Bucs double record for female coaches in a Super Bowl

At this year's Super Bowl, there will be two female coaches on the field: Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust, both of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Maral Javadifar thought Katie Sowers making history a year ago as the first female to coach in a Super Bowl meant that topic had been handled once and for all.

Nope.

Thanks to Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians, there are twice as many women to help with the ensuing media attention. Javadifar, assistant strength and conditioning coach, and assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust follow in Sowers’ footsteps with the Bucs the only NFL team with two female coaches this season.

“I do look forward to the day that it’s no longer newsworthy to be a woman working in the pros or making the Super Bowl for that matter,” Javadifar said Monday. “And, you know, I hope we get to a point where all people are afforded equal opportunities to work in professional sports because there are a lot of great qualified coaches out there.”

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Hiring women coaches takes intentionality. Just ask the NFL

Locust said she and Javadifar have only one goal, and that’s helping Tampa Bay beat Kansas City in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

“It wouldn’t matter if we were second in or 273rd,” Locust said. “And I mean, like we acknowledge the fact there hasn’t been many before us, but it’s not anything that we kind of keep in the forefront of what we do on a daily basis.”

Locust and Javadifar won’t be the only women to have an impact on this Super Bowl.

Down judge Sarah Thomas will be the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. The Chiefs have a pair of female assistant athletic trainers in Julie Frymyer and Tiffany Morton. The Bucs also have Carly Helfand as a scouting assistant with Jackie Davidson in the front office as director of football research.

Kansas City running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire said seeing women coaching in this game means a lot to him with his younger sister having muscular dystrophy.

“To me, it is a spark to my eyes,” Edwards-Helaire said. “I can talk to my little sister and she sees me play and now we talk about what is going on … and she could be a positive light to the NFL and to the football community, I am excited about it.”

Arians, who had the first female coaching intern in 2015 with Jen Welter in Arizona, said hiring Locust and Javadifar was a choice to open a door for great teachers. Arians said they “worked their tails off” and are more than qualified.

“Inclusivity and diversity are great ways to teach,” Arians said. “I mean, the more input from different types of voices, the better output you get.”

Bucs defensive line coach Kacy Rogers said Coach Lo has the thick skin needed for the joking among men playing in the trenches. Bucs defensive end Shaq Barrett loves how Locust is always giving him tips. She coached against Barrett’s brother in semi-pro ball in Baltimore where she was a training camp intern with the NFL’s Ravens in 2018.

“It’s a blessing to have her on our team and have her coaching in the Super Bowl,” Barrett said.

Locust cautions against thinking she and coaches such as Jennifer King, the first Black female assistant in the NFL hired last week as Washington’s running backs coach, simply sprung overnight.

“There’s hundreds of women that are at various levels of football, whether in high school or college semi-pro,” Locust said. “And they’ve been out there kind of doing it on their own, and they’ve been earning those positions on their own without any help from anyone else.”

Coaching football wasn’t an option for women when Locust grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, loving to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers and linebacker Jack Lambert. After going to Temple for college, she married, had two sons and sold insurance.

Around the age of 40, Locust started playing defensive lineman in a women’s league until injuries led her to coaching her former teammates. She took a job at her alma mater, Susquehanna Township High, as an assistant working nine years without being paid.

“Did everything that I could to learn there, did every job that sometimes the guys maybe didn’t want to do because I knew that it would help kind of round out my experience as a coach,” Locust said.

Locust also coached in semi-pro leagues, a women’s league and youth leagues. She attended the NFL’s annual Women’s Careers in Football Forum in 2017 and again in 2018Arians hired her just as the Alliance of American Football folded, ending her gig as assistant defensive line coach in Birmingham.

A native of Queens, New York, Javadifar played college basketball inspired by her mother who couldn’t even watch sports growing up in Iran. A torn ACL before she got to Pace University helped steer her into physical therapy.

Anthony Piroli sought out Javadifar, wanting to add an assistant strength and conditioning coach who also is a physical therapist to the Bucs’ staff. Javadifar didn’t meet Arians until her interview.

“His first question was, ‘What can you bring to the table?’” Javadifar recalled. “And, you know, I had laid it out there, and it was pretty seamless.”

Both Locust and Javadifar hope the Bucs’ success leads to more opportunities for people who look like them. Only two of the NFL’s seven head coaching jobs went to minorities in the latest hiring spree.

“Obviously, it’s working, and hopefully it’ll set an example for the rest of the league to kind of take notice and stop, you know, being maybe so narrow in their candidate search,” Locust said.

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Kaillie Humphries elevates another fresh U.S. face to podium status in two-woman bobsled World Cup

Kaillie Humphries of USA, Kaysha Love of USA in action at the 2 women's bobsleigh during Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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PARK CITY, UTAH – Kaillie Humphries extended her podium streak on Saturday at the IBSF World Cup, where she and U.S. push athlete Jasmine Jones finished third in the two-woman bobsled.

The third-place finish in Park City marked the sixth podium for Humphries at the Park City track, which hosted the 2002 Olympics, and was Jones’ career-first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.

“This is our first race together, so really excited about that,” said the 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships titles. She earned her 29th career World Cup win on Friday in Park City in the women’s monobob.

“Definitely a work in progress. … The runs weren’t perfect, but I’m really happy with our starts, happy with our drives minus a few little mistakes. It’s a good starting point, and we’ll look to grow from here.”

Humphries and Jones finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:37.69, 0.32 behind winners Kim Kalicki and brakewoman Leonie Fiebig of Germany at 1:37.37. Fellow Germans Laura Nolte and Lena Neunecker were second at 0.23 back.

Kalicki and Fiebig broke a 16-year-old track record with their first run, laying down a time of 48.60 seconds and besting the time set by Americans Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming – the 2006 Olympic silver medalists – in December 2006 (48.73). It also marked the second straight victory for Kalicki, who’s won five career World Cup titles including last week’s two-woman bobsled race in Whistler, Canada.

“I was hoping Kaillie would get [the record],” said Rohbock, who is now a U.S. team coach and was on hand to see her record fall. “That first run there, she had that little skid in the bottom, so that didn’t help, but Kailee’s always putting up a great performance. And Jasmine, another great brakewoman, so we’re really lucky that we have that depth.”

For Team USA, it marked the second straight week that a fresh face earned her first podium finish while competing with Humphries. Last week in Whistler, push athlete Emily Renna and Humphries placed third in Renna’s first-ever World Cup appearance.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP COVERAGE: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“Being able to race with her was really special,” said the 29-year-old Renna, who was a college track athlete at University of Rhode Island. “It’s really nice to be around seasoned veterans. It definitely makes you feel better in the back sled with you when you’ve got a good pilot who knows the track.”

Renna finished in eighth place in Park City with 12-year U.S. team veteran and pilot Nicole Vogt (1:39.04). Vogt partnered with Jones in her first World Cup last week where they finished seventh in Whistler, 1.33 seconds behind winners Kalicki and German teammate Anabel Galander.

“To have an opportunity to be with Kaillie in my World Cup debut – it’s exciting,” said the 26-year-old Jones, who was a collegiate track and field athlete at Eastern Michigan. “I just feel like I have so much more in the tank to give, and I’m just hungry for it.”

Jones is particularly gratified with her performance after returning full-time to bobsled less than 18 months ago following the birth of her daughter, Jade Quinn Jones, in February 2021. The Greensburg, Pa., native returned to training just five months postpartum, having sat out the 2020-21 season. She competed on the North American Cup last year, finishing the season with a win (the third NA Cup title of her career) and a third place in Lake Placid.

“I’m thankful,” said Jones. “Opportunity is the main thing, and I just feel blessed to have my first World Cup podium. I’m screaming on the inside. I may not show it, but I am jumping for joy because I’m just that excited and happy to have this accomplishment.”

She admits, however, it’s not always easy to compete balance a full-time competitive career with being a mom.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle being away from my daughter,” said Jones, whose mom takes care of Jade while she travels. “I try to get my facetimes in every night and just know that when I’m pushing, I’m doing it for her. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have her around on the sidelines cheering me on, and that’s my main motivation – that this is for her.”

The BMW IBSF World Cup continues its North American swing Dec. 16-18 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kaillie Humphries faces IVF journey head on — and collects monobob World Cup win along the way

Gold medallist Kaillie Humphries of Team United States celebrates during the Women's Monobob.
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PARK CITY, UTAH — Kaillie Humphries knew the quest to start a family would impact her 2022-23 season, but it’s certainly not slowing down Team USA’s reigning monobob Olympic gold medalist, who captured her first World Cup title in the discipline on Friday.

The 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic golds (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships, earned her 29th career World Cup win and her third victory on the Park City track, where she won the two-woman bobsled competitions in 2012 and 2016. Competing in Utah – as well as North American World Cup stops in Whistler last week and in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 17-18 – is one of the reasons that Humphries pushed pause on her journey to motherhood.

“I’m excited,” Humphries said following the win, marking her second straight podium in monobob following a third-place finish last week in Whistler. “I was excited for this year before it started. It’s part and parcel of why my husband and I delayed the IVF process and starting a family this season. To be able to be back in North America and have the first half of the season here – it’s been a long time since we’ve had that, so I wanted to be able to compete and it feels awesome.”

That’s not to say the leadup to this season has been without its share of hiccups. In fact, Humphries admits that following the Beijing Olympics, she had hoped to get pregnant immediately, but she and husband Travis Armbruster had to pivot when a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis made it clear that in vitro fertilization would be the best path for pregnancy.

“Right after the Olympics, I was like, ‘We’re going to get pregnant; it’s gonna be all good,’” she said. “I thought, my body has always performed, and it wasn’t going to be an issue. Fast forward to I find out we have to do IVF. We do the first egg retrieval, and it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped — which anybody that’s done this process knows, you can’t control any aspect of it. And so having to do a second round of egg retrieval, …it pushed everything back.”

What’s more, it brought Humphries’ training to a standstill at times, when she would have to limit all physical activity during the three-week period surrounding the egg-retrieval process.

“It impacted my training coming into this year a lot,” she says, “but I also think it definitely reset my hormones, which turns out I needed. I don’t think was a bad thing. I knew coming into this year, I wasn’t going to be in the same shape as I have been in the past, and I had to make peace with that. I know that each and every race I’m racing myself into shape, and each race is a preparation for January’s World Championships.”

Humphries also chose to share her IVF journey publicly, and she’s documented every step of the way, believing that her story makes it less scary not just for her but also for other women and female athletes who might be facing the same thing.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“My husband and I weren’t sure that we wanted to share it at first,” she admits. “But I felt it was important just to showcase this. I have nothing to hide. And as much as there are parts of me certain days when I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ At the end of the day, I know I’m not alone in this.

“It’s important, I do have a voice, and I want other people to know, as an Olympic gold medalist, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Infertility exists in the female body, and it’s important that I talk about it in my journey and hopefully that’s inspired other people.”

She says she’s received an outpouring of support, which has been particularly gratifying as she continues to put a painful breakup with Team Canada in the rearview mirror. Humphries, who was born in Calgary, competed for Canada for 16 years, winning three Olympic medals including a bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018. But the relationship came to an abrupt end later just five months after the 2018 Games, after Humphries alleged emotional and mental harassment by a former coach.

Winning a gold medal in Beijing just two months after her U.S. citizenship was finalized proved to be turning point for Humphries, who commemorated the milestone with two new tattoos. She first added the date of her win – Feb. 14, 2022 – to the back of her left hand and a larger rose and skull illustration to the back of her right knee and calf, all of which commemorate her triumph over that darker period.

“The skull represents a rebirth and a growth, overcoming challenges and/or obstacles and turning something negative into something positive,” explains Humphries, who says she chose the rose because it’s the national flower of the U.S. as well as a symbol of love won or lost. She notes that she has “an actual Olympic one” planned for August 2024, which is when her favorite tattoo artist is next available.

Humphries has also found the silver lining in her IVF journey, as the competition season has been a welcome break from some of the self-imposed pressure.

“By pushing pause for four or five months and competing, it allowed me mentally to know that we can go into all of next summer and all winter focusing on just doing the actual embryo transfers and having a good pregnancy,” she says. “I don’t feel stressed to try and get pregnant right away. I felt like I was becoming competitive with myself, wondering why isn’t this working? Why can’t I do this? I tried to control too many things, and I started to get really frustrated. Mentally, it was hard. So, by pushing pause, going back to what I know — which is the sport, which is what I love – it’s allowed me to control a little bit of my future.”

Humphries’ season continues Saturday as the IBSF World Cup from Park City concludes with the two-woman bobsleigh.