Some NFL teams have embraced the idea of women coaching in the league more than others: since the Arizona Cardinals welcomed Dr. Jen Welter as a coaching intern during training camp in 2015, a few other teams have followed, most notably the 49ers, who have the first female position coach in league history in receivers coach Katie Sowers.
But it’s still newsworthy when a team has a woman in the coaching ranks, even as an apprentice, and this summer the Baltimore Ravens will make a bit of history.
Three women in the program
The Ravens will have three women in their apprenticeship program this summer, two in coaching and one in analytics.
Coach John Harbaugh said on Tuesday he’s “fired up” about the trio coming to the team.
“It’s a talent pool,” Harbaugh said of the future of women in the NFL. “You have a lot of smart people in half the population. I’m a little biased because I see my daughter every single day and I want her to be able to do whatever she wants to do in life.”
(Harbaugh’s daughter Alison is a high school sophomore and talented lacrosse player.)
Women have credentials already
The women are: Erica Vinson-Ondecko, who coaches the kickers and punters at Waynesboro Area Senior High School in New Jersey; Lori Locust, who applied for the job through the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship, and recent Bryant University graduate Elena Grigelevich.
Locust and Grigelevich will be with the Ravens during training camp and the first three preseason games.
After four years of playing semi-pro football, Locust has been coaching for 13 years, currently with the National Arena League’s Lehigh Valley Steelhawks as a defensive assistant, defensive lineman/linebackers coach and co-special teams coordinator.
“I’ve been doing this so long that up here, in this area, people don’t look at me as a ‘woman coach’,” Locust said in a story on the Ravens’ website. “In a backwards way, I find that to be the highest compliment. I want to be seen as a coach first, then a woman. I’m a coach that happens to be a woman.”
Grigelevich, who majored in finance and applied physics, founded Bryant’s Football Think Tank, a group of data science and applied analytics students who study team tendencies. In its two years on campus, it grew to 33 members.
“I really love football and I really love math, so I wanted to figure out how to do both,” Grigelevich said.
She created detailed weekly charts for the Bulldogs’ football team that showed when the team should and shouldn’t go for it on fourth down, and Bryant went for it 38 times in 11 games, converting 22. Of the 125 schools in the NCAA’s FCS, only Portland State went for it more on fourth down than Bryant.
Grigelevich sent her resume to many teams earlier this year, and the Ravens offered her an internship.
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