Inspirational Woman: Phoebe Schecter | American Football Coach, First Female Coach in the NFL, Team GB Captain & Motivational Speaker

Meet Phoebe Schecter

American Football Coach, First Female Coach in the NFL, Team GB Captain & Motivational Speaker

Phoebe Schecter is pioneering the world of American Football, having empowered women in sport by becoming the first female coach in the NFL. Having played as the Team Captain and a Linebacker for the GB American Football Team, Phoebe is highly passionate about football. Having also been the Tight Ends Coach for Buffalo Bills, Phoebe is now a popular choice as a sports speaker who draws on her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated industry and covers topics such as diversity, inclusion and managing teams.

Phoebe first entered the world of football management when she became a Football Coaching Intern at the University of La Verne. Learning what it took to ensure that athletes performed at the peak of their ability, she then secured a role as a Coaching Intern for the Buffalo Bills. After two other Coaching Interns with Bryant University and Stanford University, Phoebe was selected for another Coaching Intern at Buffalo Bills before becoming the Tight Ends Coach for the team. Breaking new ground for women in football, Phoebe ultimately made headlines as the first female coach in the NFL and was appointed as the Community & Grassroots Project Manager for NFL UK.

Highly passionate about football, Phoebe is on a mission to grow American Football outside of the United States, doing so through her role as the Manager of U.K Dukes. Other prominent roles of Phoebe’s have included being the Women’s Development Officer for the British American Football Coaches Association, the Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee for the British American Football Association and the IFAF Athlete Representative for the International Olympic Committee. She has also supported The Female Coaching Network and been an NFL Flag Ambassador for RCX Sports.

Courtesy of The Female Motivational Speakers Agency, Phoebe Schecter predicts the future American Football in this exclusive interview for WeAreTheCity.

As Britain’s first female American Football coach in the NFL and former Team GB captain, Phoebe has experienced first-hand the importance of inclusion, teamwork and strong leadership. In this exciting Q&A, discover the importance of taking risks and why you should say ‘yes’ to opportunities!

You are the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the British American Football Association; what does this role entail and why is it important to you?

So, it’s pretty exciting for myself because this is the first time our sport in the UK has ever had a diversity inclusion committee, which is a really big step for us!

My role pretty much entails understanding our community, who our community includes, what their needs are and then creating initiatives. One of the things we are working on right now is a transgender and non-binary gender policy. Not only is that a massive step for the sport, but also for a lot of people who just don’t understand or know what any of that means.

I could have just spoke in a foreign language to someone. So, education has definitely become the cornerstone for what we’re doing. But also, we want to open up and create equity within our sport. We as a sport always say that it takes all shapes and sizes.

We want to be at the forefront of showing what diversity can be and how you can really be forward thinking and inclusive. Our sport becomes almost like a snapshot of the world, which is pretty cool because we literally end up with people from all different backgrounds!

And, you know, you get that kind of natural merge of people who have come from perhaps different cultures and now they’re all on the same team, and we’re pulling in the same direction to be successful. 

It’s really quite beautiful when you look at it like that.

You’ve built your career on taking risks and saying yes to opportunities – is this something you would recommend in others and how do you build confidence in other people to do the same?

Once I took my first big risk, which for me was moving to the UK ten years ago, it opened up a lot of doors for me! And I think a lot of times we have to look at why someone may not want to take a risk. A lot of time it’s the fear of failure, but we need to change our mindset of what failure is. For me now, failure is an opportunity to grow and develop, and it’s not always going to feel nice.

I can’t lie, failure is going to be uncomfortable.

But when you push through and you get to the other side, it’s like you’re a butterfly. You become a new person, and we keep going through that cycle.

 

I think it’s really important for people to try and take as many opportunities as possible because you never know what could happen. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen… someone tells me no? Well, I’m no better or worse than I was before.

So, what am I really losing here?

And you never know, 5-10 years later you may meet someone that you networked with and now you’re starting something great together. You just have to always be thinking ahead and thinking what could potentially happen!

That has to start with yourself. It’s not natural for a lot of people to feel confident, I know myself I did not feel this way before I moved to the UK to be honest. So, it does take a lot of time, a lot of self-discovery, truthfully, a lot of fake it until you make it!”

Did you ever doubt that you could do the job?

Absolutely. At the time I didn’t realise what it was and now I look back and can say it was impostor syndrome.

But for me, I didn’t have parents that were interested in sports or someone that was a coach, I didn’t grow up with the sport. So, later in life when I got involved in football, I knew that I was going to have to work ten times harder and be on top of it ten times more than anybody else who had been involved in the sport from a young age.

I’ve been fortunate in some ways that really only one person told me that I didn’t deserve it, that perhaps they deserved it because they’ve been working towards it since they were a little kid. But, you know, it’s easy to get stuck into what social media may be saying about you.

I’ve realised in hindsight and learned from one of my really good friends, who was a coach, that you can’t ride the roller coaster of social media because when it goes up and you feel great, but it feels ten times worse when it goes back down and you start losing belief in yourself.

For me, I didn’t understand what my role was in the beginning. I knew that I was out of my depth in terms of my actual knowledge of the sport, but I did everything I possibly could to upscale myself. I sat in every meeting, I created a glossary because for me, half the issue was the terminology!

I didn’t necessarily know what they were saying. I really tried to do everything I could to help, to be around great people and great coaches and watch and learn from those experiences and then eventually, figure out my value and erase that feeling of imposter syndrome.

How do you perceive the place of American Football in the UK sporting landscape and how should/will this develop in the coming years?

Well, it is definitely growing and building a very strong presence within the UK, and it’s pretty cool because a bunch of organisations have really helped to build its presence.

Now, the NFL have their first Academy based in London, which is really cool. It’s basically for students to go to school and do football three days a week and live like an American athlete!

I think one of the most exciting and coolest pieces for me is the development of flag football, which is like touch rugby in the UK.

 

That’s probably going to have the most promise in terms of getting children from a young age involved in the sport. 

It’s a great way for people who perhaps don’t really understand American football, because there’s so much start and stop. There’s five on each side, it’s fun and exciting, and it’s also a sport destined for the Olympics. So now, you’ve got a real pathway for people to be able to achieve something amazing, whether it’s coaching or playing. The Olympics is obviously the pinnacle of what we can achieve as a sport!

This exclusive interview with Phoebe Schecter was conducted by Megan Lupton.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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