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Kathryn Smith joins select group of female coaches in men’s pro sports

On Wednesday, the Bills announced they had hired Smith. 

On Wednesday night, the Buffalo Bills made NFL history by hiring Kathryn Smith as the league’s first female full-time assistant coach.

The Bills hired Smith, 30, as their special teams quality control coach. She is the latest woman to join a select group of females that have held coaching positions in men’s professional sports. 

Here’s a look at the small group of women who have found places on the coaching staffs of men’s professional sports teams. 

Stephanie Ready (2001)

Ready, the first female coach of a men’s professional sports team, became an assistant with the Charlotte Hornets’ D-League affiliate Greenville Groove in 2001.


She helped the team to the inaugural NBDL title in 2002 and served as a member of its coaching staff until 2003, when it was dismantled after the league contracted the franchise. 

Ready now serves as the NBA’s first full-time female game analyst for the Hornets on Fox Sports Southeast.

Becky Hammon (2014)

In 2014, Hammon was named the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history, when San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich announced her hiring.​

The former WNBA star turned assistant coach made further history in July when she became the first female head coach of an NBA Summer League team. Under the 38-year-old’s tutelage, the Spurs went 6–1 in Las Vegas and captured the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League title.

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​Jen Welter (2015)

Ahead of the 2015–16 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinalshired Welter as a coaching intern for the duration of training camp and the preseason, granting her the title of the NFL’s first female coach.

Welter, who holds a master’s degree in sports psychology and a PhD in psychology, worked with Arizona’s linebackers during her internship with the team leading up to the start of the regular season. She was not retained by the Cardinals when her internship ended at the beginning of the season in September.

Nicki Gross (2015)

The Iowa Energy, an NBA D-League affiliate of the Memphis Grizzlies, hired Gross as an assistant coach in July, making her the only female coach currently in the NBA D-League. 

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Gross was previously a video coordinator with the Energy and worked as an assistant video coordinator with the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam the year before.

Her promotion made her mostly responsible for the Energy’s scouting. 

Nancy Lieberman (2015)

Lieberman, a Basketball Hall of Famer since 1986, became the second full-time female assistant coach in NBA history in July.

The 57-year-old previously served as the head coach of the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA D-League team, from 2009–11, making her the first female head coach of a professional men’s basketball team. She later became the Legends’ assistant general manager.


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Justine Siegal (2015)

In September, the Oakland Athletics invited Siegal to be a guest instructor at the team’s fall instructional league for prospects, making her the first female coach in MLB history.

Siegal, who holds a PhD in sports psychology, was previously an assistant baseball coach for Division-III Springfield College for three years. She pitched to the Cleveland Indians during batting practice in 2011, which was the first time a woman had pitched batting practice to a major league team. Siegal later threw BP to five other MLB teams, including the A’s, and served as a first base coach for the independent Brockton Rox for one season.


Siegal also runs Baseball for All, a nonprofit organization that aims at providing girls with instruction and opportunities in baseball.

​Kathryn Smith (2016)

Smith, hired by head coach Rex Ryan as Buffalo’s special teams quality control coach, has quietly spent 13 years in the NFL in various positions. She worked as the administrative assistant to Ryan this season with the Bills, as well as in 2014, when both were with the New York Jets.

Smith’s career in the NFL began in 2003 while she was a college student at St. John’s University. Until 2007, she served as the Jets’ gameday/special events intern. She was also a scouting intern with the team.

Smith was then promoted to player personnel assistant with the Jets and served in that capacity for the next seven years before becoming Ryan’s administrative assistant in 2014.

The 30-year-old was lauded by Ryan for her “knowledge and strong commitment,” as well as her other “outstanding qualities.”

Smith will replace former NFL safety Michael Hamlin as Buffalo’s special teams quality control coach next season.