their final competitive games ahead of the World Cup. Here’s how things are shaping up for a continent that has provided the last four winners of the sport’s biggest […]
1 day ago
Two Nepali sherpa guides, second right and fourth right, who survived an avalanche at a lower eleva...
Associated Press

Body of missing famed U.S. extreme skier recovered in Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The body of a famed U.S. extreme skier who went missing this week after falling from the world’s eighth-highest mountain was recovered Wednesday and transported to Nepal’s capital. Hilaree Nelson, 49, was skiing down from the 8,163-meter (26,775-foot) summit of Mount Manaslu with her partner, Jim Morrison, on Monday when she […]
1 day ago
El relevista de los Padres de San Diego Nick Martínez reacciona durante el sexto inning del juego ...
Associated Press

Padres beat Dodgers 4-3 in 10 to reduce magic number to 4

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jorge Alfaro is used to being in position to walk off games. Just not with a walk-off walk. Alfaro drew a bases-loaded free pass from Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the 10th inning and the San Diego Padres beat the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 on Tuesday night […]
1 day ago
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Robbie Raywals walks through the dugout after he was pulled from ...
Associated Press

Mariners’ late slide continues with 5-0 loss to Rangers

SEATTLE (AP) — Robbie Ray has an idea for how to get the Seattle Mariners refocused and hopefully out of their late-season slide. Stop worrying about what is happening elsewhere. “For me, we’ve just got to stop looking at the scoreboard. If it was my choice, we turn that thing off. Because we need to […]
1 day ago
NFL women’s forum attracts GMs, coaches from all 32 teams